Did you really delete your files?

Today, on the KTLA morning news, Kurt the Cyberguy featured a news story, “Dangerously Dirty Drive“.

“In order to ensure that no data can be retrieved, it does take a number of hours, typically, to go through and erase the drive effectively.” – Joe Gugel, GeekSquad *

“Everybody needs to take it in to a professional, and make sure that this drive […] is clean and wiped off.” – Cathy Ferrari, home user

“Download the free wiping software, free shredding software you’ll find online. We’ll make a list at our website later this morning. Or, you could take it in. It’s $160, though, if you have them do it.” – Kurt the Cyberguy

I haven’t seen the links yet, so here are the two utilities I’ve been using for years:

  • Eraser (freeware) – “an advanced security tool (for Windows), which allows you to completely remove sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns.”
  • Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN) (open source, free) – “a self-contained boot floppy that securely wipes the hard disks of most computers. DBAN will automatically and completely delete the contents of any hard disk that it can detect, which makes it an appropriate utility for bulk or emergency data destruction. DBAN is a means of ensuring due diligence in computer recycling, a way of preventing identity theft if you want to sell a computer, and a good way to totally clean a Microsoft Windows installation of viruses and spyware. DBAN prevents or thoroughly hinders all known techniques of hard disk forensic analysis.”

If you’re completely wiping a hard drive with DBAN, the only work you’ll do is downloading the program, burning it to CD (or installing onto a floppy disk), then running the program. That’s it. Sure, it’ll take between 30 minutes to several hours, but you’re not doing anything. Why pay $59 to let your computer sit there? (See “Clean and Remove [Hard Drive Erasure]“)

As for deleting files on your main computer, use Eraser to overwrite the file multiple times. Anybody that tries to recover deleted files will only see gibberish. The program also has an option to wipe “unused” hard drive space, so you can run that overnight periodically.

Lastly, realize that it’s really simple to copy your files off your computer to an external hard drive. If you can drag and drop files from one folder to another, you don’t need to pay [insert company name here] to move your files to an external storage device.

Save your money and do these simple tasks yourself! (I’m glad Kurt said this at the end. Good for him!)

* The amount of time it takes to wipe a hard drive is relational to its capacity. Wiping a 120GB hard drive will take substantially longer than a 10GB hard drive.

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Bryan Villarin

Bryan works at Automattic. He's also a cat whisperer. Sometimes…a photographer, and card magician.

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