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Why Wipe Free Disk Space?

Dec 8, 2007
Computers have found very many applications in today's world, in almost every field of human activity. Offices, schools, libraries, and other organizations that need to keep track of and organize huge masses of information have found that computers perform this task admirably. Scientists and engineers have been able to leverage the massive computing power now available to help solve problems once thought unsolvable, and to develop new technologies through simulation. Writers, visual artists, and even musical composers have also found that computers can provide new and exciting ways for them to practice their respective crafts.

Because of this, it has also become quite important to look at the different ways of storing digital data. Digital data here refers to that information stored in methods that make it accessible to computers, such as on hard disks or compact discs (CD's). Apart from increasing the amount of data that could be stored on a particular digital storage device, discussions of data security have also arisen.

Computers have been made to handle confidential information, which is meant to be protected from unauthorized access. Password protection is now an option with most programs that work with digital files, and so is of course keeping the computers in question physically secure. Sometimes, however, it may become necessary to delete certain files in such a manner as to leave no traces on the medium.

This is where the disk wiping or file shredding operation comes in. These processes are distinguished from ordinary deletion by the fact that they are more permanent. The data disposed of using either of these two processes are much more difficult to recover than data merely deleted. This is so because when a file is deleted, it is actually not removed from the hard disk. Instead, what happens is just that it is marked "deleted", and the space it occupies on the disk surface is marked "available".

In other words, the file information remains on the hard disk, available for curious eyes to recover and view. In the file shredding operation, the area on the hard disk where the file is stored is actually overwritten with random data. This helps to mask any traces that the file has left on the hard disk, and makes recovering the shredded file's information virtually impossible.

A disk wipe is simply the same operation, but performed over the entire area of the hard disk, to more or less permanently delete all data on the disk.

Some programs have the function of wiping free disk space. This may seem useless, at first encounter, but it actually does have its own uses. Some programs such as word processors or spreadsheets may create temporary files that hold information. Also, previously deleted files that have not yet been wiped are still on the disk, available for recovery. By wiping the free disk space, these temporary files are removed, and the previously deleted files become gone for good. Wiping free disk space would be a useful habit to form, to help guard against the unintentional recovery of deleted data, thought lost.
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