Keep 'Deleted' Data From Coming Back To Haunt You

On a typical PC, the "delete" button is a joke. Here's how to make sure you and your business don't end up as the punch line.
On a typical PC, the "delete" button is a joke. Here's how to make sure you and your business don't end up as the punch line.You may already know that the best way to protect the data on your laptop is to encrypt it. If you don't, or if you're still looking for the right encryption tool, check out our tutorial on setting up and using TrueCrypt: a free, open-source data-encryption tool that is probably the best software of its type available at any price.

So much for the data you need. But what about the data you throw away?

It's common knowledge that simply dragging a file to the Windows Recycle Bin doesn't actually remove it from a system. Neither, for that matter, does "permanently" deleting it from a hard disk. Dozens of software tools make it drop-dead simple to recover deleted data, even from a storage device that has been reformatted several times.

That's where Eraser comes in. It's a software utility that eliminates any trace of a deleted file by overwriting it repeatedly; the data patterns used in the overwriting process are based on accepted, time-tested data security standards. In fact, Eraser meets U.S. Department of Defense standards for deleting classified military data.

Eraser offers plenty of options for power users or special situations; among other features, it can schedule file-deletion procedures, run batch operations in command-line mode, and even erase the Windows paging file when a system shuts down. In its default mode, however, Eraser is incredibly easy to use, and it even offers a right-click context menu option to delete a file securely.

If you're worried about whether any old data is floating around on your system, Eraser can overwrite all of the unused space on any storage device. In fact, Eraser includes a utility that can overwrite an entire hard disk -- an absolutely essential step for anyone planning to get rid of a hard disk or other storage device..

Heidi Computers Ltd. created Eraser and serves as the software's corporate shepherd. Eraser is completely open-source, however, and that's a very good thing: The best way to test this sort of software is to allow developers to test it, prod it, attack it -- and improve it when they discover weaknesses.

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