Normally, you get rid of files and folders by deleting them either by using the delete key on the keyboard or with a simple right-click. The very next thing that happens is that your Windows system immediately moves the deleted file or folder from its original location to the Recycle Bin. That is how the Windows operating system works. It is a safety feature that helps you restore accidentally deleted files and folders from the Recycle Bin with just a few clicks.
On the contrary, when you empty the Recycle Bin or use the Shift+Delete key combination, the system overrides the Recycle Bin and permanently removes the file or folder access from the system. In such case, you can still restore the files and folders but with the help of a data recovery software. However, recovery is not what you always need. Sometimes people want to get rid of their confidential and sensitive data beyond recovery.
Therefore, simply deleting your files with Shift+Delete or emptying the Recycle Bin folder is not going to help as the files can be easily recovered since they remain on the drive but hidden from the operating system. Other than a data recovery software, there are many sophisticated ways (such as forensics tools) of retrieving destroyed data from storage media. Therefore, even if you physically damage it, there is a good probability that data can be recovered.
Why You Need a File Shredder?
To destroy private and sensitive data permanently and make it unrecoverable, you need a File Shredder program. With a File Shredder software, you can destroy your sensitive files and folders beyond recovery from your storage media, such as hard drive, SSDs, flash drives, and so forth, by overwriting selected files and folders using a sanitization method or algorithm such as DOD 5220.22M, NATO, Gutmann, and so forth.
Choosing the Best File Shredder Program for Windows
With so many File Shredding software available, some of them even found to be malicious; it is hard to find the right one that helps you accomplish complete data sanitization i.e. deliberately and securely erasing data from storage media permanently beyond the scope of recovery to a level after which even advanced forensics should not be able to recover it. Therefore, to help you, we did some intensive research and created this list of 5 best free File Shredder programs for Windows PC.
1. BitRaser for File
BitRaser for File did make to the top of our list because it is available for free as well and we found it to be one of the most powerful File Shredding software available online. Stellar Data Recovery, a renowned organization known for its data recovery, data migration, and data erasure solutions; has developed this software. Hence, you can completely rely on the BitRaser for File for your data-shredding task.
BitRaser for File is the only File Shredding program and also a privacy safeguarding tool that uses 17 international data erasure algorithms such as U.S. Department of Defense DoD 5220.22-M (3 passes/ 7passes), NATO, Gutmann, and so forth that ensures data is securely sanitized beyond the scope of recovery.
List of 17 data erasure algorithms that BitRaser for File supports:
Additionally, with the help of the software, you can safeguard your privacy by sanitizing your internet activities, system Traces, application traces, and wiping the empty or unused spaces on the hard drive with the help of one or more data erasure algorithm.
Users can also choose between Total or Random verification methods, which verifies whether data is completely sanitized simultaneously at the end of each pass.
What makes BitRaser for File more distinct is its ability to generate the Certificate of Erasure after erasing the selected files and folders via Search File option. The certificate itself guarantees data is permanently destroyed and cannot be recovered with any data recovery software or service including forensics. It also helps businesses meet the regulatory compliances and audits including ISO 270001.
- Drag and drop not supported
- Free version erases only files of up to size 64 KB
2. Moo0 File Shredder
Moo-Anti recovery is a lightweight free disk cleaning utility that helps you get rid of your sensitive & private data securely and helps you tackle the privacy issue. The software is capable of erasing recoverable data from your hard disk, flash storages, and SD cards.
It offers a very basic & simple UI with multiple language support. The tool features the following option that enables you to choose what you want to delete from the system,
- Only free/empty space on disk
- The empty area at the end of every file (Cluster Tips)
- Free space on MFT (Master File Table)
- Recycle Bin items
- File traces
The software supports drag and drop of files which makes file shredding with MooO Shredder much easier compared to others in this list. You can choose between four cleaning methods. It is up to you whether you want to ‘Vaporize’, your data, send it ‘into Ashes’, destroy them ‘Extra Carefully’ or just ‘shred once’. It implements the DoD 5220.22-M, Gutmann, and Random data erasure algorithm to shred your files and folders.
- The utility lacks the ability to wipe the empty spaces on the drive that may contain previously deleted data.
- Unable to erase files & folders stored on the internal or external drive
- File eraser is not verified hence, no surety of data sanitization
Eraser is a popular free security tool available for Windows. It helps you shred files and folders stored on different storage drives with selected data erasure method. The tool helps you achieve data sanitization and helps you keep your the privacy intact.
You can choose to delete individual file & folder or wipe only the empty spaces, which might contain previously deleted sensitive data. The software also facilitates an option to schedule eraser tasks. You can create a list of specific files & folders on the system and shred them based on the certain time you choose. The Eraser tool also uses following algorithms to erase data from storage media.
- DoD 5220.22-M
- AR 380-19
- RCMP TSSIT OPS-II
- HMG IS5, VSITR
- GOST R 50739-95
- Random Data
- Doesn’t verifies destroyed data
- Can’t wipe the drive or files where Windows is installed (not even empty space)
4. Hard Disk Scrubber
As the name suggests, Hard Disk Scrubber is a free disk and file-scrubbing tool. It is developed to shred sensitive files and folders from a Windows PC beyond recovery. The tool works by deleting the file followed by overwriting the space occupied by a deleted file or folder on the storage drive, which sanitizes the data. Interestingly, the software features 5 scrubbing methods which are a combination of 6 scrub patterns arranged into passes:
- Normal: Random pattern with a single pass
- Heavy: Overwrites Zeroes, Ones and Random patterns with three passes
- Super: Overwrites 5 patterns with 5 passes
- Ultra: Overwrites DoD 5220.22-M with verification
- Custom: Overwrites user-defined pattern with as many passes as the user wants
- Unsafe as it can potentially wipe entire Windows partition
- Unable to erase folders and sub-directories
Hardwipe is a simple and easy to use file shredding software that supports various data sanitization methods. It also comes as portable edition that can boot directly from USB drive and help you wipe your entire drive similar to DBAN without installation but with a much easier UI design. Portable version offers more functionality and thus, it requires a professional upgrade.
It lets you wipe and erase physical devices, logical volumes, files & folders (incl. sub-folders), Recycle Bin, and free/empty space on the drive
The software uses the following data sanitization methods:
- DoD 5220.22-M
- GOST R 50739-95
- Random Data
- Write Zero
With the help of above-mentioned data erasure algorithms, the file shredding software ensures that the sensitive information cannot be recovered through any software or service.
- The professional upgrade is required for portable version
- Inability to verify if data is destroyed
- Unsafe as it doesn’t distinguish between system files
We discussed what File Shredder is, why you need a File Shredder software, and how you can use the File Shredder to protect your sensitive data and files from unauthorized access. In addition, we also listed the 5 best and free file shredder programs available for Windows PC. While choosing the right file shredder, you must consider the source of the software and features it offers.