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How to Securely Erase Private Data

Contents

Crucial Steps You Need To Take Before Typical After-Work Erasing With 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.

Previous Step: Encrypt Windows or Move Private Data to Read-Only or Encrypted Removable Media

Encrypt Restore Points or Erase Them, Then Disable System Restore

System Restore and now also Shadow Copy, or Previous Versions, in Windows Vista occasionally take snapshots of your system at different times and save not only them, but also copies of your private files, as Restore Points in hidden folders which are located on each partition and hard drive.

C:\System Volume Information\ in Windows Vista and XP

C:\_Restore\ in Windows Me

WARNING: Leaving System Restore enabled saves viruses and other malware your antivirus software has gotten rid of, which will reinfect your system when taken back to an infected Restore Point.

It also saves system files corrupted by some other cause, which when restored, may mess up or disable your system.

And it leaves your private data accessible to prying eyes by allowing others to easily restore and view them, including all the files you've deleted and even the ones you've securely erased.

You could just erase the Restore Points without disabling System Restore, but that would leave your private data vulnerable if Windows were to create any more Restore Points between erasing sessions.

I strongly recommend saving an image of your clean-installed Windows partition instead, with one of these disk imagers. skip

To erase your Restore Points and turn off System Restore:

  1. Print these instructions, and if you have Windows XP, the instructions on how to access System Volume Information folders.
  2. Download Eraser or the Eraser plugin. (for security, you should be doing this in a Limited User account) skip
  3. Log into your admin account (for security, you should be reading this in your Limited User account), close all running programs and services and install Eraser or the Eraser plugin. skip
  4. If you have Windows XP, make the hidden System Volume Information folders visible and give yourself permission to access them.
  5. Choose one of the following options:
    • If you have Windows Me or XP, either load it in Safe Mode (press the F5 button repeatedly when starting or restarting your computer) and log in to your Administrator account (when I tried this method, two files were left that can't be erased)...
    • ...or set the BIOS to boot from your CD drive (here's how), then put BartPE or better yet Ultimate Boot CD for Windows with the Eraser or Drive Eraser plugin in your CD drive and restart.
    • If you have both Windows 95, 98 or Me and XP installed on FAT partitions, install Eraser in your nonXP Windows.
  6. Click on each _Restore (Windows Me) or System Volume Information (Windows XP) folder to view its contents.
  7. Press Ctrl and A to select all the contents.
  8. Right-click on them, select Erase and click OK to erase them.

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