File Deletion Question:

How do I know my files are deleted off my hard drive, and how do I get them back if I want them again?Laptop

This is an all to common question with many people wanting to sell their old computers or give them away when they get their new computers.

When you delete a file off your computer it goes into a storage area for you to confirm you want the file deleted, often called the recycle bin or trash. You can turn off this safety net if you just want all the files you want deleted to be deleted straight away. 

After you empty the trash the area on your hard drive the file took up is freed for the computer to use again to store other files. However the original file is still there, the computer is just pretending it’s not there any more.

Like a book a computers hard drive has an index and when you delete a file, or format a hard drive the index is modified but all the files are still on the hard drive just the computer doesn’t know where to find them. This means that you can still, using the right programmes, get all the data back off the hard drive that was there before.

The only way to fully delete the files on your computer is to have a programme rewrite random data on the drive where the file originally was. This can be done using a secure system. With Macintosh OS X and Linux this is included however with Windowsyou have to download a programme to securely delete your files.

A free programme that lets you securely delete files is Eraser you can downloaded it from their website at www.heidi.ie . Make sure any files you securely delete from your computer you are sure you will not want again because there is no way to get them back easily.

If you want to completely delete everything on your hard drive if you are going to sell or give your computer away, the programme I recommend you use is Darik’s Boot and Nuke programme which will write random combinations of 0’s and 1’s on your hard drive multiple times, making it impossible to get any old data off it. You can download it from dban.sourceforge.net .

Getting back files.

If you have not securely deleted the files and you want to get them back you can, in most cases use a programme called File Recovery from PC Inspector. You can download it form www.pcinspector.de . Be aware that any files you try and get back should be rescued onto a different disk, and you should try and rescue them as soon after you deleted them as possible to make sure the area of the drive it was on hasn’t been reused.

If you try and rescue the files a while after you have deleted them, chances are the area of the drive will have been reused and the files are gone for good. 

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