How to Delete Something Permanently From Your Computer

Did you know that when you “delete” files from your computer, they can still remain on your hard disk? In many cases, deleted files can be recovered with little effort because most computer operating systems will only delete links to the data so they no longer appear to you, but the actual data remains on the disk. Getting access to the deleted data is as simple as restoring the links.

This method of deletion is fine for most circumstances–where security is not an issue–but you wouldn’t want some people to recover your financial statements or medical records. For sensitive data, you need to make sure that your computer overwrites both the links to the information and the information itself.

There are a few easy and effective ways of getting rid of that file once and for all, and they all involve overwriting the file with other data.

Eraser (Windows)


Eraser is a free tool that allows you to pinpoint specific files on your Windows computer and overwrite them before you delete their directories. Once installed, you can use Eraser just by right-clicking on the condemned file, clicking on the Eraser icon and selecting erase.

You can choose how many times you want to overwrite the file, too. While 20 overwrites might give you more peace of mind, you’re probably fine with two or three.

Once the file is overwritten, you can junk it with the knowledge that it’s now nearly impossible to read. You can also set Eraser to clear out your trash bin and schedule automatic deletions, if you’re producing a lot of information you need to delete.


CCleaner (Windows)



If you’ve already deleted a few files the conventional way, or if you think there might be a few things floating around in the nether-regions of your computer you want to erase, CCleaner is a free tool to help you.

With CCleaner, you can target specific areas and applications on your computer — like your trash bin, your browser or a folder — and clear out the empty space of any deleted files that you didn’t get rid of correctly in the first place.

Like Eraser, you can also set CCleaner to perform a specific amount of overwrites, and the space is still free to use when you’re done.


Secure Empty Trash (Apple)

Deleting files securely on an Apple computer is built into your trash bin. Just drag whichever files you want to eviscerate into your trash bin, then go to Finder > Secure Empty Trash — and the deed is done. You can also securely erase your entire hard drive by entering the Disk Utility app and choosing “Erase.” Then click “Security Options.”

If you want to streamline the process and skip the trash bin all together, you can download FileShredder for $3.99. Instead of dragging your files to the trash bin, you can use the app to overwrite and delete the files.

Instead of you needing to fuss over how many times to overwrite something, FileShredder uses an algorithm to determine how many times the given file needs to be overwritten to make it unreadable.

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