This article has been originally published in Italian (here). Feedbacks on content and translation are appreciated. Contributions are welcome. The original article must be considered the reference in case of updates.
After the introduction on secure erase and the short review of Gnu/Linux software, I am now going to show some Windows programs available for the same purpose. A comprehensive list would be endless since many “maintenance” tools provide at least minimal features of data removal: I have therefore selected the most common or effective ones. Programs listed below have been tested on Windows XP Professional SP3. This post is preposterously long due to the many screenshots needed.
CCleaner, that is “CrapCleaner”, cleans up the rubbish from your disks, as its name states. This simple software retrieves and deletes all those files, unessential for the system, that relentlessly pile up on disks: temporary files created by software installations/removals, trashed files, browsers cache and many more can get to take hundreds (if not thousands!) MB. Besides its main function, since long a “Drive Wiper” (“Bonifica Drive” – I have set Italian language) feature has been added in the “Tools” (it.: Strumenti) tab, to “securely erase the contents or free space on a drive”. Drive Wiper operates only on whole disks (no single files/folders), but since Windows manages partitions as different disks, you do the math… Simply flag the drives (except network ones) you want to wipe and hit the button below.
Wiping can also be started as an additional operation (“Advanced” section in Cleaner → Windows) after the regular clean up of “useless” files; my advice is to keep this option disabled for periodic maintenance, in order not to slow down the process.
After that we choose whether to wipe whole disk or free space only (pay attention to pick the right disk!) and the overwrite method.
Available methods are the ones covered in the introduction article, ranging from single overwrite up to paranoia festival of Mr. Gutmann. 😉
While wiping free disk space it is recommended to avoid using other programs because CCleaner completely fills the free space (in the root directory of disk, C:\ here) with dummy files and folders that will then be deleted: the pc will therefore slow down more and more while operation goes further. Once in a while it’s not Windows’ fault…
In “Options” (it.: “Opzioni”) we can choose to execute a “faster” (it.: veloce) or “slower” (it.: lenta) secure deletion and whether also free space in the Master File Table (MFT) should be cleaned.
Setting the secure deletion affects the way CCleaner deletes the “junk” files it finds (temporary files, cache, trash, etc.). In turn this affects the time needed for the whole process but it might be advised to remove “sensitive” data tracks left behind when accessing documents or web pages with personal information (bank accounts, email, etc.).
For regular (scheduled?) maintenance, that is mainly meant to free disk space, I suggest to choose “faster” deletion, unless you are using a shared, multi-user computer and require an higher level of security for your operations. CCleaner is also available in a “portable” version, which makes it an handy tool to take on our USB keys and quickly clean computers we have occasionally used.