How to Permanently Delete Data from Your Hard Drive

Posted on November 23, 2008 

How to Permanently Delete Data from Your Hard Drive

According to the New York Times, a basic privacy measure that is often overlooked is the proper destruction of data on hard drives. An ongoing study by British Telecom says that most people don’t realize that deleting a file doesn’t actually remove the data from a computer.

In fact, the BT research found that only 33 percent of second hand hard drives had been completely wiped clean. To ensure your drive doesn’t contain any personal data before you give it away or sell it, you need to reformat the hard drive or use digital shredding software if you want to completely eliminate all traces of data. In this post, we’ll show you how.

When it comes to data stored on your computer, deleting files doesn’t actually remove the data. File information is kept in a directory so that the operating system can find it. When you delete a file, all you are doing is removing it from the directory and flagging that part of the drive as being available for new data. Until that region is overwritten, the old data can be retrieved, in fact that’s how you can recover lost data. It’s also the way most file recovery programs work – they look for data on your hard drive that shouldn’t be there according to the directory and restore it.

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