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How to Securely Erase Private Data

Contents

How to Set Up and Use Eraser

CAUTION: Reading the following steps carelessly could cause you to disable your system and / or lose data you want to keep. So be sure to read them carefully.

Find Folders Containing Sensitive Data with Spider

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If you try to find your index.dat files by looking in your directory with the file search, My Computer, Windows Explorer or the command prompt, even when you have ''Show hidden files and folders'' checked and ''Hide protected operating system files'' unchecked, you won't find any of them in Windows 95 or 98 and some or most of them in Windows XP because Microsoft has hidden them very well. To see where they're located, run Spider (free), click on Options, select Complete drive, click on Accept, click the magnifying glass (Start Search), then click on the printer icon to print out the results.

Set Up Eraser

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Set Eraser (free - meets DOD and Gutmann standards) to erase the contents of the following folders. skip

  • Eraser Plugin for...
  • WARNING: ''If you defragment a drive first and then do a freespace erase after, you may find traces of an erased file because the original file is potentially moved all over the disk. The current copy is erased but a forensic scan of the drive may locate parts of the file where it was being moved around during the defragmentation ... In addition to never defragmenting your drive before erasing you should run chkdsk / scandisk to recover any lost clusters and erase those first.'' - Heidi Computers Ltd.

    So don't defragment your hard drive before erasing your data. Erase the files and especially the free space first. And don't empty your recycle bin. Securely erase it's contents instead with erasing software. skip

    Note: I have the page file and temporary Internet files, and my software programs on their own partitions separate from the Windows XP Pro operating system to stop certain viruses from spreading. I may be misinformed, but I believe it does.

    To do the same on a new computer or new hard disk, create partitions with FDISK. If you've already installed software and saved files on your hard drive, be sure to create partitions with one of these partitioning programs instead. Fdisk removes all the data!

    The GUI version of Eraser has a feature that, when enabled, erases locked files after restart. But if none of your own private files are locked when Windows is running, like index.dat files are, which makes Eraser unable to erase them...

    ...the easiest way to securely erase your browsing history and other private data in Windows 2000, XP Pro or Vista with Eraser would be to create a batch file that executes a list of eraserl or eraserd commands telling Eraser to erase the contents of the folders containing your private data, save it to your desktop and click on it when you want to log off or shut down your computer.

    Note: To do that you would need to end the script with one of the following commands:

    WARNING: Forgetting to click on the batch file to log off or shut down and doing so the usual way, leaves private data vulnerable.

    Since there is that risk and some of your private files are locked and can't be erased when Windows is running, the best and most secure way is to have the batch file run automatically at logoff or shutdown.

    WARNING: Including commands in the batch file to run a defragmenter like DIRMS before erasing files and free or empty space, leaves parts of private data behind, as explained earlier.

    If you include a command or commands to run a defragmenter, make sure you put the command(s) after or below the eraserl commands for files and empty space.

    Note: Erasing empty space can take several hours, so if you log off or shut down your computer more than once a day, I recommend putting the empty space and defragmenter commands in a separate batch file and running it at your last logoff or shutdown of the day.

    You can also save the batch file anywhere on your hard drive and set Group Policy to run it when logging off or shutting down, or use Xecutor (free for noncommercial use).

    WARNING: Xecutor's default setting for the Shutdown Position feature, Mid, keeps eraserd or eraserl from erasing locked, private files. I recommend setting it to Last, which runs your script after closing all the background services first.

    If you have an earlier version of Windows, try Karen's Show Stopper. (free - requires Visual Basic Runtime v6.0)

    Another way is to put it in the Shutdown folder created with HSLAB Shutdown Folder, the commercial version.

    Note: HSLAB Shutdown Folder Lite, the free version, is unable to run the eraserl batch file at shutdown. It shuts down just as the batch file starts to run. With HSLAB Shutdown Folder Lite, HSLAB Tech Support said you can only run scripts with short execution time, like deleting or renaming a file or folder.

    WARNING: Putting the batch file in the Startup folder leaves your private data vulnerable until the next time your computer is started up. I strongly recommend running it on logoff or shutdown instead.

    WARNING: Eraser Launcher (eraserl.exe) does not ask for a confirmation before erasing your data. skip

    Note: Eraser has a scheduler that erases data on reboot, or startup, but besides leaving your data vulnerable, deleting tasks you no longer want may not remove them from the registry, and they'll run again on the next startup.

    If in spite of those facts you choose to use the scheduler anyway and deleted tasks remain in the registry, use Startup Control Panel (free) to disable or remove them.

    Locations of Folders to Erase

    To Create Erasing Tasks in Eraser:

    1. Click on On-Demand, or on Scheduler if your computer will be on at a certain time every day, or if you want to erase files on reboot or restart.
    2. Click on New Task.
    3. Select Files on folder.
    4. Check Remove folder(s) and Only subfolder(s).
    5. Check Keep task on the list.
    6. Click on the ... button to the right of Files on folder.
    7. Select the folder's location and click OK.

    Recycle Bin

    C:\RECYCLER\
    E:\RECYCLER\


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