Security Corner

Mar 20 2009   1:35AM GMT

Another Little Known Tool to Securely Delete Files, Folders, and Volumes

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

Why, all of a sudden, is everyone concerned about secure file deletion? I hesitate to say it’s a sign of the poor economy, but perhaps people consider it even more important to protect their personal information when the idea of losing control of their assets—and their lives–through the incompetence of corporate “managers” and well-intentioned but clueless politicians is more abhorrent than losing control through the outright thievery of Internet gangs. It’s weird. I harped on people about securing their data all along and mostly, my advice fell on deaf ears. Now people are worried. And it’s not because they see more spam email phishing attempts, it’s because they feel they can’t trust anyone anymore, not their formerly respected captains of industry, and certainly not their elected officials.

But, I digress. This post is about security tools, not politics, so I’m now officially off of my soapbox.

I recently posted an article about SDelete, a tool that can be used to securely delete files and folders on a hard drive. There’s another little known, useful tool that has been built into the OS since Windows 2000: cipher.exe. Microsoft provides the following in Knowledge Base article 315672:

How to Use the Cipher Security Tool to Overwrite Deleted Data

To overwrite deleted data on a volume by using Cipher.exe, use the /w switch with the cipher command. Use the following steps:

  1. Quit all programs.
  2. Click Start, click Run, type cmd, and then press ENTER.
  3. Type cipher /w:driveletter:\foldername, and then press ENTER. Specify the drive and the folder that identifies the volume that contains the deleted data that you want to overwrite. Data that is not allocated to files or folders will be overwritten. This permanently removes the data. This can take a long time if you are overwriting a large space.

One more tool you can use to mollify your paranoid clients.

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