Most PC users are aware that when you delete a file it goes into the recycle bin and, if necessary, can be recovered easily at a later date. This is of course providing the recycle bin hasn’t been emptied in which case the file is gone forever, right?
Most people are unaware that deleting individual items from the PCs recycle bin or right-clicking on the recycle bin and emptying it does not actually delete the files within! Instead when a file is deleted from the recycle bin Windows simply de-lists it from its file table meaning the file still exists on the hard drive, albeit Windows no longer chooses to recognise it exists. With the use of specialist software these “deleted” files can usually still be easily recovered.
One popular tool for recovering these files is Recuva (from the makers of the well known CCleaner tool, Piriform). With Recuva we can easily perform a scan and see a list of files which are not visible in Windows but still exist on the hard disk, most of which can be recovered!
As can be seen in the above image Recuva will provide us with a list of files which can be recovered from our hard drive. To recover any deleted files we can right click on 1 or multiple files in this list, right click on the selected file(s) and choose the “Recover Selected” option.
If we want to permanently delete some (or all) of the files in the list we can again select the files we wish to delete and then right click on them and choose “Secure Overwrite Checked”. This will then securely overwrite the portion of the hard drive each file is stored on making it completely impossible to ever recover the file (even with Recuva itself!).
Piriform, the makers of Recuva also produce a tool called Ccleaner which is well known as a PC cleaning utility. CCleaner can be used as a convenient way of wiping the free space on a PCs hard drive where these deleted, yet often recoverable files reside, thus making your data more secure if done on a regular basis.
CCleaner can be set to wipe free space as a part of its main cleaning cycle or by using the special “Drive Wiper” tool within CCleaner’s tools menu.
The pro version of CCleaner can also be set to run the cleaning cycle on a schedule, this can be very useful when set up to run once per day as not only will it help keep other areas of your PC running well it will ensure any deleted files are recoverable for only a very limited time (versus potentially months or years without taking any such action).