I don’t believe that files are really deleted on my Windows 10 computer. Which is a problem. How can I securely delete them so that they can’t be recovered?
You’re exactly correct that the way modern file systems – and therefore modern operating systems – work with deleted files is to mark the space used by the file as “unused”, but not actually do anything to destroy or overwrite the data. And that’s where the problem arises: If the actual contents of the file isn’t overwritten or otherwise reused by a new file, the data sits and can be easily recovered, hours or even days later.
It’s a bit hard to understand but it’s as if you’ve picked up a book and erased the table of contents. If someone picks it up and just looks at the ToC they’ll think it’s a blank book, ready for use. But the pages themselves retain the data until something happens to replace them. The more free space you have on your computer, the longer those deleted but un “shredded” files can stick around too.
Which leads to the question you asked: how do you really delete and destroy a file so that it cannot be recovered? The best answer is to use a secure file removal program. I’m going to demonstrate all this with two programs from the same company, iBeesoft. First off, I’ll delete a confidential file then use iBeesoft File Recovery to show how you can recover it, even hours later. Then we’ll delete the same confidential file with iBeesoft File Shredder and show how that prevents it being recovered, even immediately after the deletion.
First off, here’s our confidential file, called “confidentialBenefits.pdf”:
If I was at a different job and reading this, it might well be the kind of thing I don’t want my employer to know about, but regardless, this is the file we want to axe. Deleting a file in Windows 10 is of course super easy – just put it into the Recycle Bin then empty it. Done. Deleted. Right?
Not so much, actually.
Now let’s launch iBeesoft File Recovery for Windows…
A click on “Start” and it’s ready to proceed:
Generally you can just use C:NFTS (NTFS = Windows NT file system, if you’re curious, and that NT stands for “new technology” but is by now many, many years old) which is the default. To proceed further, all you need to do is let the program scan all the free space — or better, “free” space — on your disk.
Click “Scan” and have some patience…
Finally it shows the file system to indicate it’s finished scanning. Since the last known location of the file in question was the Recycle Bin, that’s where I’ll look first. And, well, check it out:
That’s how easy it is to recovered files you think have been deleted on your Windows system. No special police or forensic science training required, just the right program, like iBeesoft Data Recovery for Windows.
Now let’s use iBeesoft File Shredder instead of the usual Windows move-to-recycle-bin strategy. To do that, launch the File Shredder program and click the big “+”. It’s kinda hard to miss:
The trick to using this program is that you need to use it to delete the file, folder or photos, it’s not something you can use to empty the recycle bin or digitally shred already deleted files. With that in mind, here’s my Computer in File Shredder:
A click to open up the Desktop and the file shows up…
There it is, now called “Confidential Benefits.pdf”. To properly delete it so that it cannot be recovered, even by the iBeesoft Data Recovery program, simply select and click the green “Shred Now” button…
Done. Now it’s properly deleted. To double check, let’s just run iBeesoft Data Recovery again. This time, however, neither the Desktop nor the Recycle Bin have any recoverable files or documents:
Now you have an answer to your question of how to really delete files in Windows 10. I suggest you check out iBeesoft File Shredder and know that your files will be securely deleted.
iBeesoft File Shredder: free, $9.99 for pro features, at ibeesoft.com
iBeesoft Data Recovery for Windows: $49.99 at ibeesoft.com.
Pro Tip: While you’re here, check out our extensive Windows help library too. Tons and tons of useful tips!