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I know that on the windows operating system, when you delete a file it's still recoverable. I'd like to avoid simply paving the harddrive with zeros as I would like to keep my OS installation as is, but is there a way to truly delete files that have been previously deleted?

9 Answers 9

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Eraser

You want to choose the wipe free space option.

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  • Didn't know Eraser had that option - good choice!
    – Dan Walker
    Sep 1, 2009 at 20:41
  • Thank you, Eraser looks wonderful. I just wiped a whole load of files from my computer and was about to post a question, when whola! there you go, there's an answer just right there!
    – ymasood
    Sep 1, 2009 at 22:28
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No need for additional software.

Drop into a command prompt and use the built-in CIPHER command.

cipher /w:C:\

  1. Quit all programs.
  2. Click Start, click Run, type cmd, and then press ENTER.
  3. Type cipher /w:driveletter:\foldername, and then press ENTER. Specify the drive and the folder that identifies the volume that contains the deleted data that you want to overwrite. Data that is not allocated to files or folders will be overwritten. This permanently removes the data. This can take a long time if you are overwriting a large space.
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    Here, "built-in" seems to mean "included with the default Windows install". However, "built-in" has the usual meaning of "a command internal to cmd.exe", at least in the context of CLI utilities.
    – kreemoweet
    Feb 13, 2015 at 2:32
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Actually CCleaner should do it with Gutmann secure file deletion and "wipe free space drives" enabled!

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    That's going to take sometime. Isn't DOD-level deletion (3 passes) enough for secure deletion?
    – Isxek
    Sep 1, 2009 at 21:52
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    That depends on your needs. The CIA might still be able to recover data after 3 passes. A while ago I read that it was possible to restore data after 7 deletes.
    – Christian
    Sep 1, 2009 at 22:00
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    Ture paran...err...security knows patience ;). Sep 1, 2009 at 22:03
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    A single zero fill is enough. news.softpedia.com/news/… Sep 18, 2009 at 3:34
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    Bear in mind that if the CIA want your data, they'll just waterboard you until you tell them. 1 pass is enough to stop joe-average recovery. There isn't a setting high enough that'll stop someone who has a billion dollar budget from the US government if you're really on their hit list. Mar 11, 2012 at 18:12
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Microsoft offers a free Windows Sysinternals program called SDelete which should do what you're looking for. It seems to perform the same function as shred does on Linux systems.

See: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/dd334519.aspx

Also: Shredding files in windows

Hope that helps.

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Keep using your PC. After, say, a week, there'll be nothing left to recover. The only times when recovering is really, really effective is when people get their hands on drives that were just quick-reformatted and then sold, nothing else done to them.

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    That completely depend on how much there was data, and how computer is used for those few weeks, or months. I would not rely on dice rolls... it might be that almost all data is still readable if you only work on small files and regularly clean your browser's caches. Jun 29, 2015 at 21:37
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    Do you have any sources to back this answer up? It seems spurious at best. Sep 3, 2017 at 22:06
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The excellent PortableApps has two cleaner programs:

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There is a program called Prevent Restore, but I have never used it and never heard of the author, so I can't vouch for its quality.

CCleaner has the option to securely clear the Recycle Bin and Temp files, but not those that you have already deleted.

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Have you tried File Shredder?

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    That installer has more adware than anything I've ever seen. Unless you do the advanced install, uncheck everything, and decline most of the apparent "license agreements" you'll end up installing half a dozen browser toolbars and similar junk.
    – TrueWill
    Feb 7, 2014 at 16:00
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If it's an SSD then you can be much more thorough- using the "secure erase" command.

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