When you no longer need a file that is stored on your computer, you delete it. But did you know that those deleted files are actually still present on your hard drive? If that worries you, you’re not alone! Fortunately, it is possible to make sure that your delete files are gone forever.
Empty the Recycle Bin
When you delete a file in Windows, it is placed in the Recycle Bin by default. Items placed in the Recycle Bin aren’t deleted automatically; the Recycle Bin holds your deleted files until you empty it. Windows does this so that you can retrieve accidentally-deleted files, but leaving files in the Recycle Bin can pose a security risk. To empty the Recycle Bin, right-click on the Recycle Bin icon on your desktop and select “Empty Recycle Bin” from the drop-down menu that appears.
Tip: You can prevent files from ever entering the recycle bin by holding down the SHIFT key while you delete the file.
Tip: You can disable the Recycle Bin feature entirely by right-clicking the Recycle Bin icon, selecting Properties, and choosing “Don’t move files to the Recycle Bin. Remove files immediately when deleted”.
Run the Disk Defragmenter
Even after you empty the Recycle Bin, remnants of your deleted files are still present and potentially readable. One way to further destroy that data is to run the Disk Defragmenter, a Microsoft utility that reorganizes your file system to optimize its performance. Since the Disk Defragmenter reads your deleted files as empty space, it will copy files that haven’t been deleted into that space in an attempt to make your file system more efficient. Once a file has been overwritten, it becomes very difficult to recover.
To run the Disk Defragmenter:
Windows XP: Click on the Start menu and open All Programs. The Disk Defragmenter will be located in the System Tools folder.
Windows Vista or Windows 7: Click on the Start button, then type “defragmenter” in the Search bar, then click on the Disk Defragmenter to start the program.
Run a 3rd Party Cleaning Program
Although the Disk Defragmenter can assist with permanent file deletion, it doesn’t really guarantee that your deleted files are unrecoverable. In addition, it can take several hours to run, so it isn’t practical for everyday use. Fortunately, there are many 3rd party programs, like System Optimizer Pro, that can ensure that your files are securely deleted.