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Safest file shredder

Posted on 2012-08-19
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Last Modified: 2012-08-27
I have an old computer that I want to give away, but I want to totally erase my personal files before doing so.  I have looked into file shredders such as File Shedder, Eraser, etc, and for each one there are people who said they could recover files after using it, via programs such as recuva and CIA unerase, which means the files were still recoverable.  What protocols should I use (maybe using more than one software, one after the other?), and what software, to entirely erase the files on my hard drive so that they cannot be recovered?
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Question by:dovidf
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by:Frosty555
Frosty555 earned 200 total points
ID: 38310559
Do you care about the operating system installation?

If you want to wipe the whole hard drive, use DBAN - Darik's Boot and Nuke.

http://www.dban.org/download

The important thing with shredding files properly is to ensure that the part of the hard drive that the file resided on is completely overwritten with several passes of garbage data to prevent possible recovery. DBAN overwrites the entire disk several times

The best way to make sure you didn't miss anything is to wipe the whole hard drive - let the new owner worry about reinstalling the operating system afterwards, or re-install a clean copy of the OS yourself for them as a convenience.

Trying to "spot clean" files here and there on your system - even if you do it through multiple passes and wipes - is a sure way to accidentally miss something! :P
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LVL 6

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by:mo_patel
mo_patel earned 200 total points
ID: 38310887
try

BCWipe - Use military-grade procedures to surgically remove all traces of any file

http://www.jetico.com/wiping-bcwipe/
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LVL 34

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by:Michael-Best
Michael-Best earned 1200 total points
ID: 38311291
I gather you want to leave the OS & softwares on the PC & do not want to buy expensive software such as Evidence Eliminator.
Read the review:
http://www.top-windows-tutorials.com/File-shredder.html#EEReview

Although it lacks some of the more advanced features that Evidence Eliminator boasts, Eraser is a solid package that will suit the needs of many users and being free.
You can download Eraser by visiting:
 http://eraser.heidi.ie/

Or depending on your budget see:
http://privacy-software-review.toptenreviews.com/
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LVL 31

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by:serialband
serialband earned 400 total points
ID: 38312855
I would second Frosty555's recommendation of DBAN.  Wipe the whole disk and reinstall a new OS to overwrite the disk.  Be prepared to take a day or more for the disk wipe.

The only way to be absolutely certain is to remove the disk, destroy it and get them a new disk, which I do when the disks are over 5 years old and I don't want to waste 2-3 days wiping the disks.
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by:
Michael-Best earned 1200 total points
ID: 38316657
To be 100% safe with no expense & little time taken just remove the Hard Drive & use it for youself.
Let the new owner install a new Hard Drive & OS.
Otherwise you can never be sure of what can or cannot be recovered (from your old data)
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LVL 31

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by:serialband
serialband earned 400 total points
ID: 38317002
For future systems:

These days, external drives are rather inexpensive.  I've put all my important data on several of them (for backups too) and I just don't place any important data on the local boot disk.

The other thing to do is to start encrypting your disk.  When the time comes, copy off the data, then do a full reinstall.  That way, they won't be able to easily recover the old data.
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Author Comment

by:dovidf
ID: 38318954
I don't understand the concern of leaving the Operating system files. What user data do people store in the Windows area?

One might leave a file or 2 here or there in strange circumstances but the risk is very low.

Leaving the operating system intact does not provide any extra leverage for getting to any data that has been shredded and not just deleted.
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LVL 31

Expert Comment

by:serialband
ID: 38319179
How sure do you want to be?  There's different levels of wiping for security.  Wiping the entire disk is a bit better than just wiping the blank space which is better than wiping just the deleted files.

Leaving the OS intact just means that the OS files remain where they are and the deleted files can only exist in the blank spaces, which somewhat reduces the recovery surface.  Wiping the entire disk, including the OS makes it just a little bit harder to recover the data.  If you're doing the disk wipe correctly, it won't take that much longer to do the whole disk if you system isn't ancient.  The others and I suggested it because you mentioned you were worried about someone still being able to recover the data.  Putting a different OS on it will also change the disk layout, obfuscating the recovery process a little more.
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LVL 34

Assisted Solution

by:Michael-Best
Michael-Best earned 1200 total points
ID: 38325483
"What user data do people store in the Windows area?"
Passwords / internet history / keyboard history (based on previously typed words) / prefetch of past web sites...
The used PC may as well be a dairy of your PC use. (but only in wrongfull hands)

If your PC datas history is not particularly confidential or sensitive then CCleaner is sufficient:
http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner/download
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LVL 31

Expert Comment

by:serialband
ID: 38327149
That's especially true on older OSes.  Newer OSes put some of that data within the user accounts, so you can add a new account with admin privileges, then delete the old accounts and their folders from C:\Users\ (Windows 7) or C:\Documents and Settings\ (XP and older).  That will help get rid of a lot of user related files, but not everything is stored in user space.
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