Did you know that the files that you delete on your computer can be recovered? Yes, I mean even if you delete them from your recycle bin, or even if you reformat your hard drive it still can be recovered by computer savvy users! As computing costs goes down hard drives are now able to hold larger sums of data, which means that your computer is more than likely holding data from several ago through a process called data remanence.
One may be wondering why they should ensure that their data is obliterated. After all if you’re not carrying out illegal operations then there should be nothing to worry about correct? Well, even ethical computer users could have data they don’t want others to get. For example, you may have webhosting login information in a text file on your computer, or you may have personal family images stored in the Pictures folder. The risks of someone retrieving this data are extremely high when you decide to sell your old computer or its storage media like USB sticks or external hard drives.
If you do not take the proper precautions to remove your data from these devices then it can easily be recovered by sleazebags and used at their disposal for identity theft! When you delete a file from the computer your operating system actually doesn’t erase it since replacing every bite on a file can take tremendous time and slow the processes of your computer significantly. Since modern day operating systems are quite sophisticated what in fact happens is that an entry to the file is removed, usually the first character so that you will not be able to “see” it or “search” for it on your computer.
However, just because you can’t physically see it or search for it doesn’t mean that the file does not exist on your computer because the content of it can still be within your machine. Windows use File Allocation Table (FAT) for its computer file system architecture to store the files on your computer. This is legacy software that is both simple and robust. Let’s say that you have a file called “myjournal.doc” stored on your computer. When this file is deleted from your recycle bin the file is simply modified, and the entry that was previously on the stack is now marked as available so that new files on your computer can be stored in its place.
If many files are added to your computer over the course of time then it is possible that myjournal.doc may actually be erased for good. However, this will depend greatly on the memory limitations of your computer. If it has a lot of memory then there is a high probability that your deleted data will remain on there.
If you sell your old computer on eBay, Amazon, or at a local garage sale, then all someone needs to do is use a data recovery tool (some are free) to retrieve the old files that are stuck on your hard drive. In summation, when you delete a file from your computer all it tells your OS is that the physical space of where the file was at is now available to be overwritten with fresh data. Now, let’s find out how we can make sure that the files that we delete are forever gone. This will serve numerous benefits such as not worrying about sensitive data being stored on machines that you have given away, and it will also free up extra memory on your computer so that it may run faster.
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