| By Fred Langa |
Data-wiping — securely overwriting deleted files with random ones and zeros — makes deleted data much harder to recover. But is it worth the hassle?
In most cases, the answer is no. There are much simpler methods for making sure deleted files are truly gone.
How to make sure erased data is gone forever
Reader Robert Burke has questions about his data-wiping tools.
- “There are many programs which claim to erase your files so they cannot be recovered. I use the program Eraser’s option for 35 overwrite passes.
“Will this cause a hard-disk failure over time if I continue to use this feature? Are these programs any good? Do they cause harm? Do they work? How do they work?”
As you probably know, when you delete a file, Windows simply alters the file’s location data and maybe some of its lead-in header information. Most of the file’s data remains intact on the hard drive. (This is why file recovery apps — or unerase utilities — can often recover a document even after you’ve emptied the recycle bin.
Wiping makes deleted files much harder to recover. It repeatedly overwrites all of a deleted file’s data with random ones and zeros. The more times the original data has been overwritten, the harder it is to recover. However, your 35-pass overwrite is rather extreme; it probably doesn’t deliver any meaningful increase in data security over the standard — and quicker — one-, three-, or seven-pass wipes offered by most secure-erasure tools.