Going … going … GONE!

Question: Is it possible to delete a file and then even months later go back and find that file? How is that done? What if, after the file is deleted, you defragment the hard disk—is it then possible to find the deleted file? If deleted files are “findable”, how do you delete a file so that it can never be found? If ever I want to give away or donate a computer, I’d hate to have my files on the computer, but I would like the recipient to be able to have a ready-to-go computer. —Z.B.

Answer: When you delete a file on a PC, the file goes to the Recycle Bin in Windows 95/98 and NT. The recycle bin is just a holding area for unwanted files. If you empty the bin, the files are “deleted”, right? Wellllll, not really.

That file can be recovered until the space is overwritten by another file.

A utility like Symantec’s Norton System Works has a feature called “UnErase Wizard”, which allows file recovery.
Norton Utilities also has a “WipeInfo” feature that allows deleted files to be permanently deleted without reformatting. If you reformat a hard drive, then nothing on the hard drive can be recovered.
(Older versions of Norton System Works don’t have the WipeInfo feature.)

Another program that does this type of erasing of data is called Eraser.
It does exactly what the name implies. It erases data from your hard drive. A word of caution. You will not be able to get the information back, once erased.