Monday, September 10, 2007

How to use the Cipher command to wipe data from your disk

As you probably know, when you delete files off your Windows XP or Windows Vista computer, those files aren't actually gone. The only thing that happens is that the "pointer" to the deleted files is removed and the space on the hard disk is marked as available to put new data. But until new data is put in the same location as the deleted data, the deleted data remains on the hard disk and can be recovered by hackers and other malicious users.

What you need to do is "wipe" the data off the hard disk. You can do this by using the cipher command that comes free with Windows XP and Windows Vista. Here are the instructions, compliments of Tom Shinder:

  • Close all programs.
  • Click Start, click Run, type cmd, and then press ENTER.
  • Type cipher /w:driveletter:\foldername, and then press ENTER. Specify the drive and the folder that identifies the volume that contains the deleted data that you want to overwrite. Data that is not allocated to files or folders will be overwritten. This permanently removes the data. This can take a long time if you are overwriting a large space. For example, if you have a deleted files in folder c:\SECRET, you would enter cipher /W:C:\SECRET

The wiping process can take a long time, so be patient. Once the files are wiped by the cipher utility, no one will be able to recover your deleted information from your hard disk.