Perhaps all PC users know, that ordinary file deletion and even quick hard drive formatting don’t mean that the data is lost forever. Files deleted this way are just marked as deleted and not occupying space on a hard drive. While the content of the deleted file is still stored on the device and often isn’t even damaged. It means that deleted files can be recovered using special data recovery software.
How to erase files permanently so that even an experienced data recovery specialist having deep knowledge and professional equipment can’t restore them?
Why is it important?
The most common situation when you need to permanently delete the data is the sale of the PC or the data storage devices (a hard drive or USB thumbdrive). You need to delete the data to avoid the situation when a new owner will try to recover your files out of curiosity or with bad intentions.
Methods of permanent data deletion
- Overwrite the whole disk. Let’s imagine that you have a 1 TB drive that is half full. If you want to erase the data you need to delete all the files in the usual way and to write 1 TB of new data on this disk (it can be movies, tv-shows and many other things). Then, try to run some data recovery software like ReclaiMe or Recuva and you see that only the new data can be recovered.
- Use special software for erasing data. There is quite a few free software for permanent file deletion. A similar principle applies to all of them – random rows of zeros and ones are written on the disk. One working cycle of software is enough to delete the data irreversibly.
These methods concern the cases when you need to keep the drive efficient. But there are cases when you don’t need the disk anymore or when you need to have the data erased as soon as possible. And then there are additional options of permanent file deletion:
- Damage hard drive platter mechanically. For this you need to disassemble or scratch hard drive using screwdriver or something else.
- Demagnetize the hard disk platter. The platter is demagnetized at a temperature of 450 °C (842°F). You can get this temperature at home from the flame of a candle or from a lit match. To get a maximum temperature you need to put a flame to the edge of the platter.
If you use an SSD drive which supports TRIM command, when you delete files they are erased permanently and you don’t need to use any additional tools.
If your data is encrypted, it’s impossible to restore it using ordinary data recovery utilities without an encryption key. However, recovery algorithms are constantly being improved, so you shouldn’t rely only on encryption.
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