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Data Destruction (Part 3 of 4)


Data Destruction (Part 3 of 4)

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Senior Director, Digital Forensic & E-Discovery

Can you wipe/overwrite data without using a data destruction program?

In previous blog posts we talked about what deleting data really does.  The first covered deleting files, deleting emails and deleting things like text messages.  The second blog talked about data destruction, or wiping, programs and how they permanently destroyed data through overwriting the content. In this blog post we’ll talk about two inexpensive ways to wipe data from your computer.

In the early days of digital forensics (about 10-15 years ago) a common tactic for data destruction was defragmentation (aka “defragging”) a computer.  Defragging was a common activity on a Windows computer that had a real purpose.  As we’ve mentioned, computers store files in blocks.  Typically a file consists of more than one block and those blocks may be scattered in different physical parts on a hard drive.  Defragging put those files together making it more efficient to access them.  What does this have to do with wiping data?  Well, during the defragging process, Windows writes blocks of data all over as it re-arranges blocks to put them together.  That process overwrote a good amount of data, namely deleted data.  So this is one way to wipe deleted data but this method is imprecise and is not guaranteed to overwrite the deleted data that one may intend.

Think of wiping data like repainting a room.  If you don’t like the color (data) you paint it with a new color (new data) and the old color is gone for good (yes, I know you can often chip off the top paint and see the paint underneath but let’s forget about that because it ruins the analogy).  With a computer that means finding data to wipe your deleted data.  A simple way to do that, is well, download the internet onto your computer.  Downloading legal copies of pictures, videos, movies, etc. is a sure fire way to fill up your computer thereby wiping deleted data.

Don’t want to spend time downloading all that data?  How about downloading a couple of gigabytes (GB) of data?  Put it into one folder, then just copy and paste that folder multiple times.  Tedious, I know, but you won’t break the bank on any download limits your provider may be imposing on you.

So there you have it, simple ways to wipe deleted data on your computer without using a special program.  Very rudimentary as a possible way to wipe that data.  This is not necessarily the most simple route, as there are many free applications that can do the same in an automated fashion. However it is a cost-effective one!


Data Destruction – Part 1: Is Data Really Gone from your Digital Device When Deleted?
Data Destruction – Part 2: Can you Permanently Delete Data on a Computer?
Data Destruction – Part 3: Can you wipe/overwrite data without using a data destruction program? (ABOVE)
Data Destruction – Part 4: Top 10 Popular Data Destruction Programs

by Greg Kelley, EnCE, DFCP,
Chief Technology Officer at Vestige Digital Investigations
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