Often times, individuals believe that adding a file to the recycle bin and emptying it will destroy the record of that file. The reality is that even deleted files maintain a record on the machine, and properly securing deletion requires additional measures. Whether you want to delete private records of need to completely wipe your hard drive after selling your computer, there are a number of possible steps that you can take.

There are two broad methods of erasing data on a hard drive – the first method is the Gutmann secure method which overwrites data multiple times for a desired effect. This method is utilized by the government for classified files and produces reliable results. These methods are generally too difficult for standing computer users, who must op for more traditional methods and programs to secure data erasure. Computer scientists and security researchers are actively working on ways to encrypt data so that it cannot be retrieved – most computer users, however, are fighting an uphill battle to preserve and secure their data against potential threats.

If you’re a Macintosh user, the integrate Secure Empty feature on OS X provides a good source of secure removal for files. For most uses, this feature provides enough security for a high level of confidence. Windows users will have to opt for applications such as Eraser, which are designed to provide secure file level deletion. The current version of Windows (Vista) doesn’t have an integrated secure deletion feature, nor does Windows XP or 7 offers the same level of secure deletion that is offered in the Mac OSX operating system. As a result, Windows users will have to find a program to provide additional secure deletion.

If you need to completely remove all data from your hard drive consider a program such as the Boot and Nuke software – the software is designed to securely remove all contents from the hard drive and is a self-booting program so that you don’t have to leave any data. If you need complete certainly of erasure, the only certified method is physical destruction of the hard-drive – depending on your needs, this may be the most secure option. Many uses opt for formatting, but need to be assured that the format is complete and full.

For most computer users, securely deleting files is crucially important – this ensures that you are able to protect your personal or business data at all times. As more of our private data becomes digital, there is an increased risk and need to securely delete files after they have been accessed.