In my travels across the internets I occassionally run across applications that prove extrememly useful. I'm not talking about themes to make things look nice or just little tweaks to expand the functionality of another program. Nope these stand on their own as fine little apps that you should seriously consider downloading and utilizing. Best of all, they are FREE!
The first program is called Secure File Eraser and is released under the GNU Public License. As some of you may know, when you delete a file from your hard drive either by a direct delete or by putting it in the Recycle Bin and then emptying it, the file isn't actually gone. The "map" that your computer used to find that file is gone, and so in time the space that the file is occupying on the hard drive will eventually be written over. However, that overwriting can take some time and even then the whole file may not be written over and could possibly be restored. Well lets say you have some files that you want gone, as in forever. Secure File Eraser should do the trick.
This program offers a console like interface as well as shell integration (meaning you can right click and see the option to "erase" a file instead of deleting it). Secure File Eraser gives you several options to satisfy your appetite for destruction, I mean deletion. There are deltion methods based around Peter Gutmann's paper entitled "Secure Deletion of Data from Magnetic and Solid State Memory" as well as three methods of varying levels of approval from the U.S. DoD (Department of Defense for the uninitiated), and a simple overwrite. The main difference between the options is how many times the data is overwritten. Once a file is erased it is unrecoverable by any program or method.
In addition to these features, Secure File Eraser can be set to run on a schedule to erase the unused parts of any or all local hard drives. How's that for comprehensiveness?!
Some might argue that such an application would only be used by those who are involved in nefarious activities. I beg to differ and offer a simple argument. Any household/office that has a paper shredder should have some form of secure file deletion because the principle is the same. Sensitive data can be stored on paper or on a disk, hence a solution is needed to effectively destroy that sensitive data when it is no longer needed or wanted. I've been using Secure File Eraser for close to two years now and have yet to find a program that matches the bang for the buck. Spybot SD offers a file shredder, but I've found this to slow systems down to a crawl, something that is never welcome on any machine I have to work on.
Find and download Secure File Eraser at
So now that you know how to destroy that data that you don't want lying around, let's say you accidentally deleted a file you didn't mean to. Well as long as you haven't used Secure File Eraser or some other kind of data shredding program, there's a good chance you can recover the file. I've used all kinds of programs for data recovery including BadCopy Pro and a number of others. These programs produce mixed results and more importantly cost a pretty penny. While Spin-Rite from Steve Gibson is probably the mother of all data recovery, PC Inspector is a great and free alternative.
PC Inspector is a file recovery tool with a user friendly interface and the ability to recover any files from any kind of removable media or hard drive (not sure about tape drives but if you're backing up a server with tape drives you probably have a data recovery solution already).
In my uses I've been able to recover files from USB flash drives, SD cards, and both IDE and Serial ATA hard drives. If your media is formatted with NTFS, be prepared to wait since "quick mode" isn't available (most likely due to the standards of NTFS, not the makers of the software). If your media is formatted in FAT16 or FAT32, then the wait won't be nearly as bad. During the recovery process the default settings will name your files CONVAR.*** where *** is the file-type extension. In any case, it is a free utility that does its job extremely well. If you are a would be photographer/videographer/graphic artist/writer that works late into the night, you should definitely add PC Inspector to your toolbox of software. It may save your butt when due to bleary eyes and the pressure of an upcoming deadline, you accidentally delete a file and then empty your recycle bin (Trust me, it happens).
Find and download PC Inspector at