Data has a life span. After the end of life, data must be securely erased from the system to prevent incidents such as data breach, identity theft, and unauthorized access to your sensitive information.
Ideally, users tend to delete particular files or format entire drive volume to destroy and prevent access to their confidential files and sensitive information. However, a few users know that the deleted and formatted files can be potentially recovered from any storage media with the help of publically available data recovery software.
To prevent this eventuality which can lead to data breach, you must use a secure file erasure method. For wiping confidential data, it’s recommended that you use methods and tools that are compliant with international data erasure standards.
Follow them carefully to erase hard drive data in Windows 10 beyond the scope of recovery.
Method 1: Full Format
Generally, when you format a drive volume, it is quick formatted. That’s because the ‘Quick Format’ option is selected by default.
In Quick Format, only the Master File Table or File Allocation Table is erased, but data remains intact on the drive that can be recovered quickly.
However, when you uncheck the ‘Quick Format’ option, the system performs a full format, which is quite slow. That’s because full format overwrites entire drive volume with zeroes and destroys the existing recoverable data.
When to Use
Use full format when you need to wipe data from the entire drive volume and get rid of sensitive data.
You can’t full format C: drive volume in Windows 10. It can’t erase anything from the C: Drive, which contains most confidential information about your online and offline activities in the form of application traces, system traces, and internet activities.
Method 2: SDelete
SDelete is a Microsoft utility that erases empty storage space on a drive volume that may contain previously deleted confidential files. The utility is safe to work with, but it runs via Command Prompt terminal. To use SDelete to wipe your drives empty storage, follow these steps:
Download SDelete utility from Microsoft Internals website
Extract the compressed folder on the Desktop
Press and hold the ‘Shift’ Key and right-click on the ‘Desktop.’
Choose ‘Open command window here.’
Now type sdelete –p 5 D: and press the ‘Enter’ key
Where ‘–p’ denotes passes, number ‘5’ number of passes, and ‘D:’ is the drive volume letter. You can increase or decrease the number of passes as per your wish.
When to Use
If you are familiar and conformable with Command Line tools, use SDelete. You can delete your files from your storage media and then run SDelete utility to wipe empty storage and destroy recoverable data with DoD 5220.22-M data sanitization standard.
You need to wipe entire drive volume every time you wish to destroy a deleted file. Thus, it’s not ideal if you often delete confidential files from your Windows 10 PC.
Also, you can’t delete an existing file. It also increases disk usage by 100%, which hinders system performance, and the user would experience system lag and freezes while SDelete is working in the backend.
Running SDelete on internal drive frequently also affects the hard drive life.
Method 3: Secure Erasure Tool
The best way to wipe any confidential information from a Windows 10 PC is by using a secure file eraser software such as BitRaser File Eraser.
It’s a certified data eraser and privacy safeguarding software equipped with 17 data sanitization standards such as DoD 5220.22-M (3 passes/7 passes), NATO, Gutmann, etc. You can use the software to erase any file, wipe entire drive volume, or just the free space as per various international data erasure standards. It also features two verification methods that ensure data destruction.
With dedicated options to wipe ‘System Traces,’ ‘Application Traces’ and ‘Internet Activities,’ you can get rid of data that contains most confidential information such as passwords, credit card details, transaction details, autofill form data, browsing the history, and much more in a Windows 10 PC.
The software also generates a certificate of erasure that you can use to meet data protection laws and regulatory compliances such as GDPR.
Here are the steps to effectively destroy data in Windows 10
Install BitRaser File Eraser in your Windows 10 PC
Launch the software and go to the ‘Tools’ tab
Select the data erasure algorithm and verification method from respective drop-downs. Click the ‘Apply’ button
Click the ‘Home’ tab
CAUTION: Close all tasks and programs before you begin wiping your confidential data from a Windows 10 PC.
To wipe Entire Drive
Click ‘Erase Now’ in the left pane, and then select the drive volume
Click the ‘Erase Now‘ button at the bottom right and then click ‘OK’ when the prompt appears
After erasure, your system will reboot.
To wipe selected/individual specific files
Click ‘Erase Now’ in the left pane and expand the tree to locate files.
Alternatively, click ‘Search File’, and search files from the storage volume if you don’t remember the file path.
Select or add the files to list and click the ‘Erase Now’ button at bottom right
TIP:You can also enable Create Certificate to generate a certificate of erasure after the task completes.
To Wipe Empty Space
Click ‘Unused Space’
Select the drive volume
Click the ‘Erase Now’ button at bottom right
That’s it. It’s that easy.
When to Use
Use BitRaser File Eraser to wipe data that is critical and highly confidential in nature. It ensures data destruction beyond recovery where no data recovery software or service can get it back, including forensic tools.
With its dedicated options to wipe sensitive data from various hidden locations, you can ensure complete data privacy and protection from data breach, identity theft, etc.
BitRaser File Eraser can erase unlimited files for Free
The software is available for free download for 30 days and can destroy unlimited files at free of cost. With 30 days free month subscription you can unlock all the features and eraser unlimited file types.
Before selling, reallocating, returning, donating, or sharing your storage media, PC, Laptop, or any other media that contains or contained private or confidential data, always wipe it with the help of a secure erasure tool such as BitRaser File Eraser.
A full format may protect the data from basic data recovery attempts but specialized data recovery software and services can get back ‘traces’ of data from a fully formatted drive. Thus, you need to use a software that can erase data as per international data erasure standards such as DoD 5220.22-M, NATO, etc. to permanently destroy data from Windows 10 PC.
Use BitRaser File Eraser that supports 17 international data erasure standards with two-verification methods that simultaneously check and confirm data destruction beyond recovery.
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.