Cleaning Files From Hard Drives

Most of us realize that merely deleting a file doesn’t really remove it from the hard drive or other storage media it resides on. (For some background on this issue see a post I wrote a while back.)

Given how we use digital devices today – both for work and personal use – we can’t just abandon this issue to our firm IT staff. Our personal computers at home, our phones, copiers, memory sticks and ipads all probably contain our own personal information, or personal or confidential information of others. We need to manage that not only while we use those tools – but when we dispose of them as well. Pulverizing them into dust – aka destruction to the smithereens level – is not always an option.

This Microsoft article is worth a read, as it explains the issue, has some suggestions to reduce the risks, and links to some disk erasing tools.


  1. Good topic David.

    The article says:

    You’ll also want to think about personal information on your work computer when it’s time to move on to a new job. You can’t wipe the hard drive since the computer isn’t your property, but you can make it somewhat harder to find sensitive information by deleting personal emails, clearing your web browser’s cache and history, deleting any personal files on your hard drive, and emptying your trash or recycle bin.

    Employers often demand the return of their machines without any deletion of information, personal or otherwise, with a view to preservation for a cooling off period. In my view they are generally entitled to do so, though the demand should be supported by some text in a computer use policy. This is not about snooping, but more about preserving something with evidentiary value at a sensitive time and pending reasonable grounds to look. I don’t think the Microsoft comment is misguided, but it does raise an issue for employers.