Take the 2-minute tour ×
Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm a newbie and I'm concerned about the safety of the files in my laptop. I recently deleted some confidential files, and I'm wondering if it is possible for someone to access my laptop via wifi and then perform some file recovery steps and gain access of my "permanently" deleted files.

You see, I use my laptop at school a lot, using the school's wifi. I started worrying when the technicians asked to borrow my laptop so they can "set it up", and then gave me the password. I am worried they might have installed some remote recovery programs that they control over the wifi i'm connected to and recover my "permanently" deleted files and send it to their computer without my knowledge.

IS THIS POSSIBLE? (By the way, my laptop's OS is Windows 7 Starter)

share|improve this question

closed as too broad by kinokijuf, Tog, Dave M, Shekhar, KronoS Sep 5 '13 at 20:57

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

If you are worried then wipe the freespace on your hdd. If you do that then NOBODY can recover the files. If you are that worried just reinstall Windows. –  Ramhound May 14 '13 at 14:13
If you own the laptop, it might be illegal to install any recovery tools on your machine. If you dont want to wipe your hdd for any reason, try scanning for any spyware –  Shekhar Sep 5 '13 at 18:52

2 Answers 2

If the technicians installed a piece of software, yes this is possible, but highly unlikely that they would (especially one not noticed by you).

If they did not, it is still possible, but much harder. Usually you would notice the disk activity of such a task as well as the system would slow down.

If these technicians are employees of the school, then they would, ethically, never install such software, nor have any need to access your personal files.

What evidence do you have to support your paranoia?

share|improve this answer
I started getting paranoid when I learned that there are programs out there that might have the ability to recover files remotely over networks. How secure is Windows 7 over these kinds of attacks? –  user224248 May 14 '13 at 14:21
As secure as you make it. If you keep your OS up-to-date, as well as your firewall and A/V, and keep them turned on, you should not have any problems. Most reports of that kind of software are more scare stories to hike ad-revenue and get viewers. Most people are not ones that people go after, they'd target more companies than anything else. –  Kruug May 14 '13 at 14:22
@user224248: That's not really a 'kind of attack', recovering deleted files through a wifi connection is just one of infinitely many things you can do when you have control over a machine. If an attacker has physical access to the computer, as I understand has been the case (assuming the technicians are not trustworthy), he can take control. Windows 7 in not secure in that sense, and no operating system can be. –  Marcks Thomas May 14 '13 at 15:06
@MarcksThomas How do I know if they installed something? Also, they borrowed my laptop because apparently i won't be able to connect to the school's wifi even if i have the password. They needed to "set it up" first. What does that mean? –  user224248 May 14 '13 at 15:50
@user224248 There is absolutely no way to be sure they didn't install something. As to "setting it up" that could be adding the wireless MAC address to the WiFi system so that the routers stop ignoring it, or it can be installing the appropriate security certificates to ensure that all the communications are completely encrypted. –  Darth Android May 14 '13 at 21:49

First off put your mind at ease a little bit because I promise you that your files aren't as important to anyone else as they are to you, and the amount of work it would take to recover them would be worthless to anyone else.

Now, the answer is possibly. I need to know how you "permanently" deleted the files. Did you drop it in the recycle bin/trash can, or did you use a third party option? If you used a third party option, how big were the files and how long did it take?

There are ways to actually permanently erase files from a drive. But, most likely it is not worth it. This is because the most reliable way is to completely erase the drive, write every sector with 1's, and then reformat the drive. This is a very lengthy process taking several hours and you'll have to know how to re-install your operating system. Windows 8 and Mac OS X both support this option natively(though it still takes several hours) if you don't have one of those operating systems then it depends on what the manufacturer provides, or you will have to purchase third party software to perform these steps.

share|improve this answer
I deleted the files using "shift + del" to erase it permanently, bypassing recycle bin –  user224248 May 14 '13 at 14:27
@user224248 That doesn't "permanently" delete the file, but makes sure it's inaccessible by the OS without 3rd party tools. –  Kruug May 14 '13 at 14:32
@user224248 Okay, so that is the same thing as putting it in the recycle bin and then emptying the recycle bin. What you need to decide is if someone else can get any kind of financial gain from the files if not then stop worrying about it. At this point recovering the files is far too difficult to recover the files for any random virus or hacker to attempt to recover deleted files. Virus do not target erased files, they target small, existing, and obviously named files that might have financial information. Most don't target files at all, they just want to use you computer/ip. –  Chrono May 14 '13 at 14:36

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.