Gone but not forgotten

Removing files from your PC takes more than just hitting the delete key

Just because you’ve sent a file to the recycle bin (or trash for Macintosh users) doesn’t mean that the file is permanently deleted. Even if you’ve emptied the recycle bin, you’ve actually only removed the pointer to the file. Overwriting the file by creating a new file with the same name will offer you some protection, but it’s not foolproof. Because PCs don’t necessarily put the new file in the same location on the hard disk as the previous version, your “deleted files” may still be retrievable.

Having your data only partially deleted may be fine if you’re merely getting rid of amorous e-mails. But if you’re trying to purge a system of confidential company data, you’ll want to make sure you’ve completely overwritten the sectors on the hard disk where the data resides. There are third-party applications for both Mac and PC users that will delete the pointers to your file as well as write patterns over the hard disk to obscure any data that may still be there.

MACINTOSH USERS
Burn is a freeware application that completely obliterates files from your hard-disk drive. Files that are dragged to the Burn utility are banished to the twilight zone and overwritten with a series of random numbers. This program can be downloaded from www.macdownload.com. Type ‘Burn’ in the search engine to go directly to the download.

PC USERS
Several packages are available-usually for under $50-that will overwrite any files that are sent to be deleted. These packages include McAfee’s UnInstaller (www.mcafee.com) and Symantec’s Norton CleanSweep (www.symantec.com). In addition to overwriting data, these packages usually offer other features, including removing applications, duplicate files and fragmented data, to optimize your hard-drive space. McAfee offers a 30-day trial download of UnInstaller while Symantec charges $39.95 to get a peek at CleanSweep.

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