You Deleted The File, But It's Not Really Gone

BY STANLEY ZAROWIN

YOU DELETED THE FILE, BUT IT’S NOT REALLY GONE 
 As I understand it, even though I delete a file, it’s still in my computer, right? First it goes into the Recycle Bin . And I’m told that even when I delete it there, some high-tech wise guy can “rescue” it from the trash can. So how do I really get rid of a sensitive file?

That’s right, Windows doesn’t really delete a file. All it does is remove its name so it cannot be accessed with conventional Microsoft tools, and in time, as space on your hard drive runs low, new files get written over the old code. Notice that I said conventional tools. The wise guys have toolkits with unconventional tools that can read just about any file you thought you had erased.

The solution: Get an unconventional tool that erases. However, the tools don’t really erase. Instead, they encode the data of the “deleted” file so it can’t be translated. Many such tools are on the market, with prices that run from free to hundreds of dollars. While the free programs lack the sophisticated bells and whistles of the expensive programs, they meet the basic needs of most users—that is they make the files unreadable. The one I use, called Eraser (www.heidi.ie/eraser), is free. It’s accessed directly from Windows Explorer , so, as the screenshot below shows, all you need to do to “erase” a file for good is click on Erase and the file you want is secretly encoded and untranslatable.

But be careful. Once you wipe a file, it’s gone forever, which is why Eraser gives you a chance to reconsider the action before you click OK .

Be assured that just because it’s free, it’s no wimp. If you click on Options on the Confirm Erasing screen, you can see the program’s levels of available encoding security. The US DoD listed in the menu refers to the security levels established by the Department of Defense.

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