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Is there a tool that performs a 'clean sweep' of a hard drive?

When an item is deleted and the recycle bin is emptied, I understand that with the proper utility, the item can be recovered. Is there a way to go into DOS and erase documents forever so that they are unretrievable?

Is an e-mail which is deleted still recoverable with the proper utility? If so, how can they be deleted permanently?

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There are any number of ways that one can better assure the security of deleted documents on one's hard drive. And as always, remember Laura's First Rule of IT: "If a problem can be solved by throwing money at it, then it wasn't really a problem." There are any number of third-party utilities, shareware or commercial, that can be purchased to perform a so-called "Clean Sweep" of one's hard drive. Check out Symantec, Network Associates & McAffee, for starters, so that you can make an informed decision of budget versus security.

Now, within Windows itself, there are numerous tricks and tweaks that one can perform to increase data security:

  1. Configure the NT/2000 pagefile.sys file to clear itself upon system shutdown. More useful in a workstation than a server, since servers tend not to be shut down as often. See MS KB article # Q182086.
  2. Configure the Windows Recycle Bin so that deleted files are not sent to the Recycle Bin, but are rather permanently deleted right away. Also configure any Outlook/Outlook Express/etc. Deleted Items folders to empty upon shutdown.
  3. Ensure that any print spoolers are not configured to retain printed documents in memory unless your print environment absolutely necessitates it.
  4. Perform regular disk maintenance: clean out Temporary Internet Files folders, clear your IE cache, defrag (if applicable), and so on.

Hope this provides a good starting point in your quest for data security.

This was first published in July 2002

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