While selling or giving away your computer (or just the hard drive), deleting all your personal data is critically important. However, the problem is when you delete data using the Windows standard method, the files are not actually deleted. They are just marked as deleted, and become invisible to OS, which is why you never see it anywhere. The data is still present on the hard drive and just gets overwritten with time as new data is added. This is done to save time so that you don’t have to wait for actual deletion, and most of the time, it’s great – as long as your drive remains in your possession.
Even if you format your whole drive or Delete Windows and install again, data will still not be deleted and can be recovered using data-recovery tools such as NTFS Undelete. To make sure all your data is safe when you hand over your hard drive or even throw it away, you need to delete the data “Permanently”.
Now, depending on your situation, there are 3 different ways that you can use to delete/destroy data permanently…
Method #1: Manually Delete Data
In Manual deletion, you can delete data permanently one by one. This method is perfect if you wish to delete selected data and keep other data safe. However, it is not recommended if you have a lot of personal data as while deleting you might miss out on some data. Missing some personal data is quite common in this method as passwords, accounts, temp files and other such data are not present right in front of you.
To delete data permanently you need to download a dedicated tool. For this tutorial, we are going to use File Shredder, it is one of the most popular shredder tools and also very simple to use while being completely free to use.
Just download the Tool and start the program.
There will be two basic options for deleting data, “Add File” and “Add Folder”. You can choose “Add File” to choose a single file such as, a video, picture or document to delete permanently. You can delete a complete folder by clicking on “Add Folder” and choosing the desired Folder.
Choose the file which you would like to delete and it will be added to the queue in the File Shredder. Now to delete the file permanently you need to click on “shred files now..” and it will be deleted. Don’t get confused by the options on the left side “Remove Selected” and “Remove All”. These options will only remove the file/files from the queue, not permanently delete them.
You can also delete files and folders without accessing the File Shredder tool. Just right click on the desired File or folder and hover the cursor over “File shredder” to open side menu.
From the side menu click on “Secure delete files” and a prompt will come saying “Are you sure to shred selected file(s)?” just click “OK” and the file will be deleted permanently. While choosing files, please double check that you want to delete the specified file as it will be impossible to recover again.
There is another cool feature of the File Shredder, it can let you delete all previous data permanently that you deleted using the Windows standard method. You can’t access these files again to delete permanently as the OS can’t detect them, so File Shredder can do that for you.
To delete previous deleted files permanently open “File Shredder” and click on “Shred Free Disk Space” and follow the instructions to delete all previous files permanently.
Method #2: Completely Wipe Hard Drive
If you don’t want to take any chances and while passing the hard drive to someone else you don’t need to keep the data inside then it is always better to Wipe it completely. This method will delete everything on the hard drive completely without any way to recover it back, if you want to use the hard drive again you will have to reinstall Windows.
Before wiping your hard drive make sure all important data is backed up and you have the Windows DVD or USB and key to reinstall Windows (if you want to install Windows again).
Now, to delete all the data on your hard drive permanently you need to get a tool called DBAN created by Blancco. It will rewrite the data on your hard drive with pseudo-random numbers to make it impossible (or at least extremely hard) to recover your personal data. DBAN is completely free to use although the support for this software is bit limited, you will have to buy the software for all the extra features and proper support.
SSD users: SSD drives have extra redundancy memory cells that are not accessible to the operating system or apps. Certain commercial tools such as WipeDrive are designed to wipe even SSD hidden storage that may still contain data.
You need to download this tool and make a copy of it on a DVD or USB (whatever is more convenient). Now, restart your PC while the DVD/USB is inserted.
After that, follow some simple instructions to delete everything on the hard drive (the process may take several hours), we have also added a video below to guide you through the process. When everything is deleted, just reinstall Windows again or give it to anyone you like without worrying about your personal data.
Method #3: Physically Destroy The Hard Drive
This method is a bit rough, but can be an alternative in some situations. If you don’t want to go through the long process of wiping your hard drive and you are not planning on using the drive again then it is better to destroy it. This will ensure no one is able to extract data from it by any means (although, you have to destroy it properly).
There are many ways a hard drive can be destroyed, including grinding, pulverization, melting, incineration and disintegration. Although, you will need proper machines and tools to do that. If you would like to destroy it by yourself, then you can drill or nail it as many times you like until you are satisfied (it’s never as good as pulverizing it obviously, but it should stop most data thieves seeking your personal information). Just make sure the Platter of the hard drive is destroyed properly (it’s that round Disk). Also use proper equipment and wear goggles. NEVER burn or put the hard drive in acid, let the professionals handle such tasks.
For SSDs you will have to destroy the memory chips properly to ensure all data is unrecoverable. All the data is stored on the memory chips and there is no Platter like in Hard drive.
There are also some services such as Sims Recycling that can destroy the hard disk or SSD for you, but this option works best for organizations that have tons of hard disks to destroy.
If you have any questions regarding deleting data or know any better methods to delete data permanently, then let us know in the comments below, all of us will love to know.