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RPL

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Christine McCrea
Shirley Lew
Haidee Parker

Richmond Public Library

How to really delete files from your hard drive

Here’s a surprise: deleting files from your hard drive does not actually delete files. In the world of PC’s, the word “delete” simply means removing from view temporarily. That’s right. Given the command to clean-up, computers just hide the toys and dirty socks in the closet. Problem is, the toys and socks are easily found and usually by the person who wasn’t supposed to see the mess to begin with.

Ordinary deletion removes files so they can’t be viewed or easily retrieved, but the files remain on the hard drive. To completely erase files, they must be overwritten, not just deleted. In other words, old data is not erased until new data replaces it. For the extra cautious, files must be overwritten several if not hundreds of times before it is truly wiped from memory.

Sounds simple, but difficult to do without help. Windows does not allow end-users to control what files to overwrite on the hard drive. In fact, Windows is designed to use empty disk space first before overwriting deleted files. With the disk space of today’s computers being so huge, this means that deleted files can sit in the hard drive for months or even years before they are erased.

It’s not all bad news. Software utilities can get rid of those lingering files permanently. There’s lots to choose from and many of them are free to download from the Internet. Some of the most popular and highly recommended ones are listed below with the URL for downloading:

Eraser http://www.download.com/Eraser/3000-2092-10231813.html?tag=lst-0-8

McAfee Shredder www.zdnet.com/anchordesk/stories/story/0,10738,2690115,00.html

File Shredder 2000 downloads-zdnet.com.com/3000-2092-6955683.html

Shred2 www.pcmag.com/article/0,,s%3D1478%26a%3D17578,00.asp

Sure Delete http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/file_description/0,fid,22393,00.asp

For more file wiping freeware, go to Download.com at www.download.com or ZDNet’s download section at www.zdnet.com.

Considering the amount of personal information that computers now store, ensuring that deleted files and e-mails are really deleted is essential for protecting privacy. So, before giving that old computer away or throwing it in trash, think about doing some serious spring cleaning of the hard drive beforehand.


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