Data encryption is really important especially if we have sensitive files that cannot fall into other people’s hands. We can use one of the most best yet free encryption software called TrueCrypt to encrypt our data< but then if you think carefully about it, there is actually a time frame when the files are not yet protected and are stored as normal files on your hard drive. Even after moving the files to an encrypted container or simply deleting them from your computer, there is a possibility that the files can actually be recovered using a simple to use free data recovery software if they are not being overwritten.
There are some dedicated tools to permanently wipe or shred the files to prevent from being recovered. However if you’ve removed the files using the standard Windows delete command and emptied the Recycle Bin, Windows does not offer a way to restore it back unless you use a recovery software to restore the file, and then use the file wiping software to permanently delete it. Overtime, the amount of accumulated recoverable files on your computer can be quite shocking. A good way around this is to use some free utilities that is able to make the recoverable files unrecoverable without touching your existing files.
Soft4Boost Secure Eraser is an effective application that is relatively easy on system resources. It has been designed to overwrite unwanted data from your computer in a thorough manner to ensure it is not able to be accessed again. Soft4Boost Secure Eraser lets you customize in what manner and how. Soft4Boost Secure Eraser helps you to completely remove sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully. Erase Your Files and Folders All data, documents and applications, which are deleted by Soft4Boost Secure Eraser, are impossible for recovery! Strong Program Compatibility.1. Eraser
If you do a research on data wiping, you may find that there are many different file erasure methods such as Gutmann, DoD, Schneier and etc. Eraser is one of such tool that supports different types of wiping algorithms including Gutmann for the paranoids which is selected by default. To permanently wipe the empty space on your hard drive using Eraser, run the program, right click at the Erase Schedule box and select New Task. Click the Add Data button, select the “Unused disk space” radio button and click OK. Click OK again at the Task Properties window to close it. A new task is added to the program, to run it simply right click and select “Run Now”.
Do take note that the Gutmann method would take a very long time to complete because it writes a series of 35 patterns on the empty space. If you have a large hard drive with a lot of empty space, the whole process can easily take the whole day to complete. Another drawback is Eraser does not show an estimated remaining time other than the status bar. You can always cancel the task by right click and select Cancel Task from the context menu.
2. Moo0 Anti-Recovery
Free download swiftshader 3.0 full version. Moo0 Anti-Recovery is a free and very easy to use program that fights the recovery tool by writing the empty spaces once with pseudo-random data. First you need to select the drive that you want to process and then followed by checking a few options such as recycle bin, free space, MFT, cluster tips and even file names.
There are no other choices in the wiping techniques other than the built-in method which is good enough to prevent from recovery programs used by end users.
Download Moo0 Anti-Recovery
BleachBit is a famous free utility that is meant to clean out junk files from your computer to free up more space on your hard drive and protecting your privacy at the same time. There are 2 ways to wipe the free space using BleachBit. First is to click the File menubar, select “Wipe Free Space” and choose a folder or drive that you want to wipe. Second method is to check the “Free disk space” from the System category and click the Clean icon. There is no option to cancel the process but you can terminate it by closing the program. It also shows an estimation of time remaining to complete wiping.
BleachBit wipes the space using a single pass of blank data which they think is sufficient and the additional passes adds no value other than slowing down the whole process. BleachBit can be ran on Windows and Linux.
CCleaner, probably the most famous Windows optimization and cleaning utility around today offers a tool called Drive Wiper to securely erase the free space on your hard drive. Run CCleaner, go to Tools > Drive Wiper, select “Free Space Only” for wipe, then the overwrite method and finally the drive that you want to wipe.
CCleaner has 4 wiping techniques which is 1 pass, 3 passes (DoD), 7 passes (NSA) and 35 passes (Gutmann). The more passes that you select, the lower in chances of recovery and longer it will take to wipe.
SlimCleaner is a well known and fast growing computer maintenance software that comes with a lot of features to keep your computer clean and optimized. To access the disk wiping tool, run SlimCleaner, click on Disk Tools and select Disk Wiper.
Similar to CCleaner, it also 4 wiping methods which is 1, 3, 7 and 35 passes. Make sure that “free space only; your data will be safe” option is selected and followed by clicking the drive to process and finally click the Wipe button.
6. File Shredder
File Shredder, as its name suggests, it is a free tool meant for shredding single and multiple files including free disk space with Windows shell right click integration. To wipe the free disk space, run File Shredder and click on “Shred Free Disk Space” at the left pane. A new window will open where you can select the disk to wipe and the secure algorithm to use. Click the Next button and then Start.
File Shredder supports 5 types of algorithm which is 1, 2, DoD, 7 and Gutmann 35 passes. The simple two pass option that is not available on most other tools would be a fine choice if you want a good balance between time and speed.
Download File Shredder
7. Disk Redactor
Disk Redactor is another simple utility that wipes away deleted files. There is an option button where you can enable erase information twice, run a check disk, working in background and writes with random data instead of just filling it with zeros but it’s not available for free users. To start the secure delete, click on the Wipe Disk button and select the drive or folder. During testing we found that selecting any folders on the drive will wipe the drive’s empty space rather than the folder.
Although not mentioned anywhere, we strongly believe that Disk Redactor uses 1 pass because the licensed version can enable 2 passes option. Logically this means that the free version should be using a less secure algorithm compared to the paid version.
Download Disk Redactor
The built-in cipher.exe tool in Windows operating system located at C:WindowsSystem32 is actually a file encryption utility that can be used to remove data from available unused disk space. Simply type the command below and followed by the path to the directory or even the root of the drive letter.
Cipher.exe uses 3 passes algorithm where it overwrites the specified unused free space with all zeros, all ones and finally random numbers. Texas dps appointment plus. The advantage in using the cipher.exe tool is the availability on Windows operating system since 2000 plus you can run from it an un-elevated normal command prompt.
Important Note: There is no need to continually wiping the free disk space on your computer because it will only increase the wear and tear of the drive and reduce its lifespan especially on SSD drives. What you can do is, wipe the unused free disk space once using any of the software listed above depending on your requirements on the algorithm, then start managing sensitive data in an encrypted container created by TrueCrypt or any other reliable encryption software.
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“The more passes that you select, the lower in chances of recovery…”
Not exactly, if you’re talking spinning-platter (non-SSD) drives.
A single pass overwrite, if completed successfully, provides zero chance of recovering the file through any means available to the public. Adding more passes affects nothing but possibly the user’s feelings of security. It’s basically superstition. Gutmann wrote a paper about 15 or 20 years ago, about how in theory overwritten data could be recovered. It’s never once worked in real-world recoveries in the civilian world, even in a lab setting, and drive tolerances are exponentially tighter since then. It’s conceivable that some government agency might have access to extremely expensive equipment that might be able to recover data that isn’t randomly overwritten a few times, but it’s unlikely, and such a recovery method wouldn’t be available to regular law enforcement or for subpoenas. Unless your drive is suspected to have data that poses an urgent threat to national security, one pass is fine, use a 3-pass if you’re paranoid though.
There have been reports of overwritten data being recovered but in all reported cases that we have investigated, the data was not actually overwritten.
SSDs are different. They have a pool of rotating sectors so you’d want to do multiple overwrites. That’s another topic.
I’m not saying I know everything there is to know about this, but I have worked at the oldest and largest data recovery company in the world for over 21 years and we’ve done thousands of recoveries for government agencies and the military, so I have some experience with what can be recovered.Reply
In actual fact, we link to the Gutmann paper in another article. In it, he says “a few passes of random scrubbing is the best you can do” when summing up. So even he suggests at least 2 passes wouldn’t be the worst idea (we don’t know exactly how many he meant by “a few”). So, up to a point “The more passes that you select, the lower in chances of recovery…” is not inaccurate according to Mr. Gutmann.Reply
I use PrivaZer and highly recommend itReply
No mention of Darin’s Boot & Nuke, better known as DBAN?
I’m sure that this project has been around before this article was written, simply image the desired drive, run either a DOD (3 pass or NSA (7 pass) wipe to the drive while at work or sleep (Guttman is offered, yet even he himself stated was overkill & no more effective than a 7 pass), or both if the drive is large enough. All that’ll be left is garbled data randomly spewed across the drive during the last pass, reinstall the backup image & you’re good to go. Just make sure to clean the Temp folders really good before back & restore.
If running a SSD, it’s much faster, inside of 5 minutes on a 2TB model, use the Parted Magic (2013 edition) from Major Geeks, boot from the ISO & be sure to select ‘Internal’ drive (applies to eSATA attached SSD’s also), and avoid the Enhanced Secure Erase, which zaps so many bytes at both ends, decline & choose the Full one & takes no time. I always perform 2x for good measure, then as above, restore my backup image & good to go. A refreshed SSD will run nearly as good as new again!
DBAN is not mentioned here because it doesn’t do what we are talking about in this article, which is erasing the free space on your drive while leaving all the visible files intact. DBAN wipes drives completely and leaves nothing behind. We have another article for talking about that, in which DBAN and Parted Magic are mentioned.
I used the default Windows Cipher command on a 300GB external 2.5″ drive connected via USB 3.0, and gave it to the local Sheriff’s Office Cyber Crime unit, which was able to partially/mostly recover a very large number of graphic files that had been on the drive. They were NOT able to recover any of the more than 100gb of music files in a usable form.
To be clear, they DID start with a list of the filenames that had been wiped. The Deputy commented on my collection of photos of SeaCraft boats, calling it “Boat Porn”. The Program they were using is called R-Studio, and is supposedly effective on modern drives of under 1TB capacity, on a variable scale. The greater the drive density, the more difficult to recover securely deleted data.
I plugged the drive back into my laptop at home, and copied all the previously deleted files back to the portable drive, and then ran CCCleaner with the 7-pass option. LEO were still able to get file fragments, including a few discernible images.
The last time I ran Eraser with the Gutmann option. It took 27 hours to run the Gutmann processs on this external 2.5″ drive connected via USB 3.0 to a Lenovo Ideapad w/ 2nd gen. i7 Windows 8.2 laptop with 16gb of RAM. Afterwards, LEO was unable to retrieve any usable data within 48 hours using their normal automated process.
Were those recoverable images originaly stored in JPG format? (compressed format)? or were they in BMP, RAW,. (some other uncompressed format)? I suposo music was in mp3 (compressed) so it was difficult to retrieve with missing pieces of information.Reply
@Frank – At first I didn’t really believe your claim that the files were recoverable. I mean if the data is overwritten, then it shouldn’t be recoverable. I was directed to this site because I discovered that an external drive I use for a lot of projects had all the previously deleted data easily recoverable. Since I didn’t want to install anything else on my machine I used the built-in Cipher command also. Well, after 3 passes, every file that was recoverable before was just as recoverable after. It’s as if the tool did nothing. Based on your comments I’m going to try Eraser next. Thanks for the heads up about Cipher.Reply
I Agree with you. Gutman etc advanced cleaners has any sense only on low capacity rotated disks. With high capacity disks and ssd’s this is non sense, because there are no practical way for reading not overwritten data from track borders on rotated, and flash cells are completly overwritten without any possibility with reading any previous data. of course ssd’s should be trimmed, and firmware will automatically wipe out all freed blocks. then only one pass is really needed. hard earsing is needed only, when we have any problem with any “security agency’ :)Reply
how about R-Wipe and clean or pc tools privacy guardianReply
This is a list of FREE tools, neither of those you mention are free. Privacy Guardian was also discontinued several years ago.Reply
Another option is or was Drive Scrubber by Iolo you have to buy their software for it to work But they just took the wipe free space option out making it useless. I used them for 3 years with no problem until they took the wipe free option out.Now all they have is the options to completely erase data,and why pay for that when the data can be erased for free.There wipe free option had 2 ways of cleaning,you could either sweep the drive or do it by overwriting the space and would not leave your drive with overwritten files.Reply
Any recommendations for something similar to wipe Linux systems of any free storage. I have several Terabyte drives that I need to do this too.Reply
Gaaaaah every ****ing program wants to fill the drive with random data WHY? zeros are better, I want to compress the drive image, random is the worst option possible.Reply
Zeros are not better in terms of security, it’s well known to be way harder to recover data that’s been overwritten with random data as opposed to all zeros. With non random erasing it is easier to recover the data underneath.Reply
Hal9000: The density of modern hard drives makes it impossible to recover data from any overwriting. A single pass of 0x00 is fine to prevent recovery of the overwritten data. A couple of years ago there was a company who said they could recover data from an overwritten hard drive. They got offers from several data recovery companies who each pitched in lots of money for the company to prove its claim. They took a 500 GB drive with a known set of files, wiped it with a single pass of 0’s and gave them as long as they needed to recover a single file from this drive. Several years later they still haven’t recovered a single byte of data (they actually gave up a while back and admitted they weren’t talking about hard drives). If you are going to recover any sectors from a wiped hard drive it will have to be the translated sectors from the G-list that had data on them before they were marked as bad. That’s the only way.Reply
Thank you for the information, it would have been handy if you could have provided a link as if it’s proven a single zero pass is more than enough, then the article may need updating.
I guess it also depends on what is considered a “modern” hard drive, is 160GB modern? Is 40Gb modern? Is 10GB modern? The man behind the rather excessive 35 pass method, Peter Gutmann, recommends 1 or 2 passes of random data is about the best you can get to make data unrecoverable on drives made since 2001/2002.Reply
Modern hard drives for the purpose of this discussion would be considered drives that use PMR technology (perpendicular magnetic recording). Most hard drive manufacturers switched from the previous technology (longitudinal recording) to perpendicular recording between 2006-2009. So it is manufacturer and model specific. There is a study (Overwriting Hard Drive Data: The Great Wiping Controversy link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-540-89862-7_21?LI=true) if you want a link to more information.
In that case you can’t really recommend a single zero pass unless it is known exactly what brand the hard drive is and whether it falls into the category you mention. At least a random pass can be used across the board (according to Peter Gutmann it’s good for drives made after 2001) without intimate knowledge of your own hard drive.
I have a plain jane Win 7 computer. I hate to be negative but Eraser does not work completely. I can still find and recover long deleted files. ActiveKillDisk reports damaged volumes that are not damaged. Moo0 Anti-Recovery does almost nothing, majority of deleted files are still recoverable. The problem with most of the wiping programs is that they do not completely overwrite all the actual empty space and the file name storage. ShredIt provides a bogus Trial software that actually does nothing, you have buy it to really try it and if it doesn’t work there is a restocking fee if you return it.
Secure Erase Free
I need a program that will completely and definitively wipe/erase all deleted files and free space.Reply
Eraser is packaging dirty baggage nowReply
Nice article. I partcularly appreciate the comments like those in the last paragraph for Eraser. Where known, a little more detail on what is included would be useful (e.g., Moo0 Anti-Recovery itself is particularly clear on what is included). Two other tools to consider:
Secure Eraser Freeware Online
PrivaZer – a suite similar to CCleaner; can zero freespace with other options for master file table (MFT), etc.
Secure Eraser Tool
SDelete – one of the many Sysinternals utilities; overwrites a file, directory, or freespace; for free space it zeros (-z) or cleans (-c) (overwrites thrice — 0, 1, random); for free space, the MFT is included but filenames may remain(!); clear, brief explanation of what it does and why but description of options could be a little clearer.Reply