Secure Data Removal

Secure Data Removal

Will Formatting a Hard Drive Truly Erase All My Information?

Courtesy of Data Doctors

This question was answered on September 11, 2003. Much of the information [below] may have changed since posting. Data Doctors makes no guarantees as to the quality of this answer, nor to the safety of any procedures contained herein.

"The most common way to delete files in Windows and Macintosh is to drag the file into the Mac "trash can'' or Windows "recycling bin.'' While that removes it from the desktop it does not remove it from the computer. In fact, you can restore the file by simply opening the trash or recycling bin and dragging it back to the desktop.

Both the Mac and Windows allow you to go one step further by emptying the trash which appears to delete the file completely. The Mac, for example, asks you if you are sure "you want to remove the item in the trash permanently.'' Windows asks if you're "sure you want to delete all of the items in the recycling bin.''

But neither method is permanent. Erasing a file doesn't actually delete the data; it just removes the file name from the directory. The data is still there. Deleting a file the standard way is a bit like crumpling up a piece of paper and throwing it in the trash can rather than running it through a shredder. The MS-DOS delete command doesn't have an obvious "undo'' feature but it too can easily be reversed..."   CONTINUE READING AT SOURCE




The direct links that follow as well as the article from are provided as a courtesy to Ruggiero AV Services' customers. While Ruggiero AV Services does understand that the utilities and programs referenced are destructive in nature (for the purpose of data security), no warranty is made, either expressed or implied, as to a particular program or utility's usefulness and/or performance. You assume all risks when using these utilities.  


  • ERASER:  Advanced security tool (for Windows), which allows you to completely remove sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns. Works with Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP and DOS. Eraser is Free software and its source code is released under GNU General Public License.
  • DARIK'S BOOT AND NUKE:  Darik's Boot and Nuke is a utility that you use when you want to completely obliterate all your data in all your hard disks and their partitions. It comes in the form of a bootable floppy disk or a bootable CDROM image (you download whichever you prefer), complete with an operating system (Linux) and the Boot and Nuke utility. Once you boot up that floppy (or CDROM), the utility will proceed to destroy all your data in every partition of every hard disk. The site says that it is designed for bulk or emergency data destruction. (It is probably also useful in less dramatic cases, such as when you want to wipe your disks prior to giving your computer away to someone).

Keeping Your Word Documents Clean

If you e-mail business letters, resumes, and personal documents as Word documents you need to keep in mind that if you’re not careful, recipients of those Word documents can easily see what you deleted or modified. That letter you hacked from something you downloaded, the draft where you called the Boss “smart arse” before a final search and replace changed that to “great guy and brilliant visionary.” But if you’re not careful, 'Smart Arse' may know what you really think.

Hidden within your letter is the original wording. Microsoft Word saved it all and the recipient doesn't have to be too smart to find it. Word inserts metadata (information about data) to help identify author names, document titles, keywords, print and save dates, and all the names of people who reviewed and saved the document. Metadata may include your place of business, your company or organization's name, the name of the network server on which the document is saved and all the comments you and your ghost writer have added.

There are a number of ways to ensure that your personal data and the mess that you call a draft stays with you:

Turn off Fast Save. This feature speeds up saving a document by saving only changes made to a document. However, text that you delete from a document may remain. Microsoft recommends turning off this feature to eliminate any chance of deleted text remaining in the document. Click Tools, then Options. Click the Save tab. Clear the "Allow fast saves" check box and click OK.

You can remove personal information when you save a doc. In Word 2002 and 2003, click Tools, then Options. Click the Security tab. Under Privacy options, select "Remove personal information from file properties on save" and click OK. In Word 2000, click Tools, the Options. Select the User Information tab. Clear the information in Name, Initials and Mailing Address and click OK.

Turn off the Track Changes tool. In Word 2002 and 2003, click Tools, then Track Changes. In Word 2000 and earlier versions, click Tools, Track Changes, Highlight Changes. Click to clear the check mark in the "Track Changes while editing" box.

You can tell if the Track Changes feature is on by looking at the status bar. When Track Changes is enabled, TRK appears in the status bar. When Track Changes is disabled, TRK is dimmed.  Track Changes must be disabled before writing the document. Otherwise, any changes made will not be removed.

A Microsoft tool exists that can remove hidden data from Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The Remove Hidden Data add-in tool will delete text and comments from files.  This tool works for Office 2000, XP, and 2003; later versions of Office have this functionality built-in.