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.
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 differentiates 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 free 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
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 BitRaser for File – 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 17 international data erasure algorithms such as U.S. Department of Defense (DOD Standard 5220.22-M) 3 Pass/7 Pass, NATO etc. 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.
This effective and safe file erasure tool also generates a certificate of erasure that guarantees that files deleted with BitRaser for File can’t be recovered. This certificate can be used by small organizations for regulatory compliances such as GDPR) (EU) 2016/679.
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 BitRaser for File erasure tool, follow these steps:
Download and install BitRaser for File
Launch the tool
In left-pane, click on Internet Activities, select the browsers (files/folders) and click the ‘Erase’ button to destroy your internet activities such as temporary files, cookies, history, transactions, saved passwords, etc.
Click No when prompted to reboot.
Then choose Application Traces followed by System Traces options to erase all traces of your application and system usage
Using Erase Now option, you can wipe entire volumes on the disk (internal/external). The Erase Unused Space 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 BitRaser for File.
BitRaser for File 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.
Aruna Attri is a Senior Data Recovery Expert at Stellar®. She is a technology blogger and Windows expert. She has experience in Windows data recovery domain. She loves to troubleshoot Windows issue and write technical tips and tutorials.