Simply putting files in your trash can or recycle bin isn’t enough in most cases to ensure they’re deleted for good. Most savvy computer users and cybercriminals can use freely available software to recover files you think you might have deleted – so it’s important to keep the tips below in mind to make sure that your digital footprints disappear when you want them to:

  • Deleting files on Windows computers often doesn’t actually delete them, even if you empty your Recycle Bin. Use a free file shredding tool to actually make sure they’re gone whenever you want to make sure sensitive information is deleted from your hard drive.
  • When disposing of, selling, or giving away your computer, make sure the hard drive is emptied securely beforehand. Use a full disk erasing tool to do this, or, physically destroy the drive yourself if you want to ensure the data is destroyed.
  • Use appropriate levels of deletion to ensure data is gone for good. If using an off-the-shelf data destruction tool, select an option which meets Department of Defense data destruction standards.
  • Don’t forget about mobile devices too! Be sure they get deleted in the event you give them to others, e-waste them, or otherwise release ownership of them.
  • If you have a Mac without a solid state hard drive, use the secure shred function when emptying the trash. It may take longer, but it will ensure that documents are properly deleted.
  • If your device does have a solid state hard drive, be sure that it has the TRIM feature enabled. Your device’s user manual or manufacturer has instructions on how to enable this feature, if it is not already enabled by default.
  • Securely disposing of data isn’t just restricted to digital data. Be sure that papers you possess get securely destroyed when they are no longer needed, by a cross-cut shredder that exceeds normal standards (i.e. the shreds shouldn’t be longer than a fourth of an inch in length and no more than a few millimeters in width).