You may be surprised to hear that “Delete” is not an end all function for wiping data clean from your machine. To ensure you data doesn’t get into the wrong hands, perform a secure erase. Whether you are selling an old computer or just want to wipe some sensitive data off your machine completely, Secure Erase is an easy way to get the job done.
When you hit Delete, you most likely expect that all of your data is actually deleted. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Delete doesn’t actually delete your data, what this function does is erase a file’s reference information in the disk directory and marks the blocks as free for reuse. Your operating system might not be able to see it, but your data is still there deep down. Hence the use of file recovery programs, these programs look for blocks that the directory says are not in use, and searches for your data. There is something called bad blocks as well, which is when data is left from partly overwritten blocks, and other actions. Secure Erase command overwrites every track on the disk, meaning, there is no data recovery from a Secure Erase. This is great for data security if you know what you are doing, which most of us don’t, which is why the Secure Erase command has been disabled on most motherboards.
ENCRYPT, REFORMAT, ENCRYPT.
Deleting the last little bit of your data can be easier than you think with the right knowledge. Windows uses an encryption tool called BitLocker, which usually requires a system with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip. Without a TPM you won’t be able to access BitLocker or when you attempt to access BitLocker it will pop up with an error message. Full disk encryption is built into Windows and Mac OS X.
To try BitLocker, go the Control Panel, click System and Security, and then click on BitLocker Drive Encryption. Select the drive and start the process. Encryption will take hours on a large disk, but you should be able to do other work on the system while encryption completes. – Robin Harris, writer for Storage Bits
In order to perform this on a Mac, you will need to access the Mac OS File Vault 2 (10.7 and later) function. Open System Preferences, Find Security and Privacy, and FileVault. Choose Turn On FileVault, select a password option, enable any other accounts you want to access the drive – in this case none – and click Restart. The encryption process will begin and, like Windows, will take some hours if you have a large drive. – Robin Harris, writer for Storage Bits
Once you have your drives encrypted, you need to reformat the drive as a new drive and encrypt it again. The drive is now empty so you won’t be met with long wait times as you did with the previous encryption. The purpose of the second encryption is to ensure that your first encryption key is overwritten, because a really great decrypter could recover the key and decrypt your data, which would make all that work for nothing. The second encryption eliminates that possibility.
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