destroying data permanently

destroy data

So you want to delete a file, eh? Permanently. Delete it in to oblivion. FBI proof. Most people just delete things and by default send them to the recycle bin. Most people don’t even know what the recycle bin does or that it can be emptied. Of those that do know about it, they think emptying the recycling bin permanently erases data. But it doesn’t….

Just because YOU can’t recover data doesn’t mean everyone can’t. There will always be people smarter than you, especially when it comes to IT. Keep that in mind the next time you’re trying to destroy data right before the SWAT team bursts through your door.

Georgia State Patrol SWAT Team
Creative Commons License photo credit: joker1020

The only way you can ever sleep soundly knowing your data has been erased is to write over it. Remember tapes? Video tapes and cassette tapes? The only way you could destroy data on those was to either copy it with more data or physically burn /destroy the tape.

Think like that when you’re dealing with hard drives. You only really have two options if you want to sleep soundly at night knowing your data has been destroyed;

  • Burn it, hammer it, chainsaw it or shoot it. All four if you want maximum peace of mind.
  • Simply delete the old data, format the hard drive, copy a whole pile of dummy data to it and repeat that a few times just to make sure your secret data is well and truely dead.

If that all sounds like too much hassle though, there is software out there that will help you to destroy data. Most decent data destruction software will simply over write the data you want to destroy. So if you’re expecting a SWAT team to come through your door in the next half an hour, use these tools and not only will you destroy your data beyond recognition, you’ll have time to boil the kettle and have a cup of tea whilst you wait on them.

File Shredder

file shredder

I suppose the name says it all really. This software shreds files. It’s free, it’s small in size (under 2 megs) and it does the job by rewriting your secret files to the extent that they’re no longer secret – they simply don’t exist anymore.

It has a lovely idiot proof interface and as far as i can see, does a pretty god job of destroying whatever data you tell it to.

Download it here



Another bit of software which needs no explanation – it’s all in the name. This one is slightly larger in size at 8 megs and it too is free. It’s not idiot proof though because i have to spend time thinking about how it works and how exactly i’m supposed to add files and folders for erasing.

You can schedule erasing though which is pretty cool – i’d love to see the reaction of someone if their hard drive auto erased itself beyond recovery on start up :mrgreen:

Download it here


If you want more control & scheduling, Eraser is your man for the job. However, for it’s idiot proof simplicity, File Shredder gets the thumbs up from me. You won’t need time to figure out how it works and that’s very important if you’re under pressure to get stuff wiped permanently.

So apart from destroying evidence before police get to it or covering up on your high tech bank robbery hacking system, what practical use does this sort of software or knowledge have? Well let’s say you’re selling your PC or just giving it away to someone… maybe just dumping it. If you just erase all data using the recycle bin method, that means almost EVERYTHING on your PC is recoverable. Documents, pictures, videos, maybe even passwords, credit card details…

The chances are the person who’s buying a second hand PC off you is either a high tech serial criminal deliberately looking for personal data, or someone who just doesn’t have a clue about computers and wants one without having to pay a fortune for it. It’s most likely the latter & they will unknowingly erase all your data for you by overwriting it with their own, the former is when you start wishing you’d read this blog post or used the information in it 😉

1 thought on “destroying data permanently”

  1. Reading this i finally took a break from this job. I run a hardware store, and i get kinda stress throughout the day =) your page just bought me a few minutes of relax ^__^ I wish i could find a rss feed on your site, so that i could subscribe for some more. Ill be sure to come here more often from now on =)

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