Windows XP help - How do I permanently delete files in Windows?
When You Delete A File In Windows It's Not Really Deleted
When you delete a file in Microsoft Windows it goes into your Recycle Bin. The Recycle Bin temporarily stores your files until you decide to really delete them, or restore them. It's a kind of a safety-net in the event you change your mind and want your file back. By default, Windows will automatically 'empty' the Recycle Bin when the contents reach 10% of the total available storage space on your hard drive. For most systems this means there can be a lot of old files in the Recycle Bin at any time!
You Can Manually Empty The Recycle Bin By Following These Steps:
- Find the Recycle Bin icon on your desktop and right-click on it with your mouse button.
- On the menu that appears, select "empty Recycle Bin"
- A message will appear asking you to confirm that you really want to delete all the files in the Recycle Bin. If you're sure, choose YES.
Even After Emptying The Recycle Bin Files Aren't Really Gone!
Did you know that even after you empty the Recycle Bin your files and data are still on your hard drive, and still easily accessible to anyone with access to your PC? This is because of how Microsoft Windows 'deletes' files. When Windows deletes your files from the Recycle Bin it does not 'wipe' from your disk, it only removes the location of where your files were from it's File Allocation Table (FAT). Removing the file information from the "FAT" means that Windows no longer recognizes the data as being available, but the data is still on your hard disk and can easily be recovered using recovery software or hacking tools!
It Is Possible To Fully Erase Your Data For Security And Privacy Reasons
Fortunately for those concerned about their privacy, there are utility programs available to fully and securely wipe old files from your hard drive. These utilities wipe the actual data information from your disk by using complex 'hashing' and encryption that makes your old files and information completely unrecoverable - even by the FBI! It has been rumored (although we have no way of knowing if this is true) that Al-Qaeda used these techniques on computers recovered in Iraq and Pakistan, making it impossible, or at the very least, difficult for the CIA and FBI to recover the data on the computers.