Recently I sold one of my computers to a guy on Craigslist. Before I handed it over, however, I decided I wanted to “Wipe my tracks” so to speak of all personal information. Now granted, there are many ways to remove your browsing history using your web browser’s built-in interface but what about other files on your Hard Drive?
Also, did you realize that when you delete a file or clear your cache using Firefox or IE, you’re not deleting anything from your Hard Drive? What happens is your system just removes it from view and marks it as reusable space. That’s great, however, until new data writes over the old data, it can still be recovered using simple disk recovery/forensics applications.
Now you know why today we are going to review how to wipe all files, browser history, and cache from a hard drive. Permanently.
CCleaner is the app of choice for me. It’s rock-solid freeware that can do everything we need it to do. It’s super simple to wipe files and folders as well as browser history and cache as reviewed in 2 previous articles:
- Clear Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) Browser History & Temp Files
- Clear Firefox 3 Browsing History, Cache and Private Data
First, Let’s get CCleaner Installed
1. Download and Install CCleaner from the CCleaner Download Page
Note: If you’re a MAC user, take a look here for details on the MAC version
2. Run the Install Wizard for CCleaner, by Double-Clicking on the file you just downloaded. The install is pretty self-explanatory.
Optional: I recommend you uncheck installing the Yahoo! toolbar option during install. This is probably why the software is free ;)
3. Open CCleaner, Click Options, Settings, Secure File-Deletion, and Select DOD 5220.22-M (3 passes)
Note – Sophisticated forensic applications can recover “Fragments” of data left on your hard drive even after you delete/wipe them. To minimize the amount of “Fragments” left behind, CCleaner allows you to wipe/overwrite the files you’re deleting multiple times to ensure the data cannot be retrieved. Simple Overwrite (1-3 passes) is typically secure enough for most people. However, if you’re super paranoid, you can choose the NSA or Military-Grade Gutmann 35 pass deletion.
4. Click on the Cleaner tab, and then Click Run Cleaner.
Note – You can customize what files you would like to delete, and there are even options for erasing different Application histories on your computer.
Note for Advanced Users
CCleaner also offers a reliable Registry & Startup Cleaner. Before using these options, however, you should fully understand what you’re doing and configure the application to backup your files. You can find these options in the Advanced Options menus.