How to Erase Personal Data Permanently in Windows
Summary: Read this blog to erase your personal data permanently to prevent it from getting into the wrong hands. This blog discusses the best DIY method to wipe your confidential data securely. If you want to erase files beyond recovery, use a secure file erasure tool, such as Stellar File Eraser.
A good IT professional knows that deleting a file doesn’t actually removes or destroys it from your hard drive. It actually deletes the index of the file in the File System which means only the access to the file is removed. Even when you empty your recycle bin or trash, the files aren’t destroyed.
Think of this as ‘when you delete a file, you actually hide them’. In a similar way, when you quick format a hard drive, it replaces the existing file system with the new but doesn’t destroy any file from the storage media. Therefore deleted, trashed, and files from a formatted drive can be easily recovered, unless overwritten, with the help of a data recovery software.
However, recovery isn’t always the requirement. Sometimes you need to destroy data beyond recovery in order to safeguard your privacy and confidential data. Therefore, before disposing off, selling, or throwing away your storage devices, it’s important that you securely erase and not simply delete sensitive files to make sure that there is no residual information left on the device that can be recovered with a standard off the shelf data recovery software.
Even if you don’t plan to discard your storage drive, keeping it sanitized and clean can help you prevent any unauthorized access to your data through malware.
3 Ways to Erase Personal Data Permanently in Windows
Here are 3 Simple yet effective ways that can help you erase private data permanently in Windows beyond the scope of recovery:
SDelete is a secure-delete command line utility for Windows – capable of erasing files, folders, and empty spaces on the storage drive that may contain previously deleted data– beyond the scope of recovery. The SDelete uses one of the most trusted Department of Defense clearing and sanitizing standard DOD 5220.222-M that makes sure that the data deleted with SDelete is gone forever.
Follow these steps to securely delete your confidential and private data from a storage media:
- Download the SDelete.zip from the Microsoft’s official website
- Extract it to Desktop or any other folder
- Go to the folder where you extracted the SDelete utility
- Hold the Shift key and then right-click inside the folder
- Choose ‘Open Command window here’. A command prompt window appears
- Type delete and hit Enter key to see a list of options
- Find out the file or folder location that you want to delete and type, for example, sdelete –p 2 “C:\Users\ravi.singh\Documents\Secret Info.docx”
- Use parameter –S or -R for deleting directories and subdirectories recursively. –P to specify no. of overwrite passes; by default, it’s 1.
- Example: sdelete –s -r –p 4 “C:\Users\ravi.singh\Documents\MySecretFolder”
This command erases MySecretFolder directory and it’s subdirectories with contained files recursively with 4 passes (or 4 times).
SDelete is a powerful data eraser utility but it has its limitations & drawbacks.
- You need to locate the files and folders created by various apps and system programs at various locations in C: (system) drive. This is a difficult task and you need to do intensive research on each and every app to know where they save their traces of your activities.
- You need to type the complete command every time you want to delete a file or folder located at different locations
- Not secure as it does not differentiate between system files and application files. One wrong command and you will end up destroying your system. So use it carefully.
Darik’s Boot and Nuke or DBAN is one of the best data destruction standalone program available that can help you destroy data from the drive permanently beyond the scope of recovery. The process of erasing data with DBAN is not that difficult but few people may find it hard to use. Especially those who have never burnt or booted their system with a bootable disc or bootable USB media.
Here’s how you can erase private data permanently using DBAN:
- Download DBAN ISO file and use Win32Disk image to burn the ISO file on a CD or a USB flash drive
- Turn off the system and insert the bootable drive or connect USB media to the system
- Press the boot menu option key, usually F12, to view and select the USB or CD drive from the boot options.
- Hit Enter and then choose an option from the DBAN’s main menu
WARNING: From here on you need to be really careful as one wrong step could irreversibly destroy your data stored in any of the connected drives. Therefore, read the options carefully before selecting.
- DBAN is complex for many people and thus, is also not safe. A wrong option selection could get you into serious trouble
- The DBAN program doesn’t let you selectively destroy data. It wipes entire drive data including your sensitive files, folders, program files, and operating system
- DBAN program recognizes only Keyboard commands, the mouse is useless and that makes this program hard to use
3. File Erasure Tool
This is one of the simplest ways to erase private and sensitive data from your computers. A reliable trusted, and secure file erasure tool such as Stellar File Eraser – a privacy safeguarding & file erasure tool– allows you to quickly erase your sensitive data with the help of it’s easy to use user-friendly interface. The tool uses 3 international data erasure algorithms such as U.S. Department of Defense (DOD Standard 5220.22-M) to erase your files from the drive and makes sure even forensics tools are not able to recover any residual sensitive information from the drive.
The tool doesn’t let you erase any system or program files present on the system and offers one-click erasure options. To erase private data with Stellar file eraser for File erasure tool, follow these steps:
- Install Stellar File Eraser
- Launch the tool
- In left-pane, click on Erase Traces. The software will then scan through your PC. A screen like the one will appear: ,
- Select the appropriate options and click on Erase Now button
Using Erase Now option, you can wipe entire volumes on the disk (internal/external). To create Unused Space , you can click on Erase Deleted Data, select the specific volume and click Erase Now. This option wipes the drive’s empty spaces that might contain previously deleted (recoverable) data.
Add Erasure List allows you to create a list of files and folders (that are created again and again by system or application & contains sensitive data). Later, you can erase the file/folder list with just one simple click. Moreover, with Search File option, you can search and destroy an individual file that you can’t locate and also generate a certificate of File Erasure.
We discussed the importance of data erasure, the difference between delete and erase along with 3 simple ways to permanently destroy data in Windows. Before selling or discarding any device that has storage, ensure no data is left on it by erasing the same completely. One of the most secure ways for this is using Stellar File Eraser.
Stellar file eraser is a certified data eraser software that helps you to wipe file, folders, internet activities, application traces, system traces from Windows operating systems without leaving any scope for recovery. This file wipe tool will permanently erase all the crucial information stored in any type of storage devices, thereby safeguarding your Data Privacy and Security.
As always, leave comments, suggestions, and feedbacks in the comment section.