Is there a built-in cmd command/utility on Windows that can shred files (delete and overwrite with random data) without the need to use third party software? In linux i would use shred. It a wonderful tool that not only deletes files, but also destroys any "residue" left on the disk by overwriting the data.

  • I've never heard of anything "built in" to Windows. A major problem is that if you attempt to overwrite the file the file system may allocate the "overwritten" version in different space from the original, leaving the original untouched. So it takes some significant low-level understanding of the specific system and its configuration. (And this is doubly true if the "disk" is a SSD.) Sep 6, 2012 at 21:00
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    Microsoft offers an addon program (sdelete) that runs from the command line....technet.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/dd334519.aspx
    – Moab
    Sep 6, 2012 at 21:09
  • Sdelete can be scripted also...forum.sysinternals.com/topic6065.html
    – Moab
    Sep 6, 2012 at 21:11
  • @Moab That program, according to the cover page, overwrites free space -- not quite the same thing. Sep 6, 2012 at 21:11
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    @DanH its more powerful than that...brighthub.com/computing/smb-security/articles/46693.aspx
    – Moab
    Sep 6, 2012 at 21:13

7 Answers 7


Probably not. Unless they added one in Windows 8

I recently purchased a new PC with Windows 7, and the manufacturer bundled a third party shredder application. I infer that either there isn't one as standard (and I've never heard of one) or (less likely?) that the manufacturer added some unnecessary bloatware without the usual sliver of justification.

It's hard to prove a negative though.


  1. Shred only overwrites a file, it doesn't seek out fragments and copies of the data in unallocated disk space (caused by editing, etc.).

  2. You don't need to overwrite a file more than once. Statements to the contrary have been thoroughly debunked long ago.

  3. It doesn't matter what you overwrite it with.

So just copying a sufficiently large but innocuous file over the top will suffice.


You could delete the file and then use cipher:

  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.

It's probably quicker to just copy a big file over the sensitive file, but safer to clear unallocated space.

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    nice approach, i use to do exactly that, after using some pro data recovery tools, like recovermyfiles from GetData, i created a small c# program that create dummy data, by specifying the size, to defeat such tools. thanks for your help, i wish i could vote up, but i cant, (still new to super user). regards. Sep 6, 2012 at 22:19
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    Interesting, I learned something today. Thanks for this!
    – Mark Allen
    Sep 6, 2012 at 22:33
  • Quick question. If i delete some files, say in C:\Downloads\Goat-pics and in C:\Download\favicons\potato-icons and then run cipher /w:C:\Downloads will it cover both of those drives? or does it need to be run on those folders directly?
    – PsychoData
    Jul 16, 2014 at 16:13
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    I think that "to debunk" is for things that have never been true, so the second comments (on modern disks) and "should be adequate" do not make your point 2 of the first list a totally correct statement. Not worth noticing, especially since in any case, if you really are worried, you will destroy physically the disk (after having "degaussed" it) and won't stand on the supposition that it'd be too much expensive even to try to recover some of your data from a randomly-wiped-once disk using clever and futuristic methods, in the hope there's still "deducible information" around… May 8, 2015 at 16:40
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    You cannot simply "copy a big file over the sensitive file". Because your editor might create a new file with the new content and simply unlink the old references. Because the filesystem might simply allocates new fragment rather than overwriting older ones. Because the hardware might be allocating the blocks elsewhere rather than overwriting them (esp. true with SSD for performance and wear-leveling). Finally the data might still be there on disk (e.g. snapshots)
    – Huygens
    Feb 11, 2019 at 11:19

Piriform's CCleaner offers an option to wipe out free space. File Shredder allows to wipe out a particular file "on deletion time"

**EDIT: Found something on MS' sysinternas. SDelete. Haven't tried but could give it a try.

  • already using it, for like 6 years :-), i just want to make sure there is no Microsoft standard for doing such a sensitive task. Sep 6, 2012 at 21:38
  • Found something else. Check it out to see if it helps
    – Alfabravo
    Sep 6, 2012 at 21:51
  • already checked it, given by @Moab in the above comments, found it useful, thanks for your interest. Sep 6, 2012 at 22:00
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    @sarepta MS is not great at providing standard tools for common tasks. Even when it does, third-party tools are often better. Windows is one platform where you shouldn't worry too much about sticking with the "official" way of doing things. Sep 6, 2012 at 22:26
  • @IsaacRabinovitch indeed. Anyhow, sysinternal's stuff often solves such needs.
    – Alfabravo
    Sep 6, 2012 at 23:11

Not Windows-native, but likely to be already installed for many people reading this question: Git for Windows comes with its own ports of many common Unix utilities, including shred. By default it's located at C:\Program Files\Git\usr\bin\shred.exe.

Usage is the same as on Unix-likes, e.g. C:\"Program Files"\Git\usr\bin\shred.exe myfile.txt

  • If you read the thorough description of SDelete to see the lengths it goes to to remove all the right bits of data on disk, you'll see why a port of a linux util will write random data that may not be on top of the file you were expecting to be shredded.
    – Walf
    Nov 14, 2022 at 7:44

SDelete is as close to native as I've ever found. The reason why it's more secure than other answers is that it doesn't only write random data, it also takes into account the peculiarities of Windows' file systems so it can force the right parts of the disk to be overwritten.

It has no installer, so if you simply extract the files to their own directory in Program Files, than add that to your PATH, you can use it from the command line as you would del. It can delete recursively and shreds both the file contents and name.

The first time it runs, it shows an "Agree to Terms" dialogue, so run it once before you script anything with it.


If you consider Powershell to be built-in, then it is possible to write a script let, maybe using Get-Random to overwrite the content of a file with random values, before deleting it.

This stack overflow question might be useful.

  • have a complete functional c# program if you want (its a tiny-program not a full fledged one). Sep 6, 2012 at 22:28

Today I Googled, found an article at lifewire.com, and settled on Eraser. I'm very impressed so far. It integrates with Windows Explorer, adding an Eraser -> Erase right-click menu pick.


You can use a batch file:

@echo off

::Here change the name of the file to shred
set shred_file=MyFile.txt

set zero_n=000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
set zero_shred=%zero_n%%zero_n%%zero_n%%zero_n%

::Repeat that loop 100 times (delete, overwrite with 100 800‬ zeroes)

for /l %%A in (1,1,100) do (
    del %shred_file% /q /f 2>nul 1>nul
    echo %zero_shred%%zero_shred%%zero_shred% > %shred_file% 2>nul
    for /l %%a in (1,1,400) do (echo %zero_shred%%zero_shred%%zero_shred% >> %shred_file% 2>nul)
::Final delete
del %shred_file% /q /f 2>nul 1>nul
exit /B 0

I use that when I need to permanently delete a file smaller than approx ~200 kB

Maybe it's not that the correct answer, but it works as it overwrites the file 100 times

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    OK, the question says “delete and overwrite”, which seems like bad wording — which you seem to have taken literally.  Your code simply deletes the existing file and then creates 100 new files with the same name. Why do you believe that this functionally shreds the file? May 27, 2020 at 20:23

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