5 Solutions That Permanently Delete Data

When files are deleted off computers, the file really isn't gone, it's more like, "out of sight, out of mind." But sometimes, you or your customers need more than that; you need to wipe those files off completely. In other words, these are files you'll never want to retrieve, files you want to be disintegrated.

Other times, as when you donate an old computer, you need the entire disk wiped clean. Old passwords, files and other private information still exist on the hard drive, even after the recycle bin has been dumped. When you or your customers decide it's time to donate previously used equipment, wiping the drives clean is crucial in order to prevent identity theft from end-of-life computer storage media.

A number of products offer to purge your PC in one way or another, whether that's a total dump or a file shred. The following five products should get the job done efficiently and effectively. Just be sure that -- whether it's you or your customers who'll use the product -- everyone is aware it's a one-way trip: These files will not be recoverable.

This is a powerful and compact software that, like EraseYourHard Drive, lets the user destroy all data on hard and floppy drives completely. Be sure that's what's desired, because future recovery of deleted files and folders is nil. Fortunately, a double confirmation feature helps to prevent the possibility of accidental erasing of data on a drive. In addition, an erasing report is created and can be saved as a file.

Available: Through www.killdisk.com and resellers. Pricing: $49.95; multiple purchase discount available.

BCWipe software, from Jetico, lets the PC user permanently erase individual files. BCWipe embeds itself within Windows and can be activated from the Explorer FILE Menu, from the context sensitive (right click) menu, or from a command-line prompt. BCWipe v.3 can invoke either the US DoD 5200.28-STD standard or the Peter Gutmann wiping scheme (named for the guy who created an algorithm for securely shredding the contents of computer hard drives). You can also create and use your own customized wiping scheme to wipe sensitive information from storage devices installed on your computer. BCWipe software provides the following main commands and options: Delete with wiping; Wipe free disk space; Wipe Swap File; Wipe File Slacks. Another product, BCWipePD, is more suited for wiping an entire disk.

Available: Direct from Jetico or through resellers. Resellers receive a 20 percent discount on the product. Pricing: $39.95

A clever name for a product that just about does virtually what a file shredder does to sensitive documents, literally. Blancco-File Shredder is easy-to-install software that promises secure cleaning of selected files and folders from a PC's hard drive and other memories. As with the BCWipe product, Blancco-File Shredder offers the ability to create your own deletion standard. The user selects files to be shredded by right clicking, through a browsing functionality, or by dragging and dropping files to the software's desktop Recycle Bin for instant "shredding." From there, it's just a click away to permanently remove files.

Likewise, temporary files and old deleted data can really and truly be deleted by selecting those options in the program window. The software also generates a report of the data erasure with a log of bad sectors and a detailed hardware asset list.

Available: Direct from Blancco or through reseller partners. Pricing: $32.45

EraseYourHardDrive.com is a Department of Defense-compliant hard disk-drive sanitation application. It overwrites the drive's contents three times. Basically, this program is serious stuff, pretty much eliminating files without the risk of human error and without the need for an external floppy/CD/DVD drive. EraseYourHardDrive.com is delivered via the Internet to consumers and small businesses in a single-use license.

Available: Direct from the company, through retail and distribution. Pricing: $23.95

OK, so you're an open-source VAR, you enjoy building solutions for customers, but deploying software and setting up hardware isn't your thing. You might be willing to use a free utility: Simple File Shredder. While it may not have the bells and whistles of other product, you might not need those extras, either.

As with other (not free) programs, Simple File Shredder overwrites a file selected for deletion with random bytes, then deletes it. Should the file ever be restored using recovery software, it would be worthless. Simple File Shredder can also shred free space on multiple drives to securely remove files already deleted through Windows.

Available: Numerous free download Web sites, including Windows Marketplace.com.