Wiping drives or shredding files in Windows

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Here’s a quick and easy way to totally erase file, folders or free disk space so there’s no trace of the original data. Also erasing an entire drive before handing over or selling.

As you may know, deleting a file doesn’t really remove it from your computer.  Even after deleting from the Recycle Bin, the information is still saved on the drive.  For speed and safety, a deleted file is just marked as free space and hidden from view.

That’s efficient for computing but no good for data security.

USB memory sticks and portable hard drives are especially vulnerable. They can be stolen or picked up by people who can read the contents of visible and deleted files.

The solution is wiping or shredding files, folders or entire drives.  These utilities write over the drive space multiple times with characters like  0 , 1 or a random character.

There are many wiping or erasing tools available, we like File Shredder.  It’s simple, free, has no unwanted ‘bonus’ programs and is recommended by the Geek Girl herself, Rose Vines.

It’s simple to use, drag and drop files to the window or use the Add …. options to select.  Then Shred Files Now …

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Which setting / erase algorithm

There are various methods of wiping or shredding files.  They all do the same basic job, overwriting the file locations with other information.

All that varies is what’s written (0, 1 or random characters) then verified and how many times it’s done. Multiple overwriting is considered important to ensure full erasure but it can go too far.

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For most people the, so-called, ‘DoD 5220-22.M’ standard is more than enough. It was a US government standard that writes over the drive location three times (0 then 1 then a random character).

Anything more than three passes is excessive. Each writing ‘pass’ takes time so the ’35 passes’ option would need a lot of time for not much extra security.

Multiple write passes not only takes time but also reduces the life of a Solid State Drive.  Don’t waste the service life of an SSD with excessive erasing passes.

Erasing Free Disk Space

A nice touch in File Shredder is the option to ‘Shred Free Disk Space’. It wipes clean the unused space on a USB stick or portable drive, leaving the visible files untouched.

Use ‘Shred Free Disk Space’ to make sure you’re handing over just the visible files on a drive and nothing else.

What about the Mac?

We looked for an equivalent free file shredder for MacOS but could not find one.

There are many out there but are costly. Some are advertised as ‘free’ but are not.  If you know of a truly free file shredder for Mac, please let us know.

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