How to Permanently Erase Files on a Hard Drive with CCleaner
Moving a file from your hard drive to your computer’s Recycle Bin and deleting it won’t necessarily erase that file forever. Certain programs will actually be able to locate the file and restore it. While this can come in handy if you’ve accidentally deleted an important file, it doesn’t do much to help the overall privacy of your computer. A free Windows utility called CCleaner is actually a great way to permanently erase all of the files on a drive through the formatting process. By using CCleaner correctly, you can make sure that all of your personal files that you want to delete actually stay that way forever. This is really useful if you’re looking at selling your machine on.
Download and install the CCleaner software onto your computer. A free version of CCleaner is available on the product’s official website. There is also a premium version that you can pay extra for, but it is not required to use the functionality of the program that allows you to permanently erase the files on a hard drive.
Open CCleaner. You can both use the shortcut icon in the “CCleaner” folder of your “Start” menu, or right-click on the “Recycle Bin” icon on your desktop and select the “Open CCleaner” option.
Click the “Tools” icon in the column on the left side of the program’s screen. The “Tools” icon also has a picture of a toolbox on it.
Select the “Drive Wiper” option from the “Tools” menu. Click the “Wipe” drop down menu and select the option labeled “Entire Drive.” The “Entire Drive” option allows you to erase all of the files on a drive you select.
Click the “Security” drop down menu and select the option labeled “Very Complex Overwrite.” Instead of only wiping a drive a single time, which could result in the files contained on the drive still being recoverable, the CCleaner software will wipe a drive 35 separate times using this function. The “Very Complex Overwrite” function will make sure that your deleted files cannot be recovered.
Check the box next to the drive you want to wipe in the section on screen labeled “Drive.” Note that you should never select your computer’s “C” drive, which is your primary hard drive. Select an external hard drive, USB flash drive or similar device. Also note that these types of devices need to be plugged into your computer and powered on before they will appear in this window.
Once the drive is selected, click the grey button labeled “Wipe” to begin the deletion process. The CCleaner utility will make 35 passes at erasing the contents on the drive you have selected. You can track the progress of the process using the progress bar in the window on screen. Note that depending on the size of the drive and the speed of your computer, this whole process could take several hours to complete. Once the drive has been securely wiped, you will be notified of this by a pop-up window on screen.