Have you ever wondered where your data goes after you drop a file in the “Recycle Bin” in Windows and you empty out? The answer, really, is nowhere. It is still sitting there on your hard drive waiting to get written over again. What the Windows deletion process really does is eliminate the index file for it. The index file on the hard drive contains the information of where each file is located on the hard drive. No index data for your file doesn’t mean that your file has been deleted. If you never write to that section of the hard drive, it is still sitting there waiting there possibly to be recovered, by anyone who happens upon it.
As a New York Times article pointed out a couple years ago, one of the most important times to consider this fact is when you are selling or discarding your old computers. If you aren’t careful, all of that potentially sensitive personal data can be recovered. So what’s a Techeap user to do?
The New York Times article recommends DBan, which comes highly recommended on the net, but you want to be very careful with that program because it will delete your entire hard drive. I recommend starting with a nice program I found on CNET’s download section, called Eraser. This I would recommend as your first line of defense when you have sensitive data you want off your machine. Simply drag the files you want deleted into the program, use the menu function for run all, and the program will blast those section of the hard drive with 1s and 0s until the data is unrecoverable.
Both of these programs are good options and it is even more important given some new data (no pun intended) from a study reported in Science Daily. Only a third of hard drives that end up in the secondary market have had their data sufficiently deleted. This is pretty scary, considering the researchers found that many of these drive did have data sensitive to the companies or people who had owned the drives previously. It’s your data make sure you protect it.