What is the best tool to delete files?

Having the right tool to permanently delete files is essential for maintaining the security and privacy of your data. When you delete a file normally, it isn’t actually erased from your hard drive – only the reference to the file’s data location is removed. This means deleted files can often be recovered using data recovery software. To truly delete a file forever, you need a secure deletion tool that overwrites the file data.

Why Do You Need a File Deletion Tool?

There are several reasons why you may want to permanently erase files from your computer or storage device:

  • Privacy – To prevent recovery of personal or confidential data.
  • Security – To ensure deleted data cannot be accessed by unauthorized parties.
  • Storage space – Overwritten files no longer take up drive space.
  • Compliance – Some regulations require permanent data erasure.

Simply using your computer’s delete function or emptying the Recycle Bin does not guarantee the files are completely erased. That’s why using a dedicated file shredder tool is highly recommended.

What Makes a Good File Deletion Tool?

Here are the key features to look for in secure file deletion software:

  • Overwriting methods – The tool should use multiple overwrite passes with random data to completely replace file contents.
  • Deletion protocols – Look for conformance to standards like DoD 5220.22-M for secure data destruction.
  • Ease of use – It should have an intuitive interface that’s easy to navigate.
  • Flexibility – Ability to delete individual files, folders, entire drives, or selectively based on criteria.
  • Scheduling – Option to do file shredding on a one-time or recurring basis.
  • Logging – Reports and confirmation that selected files have been successfully deleted.
  • Secure erase external devices – Can wipe external USB drives, SSDs, etc.

6 Best File Shredders

Based on the criteria above, here are the top tools recommended for permanently deleting files:

1. Eraser

Eraser is a free, open source data destruction tool for Windows. It supports an impressive array of secure deletion methods including the Gutmann method and DOD standard. Key features include:

  • Free and open source
  • 35+ secure deletion methods
  • Command line option
  • Wipe individual files or full drives
  • Supports scheduling

Eraser is easy to use even for novices but provides advanced configurability for power users. With support for wiping unused drive space, it’s one of the most thorough file deletion tools available.

2. Permanent Eraser

Permanent Eraser is a file shredder program designed specifically for secure deletion on Windows. Benefits include:

  • Intuitive wizard-driven interface
  • Multiple overwrite algorithms
  • Wipe individual files or folders
  • Drive wipe capability
  • File shredding can be scheduled
  • Portable version available

This tool makes it easy to target specific files or drives for permanent deletion. The batch processing feature allows multiple files to be queued up and deleted sequentially.

3. File Shredder

File Shredder is a lightweight freeware option that overwrites files, folders and drives for guaranteed deletion. Features include:

  • Basic interface for easy operation
  • Destroy individual files or full drives
  • Multiple overwrite algorithms
  • Supports external drives
  • Can wipe free space on drives
  • Permanently shred Recycle Bin

As a simple, portable file deleting application, File Shredder gets the job done quickly without extra bells and whistles. It’s a great choice for securely erasing data on the fly.

4. SDelete

Developed by Microsoft’s Sysinternals team, SDelete offers enterprise-grade file shredding capability. Key features:

  • Integrates with Windows Explorer context menu
  • Multiple algorithms including DoD 5220.22-M
  • Wipe individual files, folders, or entire drives
  • Supports command line use
  • Easy to deploy in domain environments

As an official Microsoft command line utility, SDelete seamlessly integrates file deletion capability into the familiar Windows interface. It’s a great choice for system administrators working in Active Directory domains.

5. BitRaser

BitRaser offers heavy-duty data destruction suitable for business and government use. It stands out with features like:

  • Variety of overwrite algorithms up to 35 passes
  • Verification of successful deletion
  • Scheduling capability
  • Command line and remote management
  • Centralized reporting
  • Complies with privacy standards like HIPAA and GDPR

With extensive configuration options, BitRaser provides precision data destruction tailored to organizational compliance needs. Administrators can fine-tune deletion policies and maintain auditable records of all file shredding activity.

6. Disk Wipe

Disk Wipe is a free utility for complete hard drive erasure. It stands out with features including:

  • Portable application can run from USB
  • Full drive wipe with multiple algorithms
  • Wipe entire drive, partitions, or just free space
  • Supports scheduling drive erasure
  • Can securely erase external drives
  • Easy-to-use interface

For quickly and completely deleting all data on hard drives or external storage devices, Disk Wipe is a reliable solution. The portable version can be carried on a thumb drive and run on any Windows PC.

How Do File Deletion Tools Work?

Secure file deletion tools use a process called data overwriting to permanently erase data. This works by replacing the existing file contents with meaningless gibberish data rendering the original information unrecoverable.

Here’s an overview of how they work:

  1. The overwrite tool identifies the files or drive space targeted for deletion.
  2. An algorithm is used to generate random nonsense data consisting of 1s and 0s.
  3. This meaningless data is written in place of the original file contents multiple times.
  4. With each pass, the previously stored data becomes increasingly unrecoverable.
  5. The space occupied by the deleted files can then be reused by the operating system.

The number of overwrite passes and type of algorithm used determines how thoroughly the data is destroyed. While a single pass is generally sufficient, tools like Eraser support advanced multi-pass overwriting like the 35-pass Gutmann method for maximum data destruction.

How to Use File Shredding Software

The exact steps to permanently erase files vary by program, but the general process is:

  1. Select a deletion method – Choose an overwrite algorithm like DoD 5220.22-M or DOD 5220.22-M ECE.
  2. Pick files to shred – Browse and select the files/folders you want to delete.
  3. Choose destination – Pick a target drive if wiping free space or entire device.
  4. Run the deletion – Execute the selected overwrite method to permanently destroy data.
  5. Confirm results – Check the tool’s report to verify successful file wiping.

Many tools provide a wizard interface that walks you through each step. Advanced utilities like SDelete and Eraser allow command line use for scripting and automation.

Can Deleted Files Be Recovered?

With most file deletion tools, recovery becomes impossible once the overwrite process is complete. However, there are some caveats:

  • On solid state drives (SSDs), data remnants may remain due to wear leveling.
  • With sufficient resources, traces of magnetism may allow partial recovery from platter hard drives.
  • Some tools may not fully overwrite slack and free space if not properly configured.

For maximum security against recovery, use multiple overwrite passes and select a high-strength algorithm like DoD 5220.22-M. Verifying the tool’s deletion log can confirm successful overwrite of all selected data.

Proper Use of File Deletion Tools

To ensure file shredding software permanently destroys your data, it’s important to use it correctly:

  • Overwrite entire drives instead of just files to prevent recovery from slack space.
  • Erase external devices like USB drives before disposal or reuse.
  • Schedule periodic wipes of free space and emptied folders like Recycle Bin.
  • Verify logs to confirm the tool completed every overwrite pass.
  • Use a tool like BitRaser that meets regulatory standards for data destruction.

With proper use, file deletion tools provide excellent protection against improper data recovery. But no deletion method is completely infallible.

Other Permanent File Deletion Methods

If you can’t use file shredding software, there are a couple other options for ensuring permanent file destruction:

Encrypt Before Deleting

Encrypting your data before deletion enhances security. Without the right encryption key, encrypted data appears scrambled and unrecoverable.

TrueCrypt and VeraCrypt allow creating encrypted containers or drives to store sensitive files securely before standard deletion.

Physical Destruction

For ultimate assurance against recovery, physically damaging the storage device destroys any remnants of data. This can be done by:

  • Using a hammer to smash hard drives
  • Melting flash memory chips with high heat
  • Disintegrating media with acid/bleach

Physical destruction is time-consuming and costly but provides the highest level of data security possible.

Deletion on Mac vs Windows

The built-in deletion tools differ slightly between Mac and Windows.

Deleting Files on Mac

On Mac OS, deleting files only removes references to data, not the content itself. To properly erase files on Mac:

  • Use Secure Empty Trash to overwrite files before emptying the trash.
  • Enable Fast User Switching to wipe deleted data of other users.
  • Use a third-party tool like Permanent Eraser for Mac.

Deleting Files on Windows

On Windows, simple delete or reformatting does not permanently destroy data either. To thoroughly shred files on Windows:

  • Use Secure Delete instead of plain Delete in Explorer.
  • Reformat the drive using DiskPart’s CLEAN command.
  • Use a file shredder tool like SDelete or Eraser.

Third-party tools provide the most security by overwriting all deleted data multiple times.

Deleting Files on Linux

On Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Red Hat, files deleted through the GUI or rm command are easily recoverable. To permanently delete:

  • Use shred command to overwrite files multiple times.
  • Wipe free space with BleachBit utility.
  • Encrypt files before deleting for added security.

Linux administrators can script shredding operations using built-in tools for automated, secure deletion.

How to Recover Deleted Files

If a file was not securely overwritten, recovery may be possible using:

  • Restore from backup – Use a backup or snapshot taken before deletion.
  • Undelete software – Programs like Recuva scan and recover deleted data.
  • Data recovery services – Experts extract data using special hardware/clean rooms.

However, this only applies to files deleted through standard delete operations. Secure overwriting using a file shredder tool makes recovery essentially impossible.

Final Verdict

Here is a quick summary of the best tools for permanently deleting files based on different needs:

Best For Recommendation
Securely shredding individual files Eraser or Permanent Eraser
Wiping entire hard drives Disk Wipe
Enterprise use BitRaser
Command line interface SDelete
Deleted file recovery Recuva

Remember, simply deleting files or formatting drives does not permanently destroy data. To prevent recovery and ensure complete deletion, use a secure overwrite tool. With an app like Eraser or Permanent Eraser, you can rest assured your files are gone for good.


Protecting confidential data requires the ability to completely and permanently delete files when needed. While standard file deletion leaves data recoverable, secure erase tools use military-grade algorithms to overwrite files multiple times for guaranteed data destruction.

The top performers like Eraser, Permanent Eraser, and SDelete excel at thoroughly shredding any selected files while optimizing performance. For wiping entire drives before disposal, Disk Wipe is ideal. And for centralized enterprise use, BitRaser provides advanced management and compliance reporting.

With proper use of overwrite-based file deletion tools, even government agencies and specialist labs will be unable to recover your erased data. Just remember to verify that all selected files and drive space show as securely overwritten in the deletion reports. Your sensitive information will then be destroyed for good.

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