Most of us are familiar with deleting data as we do it almost every day. Some people will be relieved to know that, deleted files are not permanently gone, most of the time.
Many of us have accidentally deleted items we did not mean to and in this case, the ability to bring those files back from the dead is usually good news. The bad news is that most people don’t think about these files unless they need to recover them for future use. Moreover, most people don’t realize they’re not actually gone forever.
What actually happens when you delete a file?
When you drag a file or folder into the trash bin on your desktop, all you’re doing is deleting the file system which is the road the operating system takes to retrieve the data. The file does still exist on the hard drive and could easily be retrieved with recovery software.
Deleted files are at risk
Cybercriminals can gain access to personal information stored in your computer even after you delete the files. This includes everything from financial documents to images. If you think those files are gone because you have deleted them, you need to think again. Having a security suite like Norton Security will give you over all protection to keep your device safe.
Computer forensics is a common term which refers to the recovery of illegal files, information, or content from a confiscated computer. However, cybercriminals make use of the same techniques and tools as government agencies and law enforcement to access these deleted files.
When is deleting a file okay?
You should feel confident if the files you are going to delete do not contain any personal or sensitive information, and would be of no value to anyone else.
Deleting a file would be tolerable if you were simply trying to free up space on the hard drive or reduce clutter.
Always ask yourself these three questions before deleting data:
- Will I ever need this in future?
- Could someone use this information against me in any way?
- Would I be uncomfortable if a stranger recovers this deleted data?
If the answer is “no” to all these questions, then deleting the file is adequate.
When is deleting a file not okay?
Files containing personal information, business records, and financial reports are not safe if simply deleted. For these documents, you need to take further steps to ensure that the records are irreversible and that cybercriminals cannot find them on your hard drive.
Few ways to permanently delete data
Formatting a hard drive, deleting files, and wiping it clean are not the same things. Formatted hard drives and deleted files will still contain retrievable data. If you wish to permanently delete files, you will need to overwrite the data with the help of special software.
There are free versions of file eraser software for both Macs and PCs. Always back up the files you do not wish to lose once the hard drive has been wiped clean, after which it will be impossible to retrieve any lost data.
You should reflect on wiping a hard drive to protect your personal information in all of the following cases:
- Selling a computer.
- Recycling a computer.
- Giving a computer away.
- Donating a computer.
- Cleaning out unnecessary files.
Your personal information will always be retrievable on a computer’s hard drive unless you take the necessary steps to clean the hard drive. Otherwise, these files are vulnerable to hackers, and anyone with recovery software and bad intentions could access them and attack your privacy.