Privacy is important these days and it seems like everyone wants to track you or hack you. You can’t even throw old disk drives away for fear of someone accessing them. Erase your files!
Although many Windows PCs have moved over to solid-state drives and encryption, there are still a lot of hard disk drives in use and you probably have some. Many PCs still use them and even if you use an SSD, you probably have big external hard drives for backups and extra storage because they are so cheap.
When files are deleted on hard disk drives, they leave behind data that can be recovered with the right tools. You do not need to be a geek and simple utilities are available that can find and recover deleted files. In fact, you may have one of them, ready for when you accidentally delete a file or lose one for some other reason. A file recovery utility is an essential part of a PC owners toolkit.
The fact that utilities exist that can recover deleted files should cause warning bells to ring in your head. If you can recover files, so could someone else. If you replace an old drive, either binning the old one, selling it or giving it to someone else, you should securely and permanently erase all the data on it so that it can never be recovered. You don’t want whoever gets it to be able to recover your files.
Privacy and security is important and it is not just when you dispose of an old drive that you have to be careful, ordinary day-to-day use of the computer and drive leaves a data trail, personal information, and private information on the disk. It should be securely cleaned.
BitRaser File Eraser
BitRaser from Stellar is a utility that enables you to securely erase files and folders on disk drives and clean up traces left behind when using your computer. It aims to prevent anyone from ever recovering files you have deleted, internet and app activities and more.
The latest version has light and dark themes and a straightforward and easy-to-use interface. The menu button doesn’t actually show a menu, instead, it hides or shows the toolbar button across the top, which can be hidden most of the time since is it rarely used.
Erase your tracks
The functions you need are down the left-hand side and the first is Erase Traces. This scans the system for three categories of files, internet activity, application traces and system traces. The items it searches for can be configured in the settings and after the scan has run, you are presented with a list of items found. Items can be selected or cleared and the ones you choose are securely erased.
Erase deleted data
Files are created and deleted as we use the computer and space on the disk is used and re-used many times over. The free space could contain data that is private or sensitive and you would rather not let others see.
BitRazer can erase the free space on drives and it removes any traces of data that were once stored there. It is important not to forget free space on disks. Erasing the free space could take a long time, so it is not something you do very often, but it is useful when disposing of an old drive. You can erase the free space and then erase the files.
Erase files and folders
Files that are no longer needed can be sent to the Recycle Bin and the Erase Traces function can be used to securely delete it. If you don’t want files hanging around in the Recycle Bin and want to delete them immediately, the Erase Files & Folders function can be used. Files and folders can be dragged from the disk and dropped on the window to add them. Click a button and they are erased. It is easy to securely erase items on a disk.
There is a useful scheduler that enables you to erase traces or erase files and folders. It can be configured to run every day, week, month or every time you start the computer.
There are three methods of erasing data and it can be overwritten with zeroes, pseudo-random data or a US Department of Defense three-pass method. There are also two methods for checking that the data has really gone and cannot be recovered.
If you are worried that erasing your traces might delete something you need, files and folders can be added to an exclusion list.
BitRaser File Eraser for Windows worked well on my PC. It is easy to use and securely erases your files and tracks. The scheduler is useful for automating clean-ups.
However, there are a lot of competitors and Ccleaner is one of the best known. It is very popular and has clocked up over 2.5 billion downloads. BitRaser costs UK £27.99 or US $35.99, whereas Ccleaner costs £19.95 / $24.95.
This makes BitRaser look a bit overpriced in comparison. It is not much more, but another factor worth considering is that there is a free version of Ccleaner with a good range of features, but there isn’t a free version of BitRaser. Not even a proper free trial – you have to hand over payment details to get it and then remember to cancel.
What BitRaser does is good and I like it, but it costs more than Ccleaner and it lacks some of its features.