Category Archives: Secure File Deletion

EraserDrop – Drop Files Unto An Icon To Erase Securely

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This little Icon pictured here, is not just an Icon – it’s an active Icon. Let me explain – when the free portable application EraserDrop is active, this Icon is what you see. The Icon floats on the Desk Top or, on top of any opened applications. Simply by dragging and dropping selected files, or folders, onto this Icon, permanently, and securely, erases the files/folders from your system.

You may change the position of the Icon by holding down the “Left Shift” key and moving it to a desired position. As well, you may “Hide” the Icon by choosing “Hide” from the context menu.

A quick walkthrough:

For this review, I’ve selected 14 files from an old download folder (1773 Files – 17.5 GB – I download a lot of stuff for testing, most of which never makes it to these pages), dragged and dropped them onto the EraserDrop Icon – and ……

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gone – deleted – securely – never to be seen again. Following an erasure, an “Erasing Report” is provided, as shown below.

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The erasing method can be set by opening the right click context menu and, selecting from a variety of increasingly more complex erasure settings.image

You can choose to wipe both the Recycle Bin, and wipe the HD’s free space, from within the context menu.image

The options menu will allow you – amongst other selections – to choose a “target image” for the Icon that is more to your liking.

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Since this is a portable application –  it will not show up in installed applications –  so, it’s best to install to a new folder that’s easily accessible.

System Requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista and Win 7.

Download at: PortableApps

Why should you bother to erase files/folders permanently?

If you’re a typical computer user, you quite likely believe that the files you’ve deleted and sent to the recycle bin, are gone forever.

Not quite true however. When a file is deleted from your Hard Drive, what really gets deleted is the system link pointing towards the file, but not the file itself. Surprisingly, it is relatively easy to retrieve the deleted file using specialized file recovery software (often available as a free download), which takes advantage of shortcomings in the Windows operating systems.

In order to delete or shred files permanently – to protect your privacy and potentially your security – or, for any other reason for that matter, you need a program  that is capable of overwriting the file with a random series of binary data multiple times. That way, the actual content of the file has been overwritten and the possibilities of recovering such a shredded file, becomes mainly theoretical.

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Privacy, Secure File Deletion, Software

Delete Data Permanently With Free Free File Shredder 2

This article is a companion piece to – Staples Resells Storage Devices Without Wiping Customers’ Personal Information – published earlier today.

File Shredder 3Many of us now own, and use a paper file shredder to destroy documents, and personal and financial papers that we don’t want to fall into the hands of identity thieves, or anyone else not entitled to have access.

So now, consider those files on your computer that you’ve deleted, sent to the recycle bin, and then flushed as you emptied the recycle bin. When you go through this process the deleted files are gone forever, right?

Well if you’re a typical computer user, you quite likely do believe that they’re gone forever, since the deleted files can’t be seen in Windows Explorer. In fact, you can’t find these files anywhere on your Hard Drive.

It may surprise you to learn that not only can I find those files but I can recover them as well. Oh, it’s not because I’m a super- duper tech wizard – although I will say, with some modesty, that I am. LOL.

Here’s the lowdown: when a file is deleted from your Hard Drive, what really gets deleted is the system link pointing towards the file, but not the file itself. Surprisingly, it is relatively easy to retrieve the deleted file using specialized file recovery software (often available as a free download), which takes advantage of shortcomings in the Windows operating systems.

Let me give you an example. Recently, I agreed to rebuild 30+ computers (at no cost – my way of giving back), being donated to a local charity for distribution to less fortunate families.

While working on these machines I noticed immediately that although the Hard Drives had undergone file deletion, they had not been wiped. Since these machine had been donated by a government agency; that struck me as being negligent in the extreme.

In order to bring this situation to the attention of those who had committed this serious breach in security, I recovered a number of these files. Not unexpectedly, the recovered files did in fact did contain confidential information. In this case – confidential information on families on public assistance.

As part of the process, I saved the recovered files to disk and presented the disk to the appropriate authorities. Shock, surprise, embarrassment, were just some of the reactions. It’s easy to see from this example, that deleted files (or a good portion of a file) can easily be recovered.

In order to delete or shred files permanently, to protect your privacy and potentially your security, or for any other reason for that matter, you need a program such as File Shredder 2 that is capable of overwriting the file with a random series of binary data multiple times.

This process is often called shredding. That way, the actual content of the file has been overwritten and the possibilities of recovering such a shredded file becomes mainly theoretical.

File Shredder 2, is a simple but powerful program, with a straightforward interface, that many users judge to be better than some commercial file shredders. With File Shredder 2 you can remove files from your hard drive permanently, and feel confident that the file can’t be recovered.

File Shredder 4

Running the program allows you to choose between 5 different shredding algorithms, each one gradually stronger than the previous one. As well, it has an integrated Disk Wiper which uses a shredding algorithm to wipe unused disk space. I use this feature frequently, to clean up my drives (after running test applications), and to destroy any leftover fragments of previously deleted/uninstalled files.

If you’re looking for a great free file shredder application that does what it says it does, in an easy to understand manner, I highly recommend File Shredder 2.

System requirements: Windows 2000,  XP, Vista, Win 7.

Download at: Download.com

If you’re looking for a more robust portable application – checkout Disk Wipe.

Disk Wipe is a free, portable Windows application for permanent volume data destruction. With Disk Wipe you can erase all disk data and prevent recovery of that data.

Disk Wipe uses powerful algorithms which fill the volume with useless rubbish binary data, multiple times. The possibility of recovering information from drives formatted with Disk Wipe, is virtually non existent.

System requirements: Windows 2000,  XP, Vista, Win 7.

Download at: the developer’s site (Disk Wipe)

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Filed under Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Hard Drive Tools, Portable Applications, Privacy, Secure File Deletion, Software, USB, Windows Tips and Tools

Staples Resells Storage Devices Without Wiping Customers’ Personal Information

imageCanada’s privacy watchdog, Jennifer Stoddart, is no slouch when it comes to aggressively enforcing her mandate – providing the strongest possible privacy protection for Canadians, in an era of constantly evolving risks to privacy.

Stoddart has successfully taken on Google, Facebook,  and a multitude of transgressors intent on violating Canada’s federal privacy law – the Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act.

As part of her annual report, released yesterday, Stoddard outlined what she described as a “long-standing problem” – Staples Business Depot’s failure to fully wipe customers’ personal data – including government-issued identification numbers, financial statements, employment histories, medical information, e-mail messages, personal correspondence and photographs – from computers, laptops, USB Hard Drives, and memory cards, prior to resale. A stunning violation of the Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act. 

But why be polite? Rather than a just a violation of the privacy act – what we’re really talking about is; a negligently stupid lack of consideration for the privacy of the people who pay the bills – the customer.

Stoddart’s common sense position: If you (Staples) can’t remove all customer data from a device, then don’t sell it.

In a rather pathetic response, Staples Business Depot tried to weasel out of the blowback from what is clearly an embarrassing and perhaps legally challenging (although, this remains to be seen) situation, by describing the data wipe process as ineffective. Theoretically technically true – but, disingenuous nevertheless.

Short of melting down a Hard Drive’s platter/s, there is always a risk (theoretically), that deleted/overwritten data can be recovered. But, an average user is not up against James Bond, the CIA,  the FBI, or a computer forensic specialist running an application such as OSForensics – which I have reviewed here.

Some practical advice:

If you are ever in a position where you find it necessary to return a storage device for a refund or replacement, do not trust that the merchant will apply proper security precautions. Instead, run a reliable utility designed to erase and overwrite data on the storage device.

To learn how to do this using the freeware application File Shredder 2 – read the companion piece to this article – Delete Data Permanently With Free Free File Shredder 2 – which I posted immediately following this article.

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Filed under Computer Forensic Tools, Freeware, Point of View, Privacy, Secure File Deletion, Software, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

CCleaner Updated (Again) – Now In Version 3.01

imagePiriform, the people who bring us not only CCleaner, but Defraggler, Speccy, and Recuva, released Version 3.0 of CCleaner on October 28, 2010, and have already updated this version with the release of Version 3.01 (November 25, 2010).

CCleaner users know, that running this venerable utility can help optimize a system by emptying the Recycle Bin, Temporary Setup Files, Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Old Chkdsk Files, Temporary Files, Temporary Offline Files, Offline Files, and more.

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There are a number of improvements in the latest version worth taking note of, including –

Improved application startup time and INI loading speeds.

Removed need to reboot for Index.dat cleaning.

Improved cookie cleaning in Firefox 4.0 Beta 7.

Improved Chromium based browser detection and cleaning.

Added support for Adobe Reader 10 and Acronis True Image.

Improved cleaning for 7-Zip, Adobe Reader 9.0, Microsoft Silverlight Isolated Storage, WinPatrol and Microsoft Management Console.

Added support for local domains in “Cookies to Keep” list.

Improved debugging with log file support using /DEBUG command-line parameter.

Improved detection algorithm for 64-bit and Program Files.

Improved folder drag and drop in Include options.

Fixed bug in Uninstall Tool during cancellation.

Improved drive detection in Drive Wiper screen.

Added support to refresh cleaning rules using F5.

Improved translations.

Minor GUI improvements.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista Win 7 (64 bit compatible).

Download at: FileHippo

CCleaner is also available in a portable version designed for installation on USB thumb drives (including U3 compatible thumb drives).

Download the portable versions here.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Tune Up Utilities, downloads, Freeware, Portable Applications, Secure File Deletion, Software, System Utilities, Tracks Eraser, USB, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Free Comodo System Cleaner – CCleaner On Steroids

imageJust a few days ago, I posted my usual annual review of CCleaner – in which I made the point, that this free system cleaner is still my “go to” application for simple system cleanup.

But, if you’re looking for a more powerful free solution, then Comodo System Cleaner might just be ideal. This free application will do what CCleaner will do, and a whole lot more – and I do mean, a whole lot more.

I’m a big fan of Comodo’s products, including their free Firewall and AntiVirus software. So, I was expecting big things from Comodo System Cleaner when I first installed it, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, this is now my “go to” application when I need to dig the deep dirt out of a system.

Installation is easy, and preference setup is checkbox simple – as the following selected screen captures indicate. All screen shots are taken from my personal machine – clicking on any graphic will expand it to its original size.

Clean up menu

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Settings menu

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Autoruns menu

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System settings menu – System Tweaks

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Fast facts:

Registry Cleaner – Optimizes and repairs your Windows registry by running an in-depth scan to remove, or repair, unnecessary or corrupted registry keys.

SafeDelete and Registry Protection – Use these features to backup all your files before cleaning. When cleaning is complete, you’ll be able to make sure your PC is in perfect condition before deleting for good.

Disk Cleaner – This utility lets you quickly clear them all, to free up space and improve performance. Also allows you to schedule regular clean up routines.

Privacy Cleaner – Obliterates your digital paper trail and helps protect you from identity theft by cleaning history, cache, cookies and usage records from Internet browsers, Windows locations, and popular software.

System Settings – With over 50 tweaks in the ‘System Settings’ area alone, you can optimize Windows behavior in a more powerful and intuitive way than ever before.

System Information – Detailed and easily accessible ‘dashboard’ summary of all the hardware and software installed on your computer.

Autorun Manager – Fingertip control over exactly which programs and services start with Windows. Helps improve Windows boot up time, stops unwanted programs from hogging system resources and boosts overall system performance and stability.

File Pending Delete – Provides the ability to delete files that are locked and cannot otherwise be deleted when in Windows ‘User Mode’. Specifying a file with the ‘File Pend Delete’ tool will schedule that file to be deleted immediately after the next system restart.

File Wiper – Allows you to permanently remove confidential or sensitive files from your hard drive. When you delete a file in Windows, you are really only removing the reference to that file from the system table. The file itself remains on your drive and could be easily re-opened by data thieves. ‘File Wiper’ ensures that the files you want to delete are comprehensively erased and cannot be recovered.

Free – for both home and business users.

View the video.

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I’m a big fan of “all-in-one” system utilities and I have to admit, I really like this all-in-one free application with its simple and effective user interface. I particularly like the easy access the user interface allows to Windows system settings, which makes tweaking the OS a snap.

As the fast facts point out, this application has a wide range of built in system utilities, which in my view, are perfect for the new, or casual computer user. I should point out however, that the built in registry cleaner, just like all registry cleaners, should be used cautiously.

Overall recommendation: Comodo System Cleaner is definitely worth considering as an addition to any users system utilities toolbox.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7 and Server 2003 (all – 32 or 64 bit)

Download at: Comodo

Bonus: What makes this free application even more interesting is; it’s available as a portable program which can easily be run from a USB drive. Great for geeks!

Portable version download at: Download.com

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Cleaning Your Computer, Comodo, Computer Maintenance, downloads, Freeware, Portable Applications, Secure File Deletion, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, USB, Windows 7, Windows Update, Windows Vista, Windows XP

CCleaner 3.0 released – Now Native 64 Bit Compatible

imageWhat can you say about CCleaner (the granddaddy of all system cleaners – it’s been around since 2004), that hasn’t already been said of this freeware system optimization, privacy, and cleaning tool.

Even though I have tested a fairly large number of free system utilities, over the years, that offer to improve system performance and help maintain privacy, I always find myself coming back to CCleaner. It’s just hard to beat perfection, and in my view CCleaner is as close to perfect at its assigned task, as a free program can be.

CCleaner removes unused files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. As well, it cleans up traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally, it includes a fully featured registry cleaner. But the best part is – it’s fast; normally taking just seconds to run.

Piriform, the people who bring us not only CCleaner, but Defraggler, Speccy, and Recuva, have just released (October 28, 2010),  the latest version of this venerable utility.

New in Version 3.0

A new 64-bit native EXE designed specifically for 64-bit systems.

A new Drive Wiper tool screen under the Tools section, which allows users to securely erase the contents or free space on a specified drive.

Improved support for Internet Explorer 9 and the Google Chrome browsers.

We have also added improved cleaning support for HTML5 database storage, allowing CCleaner to effectively manage the next generation of web applications.

Additional cleaning support for Microsoft Silverlight Isolated Storage.

We’ve added three new environment variables (%SystemDirectory%, %SystemDirectory32%, and %SystemDirectory64%).

New application icon.

New Intelligent cookie keeping feature.

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Running a Hard Disk cleaner such as CCleaner, will help optimize a system by emptying the Recycle Bin, Temporary Setup Files, Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Old Chkdsk Files, Temporary Files, Temporary Offline Files, Offline Files, and more.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista Win 7.

Download at: Download.com

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Cleaning Your Computer, Computer Maintenance, Computer Tools, Disk Cleaners, downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Maintenance, Privacy, Registry Cleaners, Secure File Deletion, Software, System Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

FREE for a Limited Time – Advanced SystemCare PRO Edition

Kingpin has done it again! My Internet friend Kingpin, who is always on the lookout for Tech Thoughts readers, has found another bargain that will save you 30 Dollars.

Advanced System Care Pro Edition is now free, for a limited time, from the developer IObit, in celebration of their fifth anniversary.

To obtain your free license, just visit the developer’s site; complete the CAPTCHA and you’ll be rewarded with the following screen.

ASCP 1

As well as keeping your machine physically clean, it is always good practice to keep your computer’s operating system and subsystems clean, so that you can get maximum performance from your machine. This application can certainly help you do just that. Here’s our original review of this application from March 5, 2010.

When an application is downloaded almost a Million times in one week (last week), from CNET alone, you have to think, there must be something to it.

Application popularity is not always indicative of an application’s strength of course – I can think of more than a few super popular applications, that I wouldn’t have on a system for all the tea in China. But that’s a subjective analysis on my part.

In the case of IObit’s Advanced SystemCare, a comprehensive PC care utility, that takes a one-click approach to help protect, repair, and optimize a PC, I can understand the enthusiasm.

This application provides a super convenient solution for PC maintenance and protection. And if you like, you can complete all maintenance in a minute or two, with just one click.

Advanced SystemCare 1

Alternatively you can approach selective maintenance tasks individually.

Advanced SystemCare 5

The main user interface, which is restricted to a few push buttons, (spyware removal; Registry cleaning; privacy sweep; junk file deletion), couldn’t be easier.

You have the option of taking full control over each process however, if you prefer, as the following example indicates.

Advanced SystemCare 3

The application doesn’t stop with just maintenance though. With the optimization applet you have the opportunity to optimize your machine to reflect how you use it.

Advanced SystemCare 4

There are a host of additional tools, included with this application, for users who like to “get under the hood”.

Fast facts – from the developers site:

  • Ultimate Speeding Up with Turbo Boost

    Turbo Boost can speed up your PC by shutting down unnecessary background processes, cleaning RAM, and intensifying processor performance.

  • Enjoy That New PC Feeling Again

    Whatever version of Windows you’re running, enjoy that “good as new” speed usually only experienced on a brand new PC.

  • Next-generation Registry Deep Clean and Optimization

    Safely cleans registry junk, compacts registry bloats and defragments the whole registry for maximum performance. Finds and fixes the registry errors that other utilities miss with “Deep Scan” technology.

  • Keeps Your PC Running at Peak Performance

    Fully optimizes Windows for ultimate system performance and top Internet speed by unleashing the built-in power of your system, based on how you use your PC and your network configuration. Turns your PC into a business PC, a productive workstation, an entertainment center, a game machine, or a scientific computing PC.

  • Quick and Extensive System Clean-up

    Boosts your system’s performance by cleaning missing files, destroying unwanted files, deleting obsolete files, and removing junk files. Supports clean-up of over 50 different types of junk files.

  • Powerful Hard Drive Defragmentation

    Fast, powerfully and incredibly effective Disk Defrag function to defragment hard drives – up to 10 times faster than other defragmentation tools.

  • Automated Working in the Background

    Just install it and forget it. This powerful utility works continuously, automatically and quietly in the background on your PC. You can set it as your schedule or just let it work automatically when your PC is idle.

  • Defends PC Security with Extra Protection

    1. Detects and analyzes Windows security environment. Scans and removes spyware and adware using up-to-date definition files. Prevents spyware, hackers and hijackers from installing malicious programs on your computer. Erases and updates your PC’s activity histories.

  • Fixes Multiple System Errors

    Keeps your PC stably and running at peak efficiency. Continuously repairs system configurations by eliminating system bottlenecks and preventing crashes.

System requirements: Windows  7, Vista, XP, 2000 (32bit and 64bit).

Download at: IObit

Advanced System Care tutorial on YouTube.

ASCP Tutorial

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Filed under Disk Cleaners, Free Full Versions, Freeware, Registry Cleaners, Secure File Deletion, Software, Software Giveaways, spam, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP