Scenario: your computer has just failed on you and you have to take it to repairs. The only trouble is that you have a lot of stuff no one should get his/her hands on. And the guys from the repair shop told you to bring the entire case (including the HDD). Sounds familiar? So you boot the OS from a different device and start moving them to an additional storage device.
You feel quite secure now that your files are no longer on the drive and you can comply to their rules. You have just gotten rid of all the compromising data on your computer. Think you're off the hook? Oh, you have flushed the Recycle Bin and removed the residues as well? Well, I suggest you think again because you have deleted only the TOC of the files. The data is still located on your hard disk and can be easily recovered with the appropriate tool.
So what can you do? My recommendation is to use a secure deletion software. They are all over the place and a medium ranked one can do a handsome job. However, the terrible thing is that most of them are under a commercial license. Don't mind them and proceed to downloading File Shredder, a free application built for the very thing you need: secure data deleting.
It comes absolutely free and there are no strings attached. File Shredder will overwrite all the data with random series of binary data. And to make the files unrecoverable it'll repeat the overwrite procedure more than once. Besides secure deletion of the data, File Shredder can also help you in cleaning the free space on your hard disk. This procedure will avoid all the valid data and will stick to those files that no longer have a TOC.
The interface is plain and simple and the explorer like looks should give you no trouble at all. You have the options running in the left hand side of the main application window, while the largest area is reserved for
adding the files and folders to be deleted. To make your work easier the software supports drag and drop operation.
When adding a folder you are given the possibility of perusing it, just to make sure that it contains only files you want removed. At the bottom of the screen there is the big Shred Files Now button that starts the operation. After OK-ing the task the application starts shredding all there is added.
Wiping up the free space on a disk is also available in File Shredder. Once selected this option a different window will appear and you get to select the drive that needs sweeping. Multiple drive selection is supported and even USB flash drives. Unlike in the case of secure deletion of valid data, this time you can select the secure algorithm from the drop down menu at the lower end of the window.
The alternatives for this are a simple one pass which is not recommended as it does a poor job and there is easy recovery of the files overwritten this way. The two pass is somewhat more efficient, but still not too safe. DoD 5220-22.M is the first algorithm that can do some damage. It is a sanitization standard that clears out data remnants. It is a seven-pass wipe method using random characters, complements of characters and random data streams.
The next option is another seven-pass algorithm, but there isn't any data on it (nothing in the help menu works at the moment). And, my favorite, Guttman algorithm which employs 35 passes (combines 27 random-order passes with eight passes using random data).
As you probably realized up to now, employing an algorithm combining multiple passes will lead to increased times for the process to complete. If you want a good compromise between time and security DoD 5220-22.M is perfect for the job.
Configuring the application is piece of cake. The three tabs available in the menu allow you to choose the default wipe algorithm as well as setting up the program to make it more comfortable to work with. The Program Settings lets you enable shell integration with Windows (in Vista it does not work) and enable confirmations for shredding the files, adding or removing the files from the list and asking for secure algorithm.
In Algorithms tab the user can choose the one to be used as default when shredding the files, and in Visual Options you can hide the top title and set the program to launch in maximized mode.The Good
The application is absolutely free to use and it comes strapped with two very secure wipe modes: DoD 5220-22.M with seven passes and Guttman with 35.
Easy to configure, File Shredder can be used to safely delete your data without running the risk of getting it recovered by subjecting the HDD to software treatment. It can also sanitize the free space on your hard disk.The Bad
Windows shell integration does not work as planned. It would have come in handy such an option in the context menu.
The entire Help menu is non-active. No link is working and a newbie does not have access to a manual explaining how exactly those wipe algorithms work and what they do to the drive.
Letting the user customize the wipe algorithm would not be such a bad idea.The Truth
Great application minus the mischief with the shell integration. Other than that it is easily configurable and it allows wiping the free space on USB flash drives. There are applications that sanitize the USB drives but they are way too expensive compared to File Shredder.Here are some snapshots of the application in action: