Friday Donut tip: free tools to delete files forever

By: John McGarvey

Date: 3 August 2012

Shredded paper{{}}Not even emptying your computer's recycle bin guarantees your files are gone for good.

Although you can't see or open them on your desktop, the information is still there on your computer's hard drive, which makes it relatively easy to recover if you know what you're doing.

Obviously, that's good if you delete something by accident. But it's very bad if you're trying to delete sensitive information, like financial details or personal information. If your computer falls into the wrong hands, so could your data.

Thankfully, it's easy enough to scrub data off your hard disk for good. Here are three options for you to consider:

  • Delete individual files for good with software like Freeraser or Eraser. These programs work by overwriting the files again and again with random data, eliminating any trace of the original files.
  • If you want to scrub an entire PC securely - for disposal or resale - you can use CCleaner, which also has lots of other useful cleanup features too. Alternatively, copy Darik's Boot and Nuke onto a CD, put it in your PC, restart, and then type autonuke when prompted.
  • Using a Mac? To permanently delete everything in your trash, click and hold the trash folder. When the menu appears, hold the command key, then move your mouse up to select Secure Empty Trash. Easy!

Of course, if you can't be bothered with all that and you don't need to keep your computer in working order, there's an option that's much more fun. Unplug your computer, rip out the hard drive and drill some holes in it. Satisfying.

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