Delete EVERYTHING!

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Delete EVERYTHING!

Ask the Doctor LogoI’d like a program that can safely and effectively clean my hard drive so that no deleted files can be recovered. Can you recommend something? I see a bunch of stuff out there but it’s for permanently deleting files, not for already-deleted files. And I don’t know which programs are clean—free of malware or other crap. It must be good enough that I can feel safe about giving an old PC to someone else and not worry about identity theft. Also: What would you recommend to minimize any data being stolen from a hard drive if your PC was stolen? I am presently using Splash ID to store my passwords and sensitive data but would feel better if the entire hard drive was protected.

—Norm Shaver

One thing at a time, Norm: First, there are several programs that will irrevocably write over your drive—each hard drive manufacturer has its own. We like using Darik’s Boot and Nuke (www.dban.org) from a boot disk—it offers Department of Defense–level overwriting security. Of course, this will completely and irrevocably delete everything on the drive, so if you’re giving that old PC away, you’ll need to do a clean install afterward—which you should do anyway, of course.

Eraser (http://eraser.heidi.ie) lets you securely erase individual files, if you were looking for that, and doesn’t include malware or the aforementioned other crap.

The best way to protect your data in the event of your PC being stolen is to use full-disk encryption. There are several options for full-disk encryption; one of our favorites is TrueCrypt (www.truecrypt.org). True-Crypt can even encrypt your boot drive while you’re using it, so you don’t need to do a clean install on an encrypted disk. All you have to do is download and install TrueCrypt, then select System > Encrypt System Partition / Drive and follow the instructions. You can find documentation at http://www.truecrypt.org/docs/?s=system-encryption. Once your drive is encrypted, you’ll have to enter a master password before any of your data is decrypted, so if someone steals your computer, they’re not getting your data.


Among its many other features, TrueCrypt lets you encrypt an existing system drive--while you're running it!

 

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION Are flames shooting out of the back of your rig? First, grab a fire extinguisher and douse the flames. Once the pyrotechnic display has fizzled, email the doctor at doctor@maximumpc.com for advice on how to solve your technological woes.

 

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