Every person these days generates data at an unprecedented rate. Unfortunately, most of this data goes to the cloud, which takes it out of your hands and into the hands of large corporations. You just need to hope that their policies and security measures are good enough to trust them with your data.
But what about data stored locally on your computer or mobile device? If someone gets hold of your media, will they be able to recover the information you deleted? If you didn’t know, in most cases, “deleting” information from your hard drive, SD card, or phone’s internal storage does not actually destroy the data. Instead, this portion of the disk is simply marked as “free space” so that new data can be written to it.
The problem is that there are various methods to recover deleted files from free space. With full disk encryption, this isn’t as much of a problem as it used to be. However, if someone manages to get into your device, the fact that your drive is encrypted means nothing.
This is where free space shredders come into play. These software applications run special data erasure protocols in areas of free space where your file data may still exist, making it nearly impossible to recover any information. Therefore, when you delete sensitive information such as medical, legal or financial documents, you can be sure that it is gone forever.
Here are five great examples of file shredding programs for each of the most popular operating systems. Remember, it’s not paranoia if someone really wants to get you.
File Shredder (Windows)
File Shredder is a free open source application that allows you to completely wipe data and properly wipe free space on Windows hard drives using the “Disk Wiper” option. File Shredder includes five shredding algorithms, each more powerful than the last. However, harder chopping requires more time and processor power.
Apart from being free to use, it is open source software. Any member of the community can make sure there is no malicious code or hidden features in it. The downside is that the tool doesn’t support. Luckily, the author has put a comprehensive list of commercial alternatives on the File Shredder homepage if you are looking to spend some money.
BitRaser File (Mac)
Speaking of money, if you have a Mac and want the same data-destroying perfection, you’ll have to spend a few bucks on BitRaser for File from the developer Stellar.
While there are several free apps on the Mac store that promise to do the same job, they tend to be less specialized than BitRaser and less user-friendly. This seems counter to the reasons why Mac users love their computers in the first place.
However, BitRaser costs around $ 40, it’s not that expensive and only does one thing as well as possible. You can destroy individual files, erase all hard drives and free space. It also has the ability to automatically destroy sensitive data such as Internet browsing history and cached information.
It includes six data cleansing algorithms to choose from and, most importantly, lets you schedule and automate cleansing tasks. Therefore, even if you cannot connect to your computer, you can be sure that certain data cannot be recovered.
All of our lives now live on our phones, and there are probably a few things on your Android smartphone right now that you would rather no one ever see. The good news is, with an app like Shreddit, it’s a breeze to permanently destroy this data.
It’s fast, depending on which erasing algorithm you are using. Some of the suggested options use up to seven passes to truly ensure that no data recovery technician gets this data back.
The application is integrated with Android file explorer and can work with both internal and external media. The main caveat is that any Android 4.4 or later user will need to root their phones in order to use Shreddit on their SD card.
Therefore, if you do not want to do this, store confidential information only in the internal memory. For most people, however, this shouldn’t be a problem as modern phones either don’t have SD expansion slots or have so much internal storage that SD cards aren’t particularly useful.
The app is ad-supported, but you can make a small donation to remove ads.
Linux already has a pretty powerful built-in disk cleanup feature, but using a program like BleachBit is much more convenient. It can automatically wipe sensitive data from many common applications, and it also offers file shredding and free space cleaning functions.
BleachBit is completely free, but will accept donations to support development. This is an incredibly popular method among Linux users and, given its usefulness, it comes as no surprise. If you want to improve the privacy of your Linux machine, this is undoubtedly the first stop you should make.
iShredder is available for Android, Windows and Mac, but it is noted here as one of the few iOS shredders. The software isn’t free, but it will set you back about thirty dollars. iShredder can safely erase an entire device before handing it over to someone else.
It can also quickly wipe free space on your iDevice, ensuring that all the data you’ve deleted in the past is impossible to recover. Its deletion algorithms are the same as used by governments and it is the most elegant tool we have seen for millions of iOS users around the world to protect themselves from unwanted data recovery attempts.
Privacy is more important than ever, and it’s a good habit to make sure the information you want stays disappears. Of course, there are many alternatives to the aforementioned multi-OS examples. No matter which tool you use, you’ll sleep a little better knowing that no one who grabs one of your hard drives can dig up the dirt, no matter how hard they try.