It is common knowledge for most of the computer users, that when you delete files from a disk, they are not actually deleted and can be recovered later with freely available tools like Recuva. This is a privacy concern as just anybody who has access to your disks, can use those tools to recover documents and pictures that may contain your sensitive financial or personal information. What you can do is securely erase all your personal files using a tool like Hard Wipe. Hard Wipe is a freeware tool that can be used to wipe out data in files, folders or disks to an extent that it becomes irrecoverable.
Hardwipe is a free file wiper and drive cleaner for Windows. It can be used to permanently erase data on disk and portable storage media like USB drives and memory sticks in order to prevent personal or sensitive business information from ever being recovered. It can wipe entire drives, wipe files individually, and sanitize unused drive space. It runs from within the OS and supports right-click context menus in Windows Explorer. Or you can simply use it as a standalone application if you prefer.
You can download Hard Wipe from its website. The download is around six megabytes long and is in form of a MSI setup installer. It supports all versions of Windows starting from Windows XP. Just double-click on the downloaded file to start the installation. After the installation is finished, it would add right-click context menu to files, folders and disk drives. You can also launch it from its Start Menu shortcut.
In the main interface, you can click on the Wipe Files or Wipe Drive to select either the files or a disk drive to erase. You can also choose to securely wipe out the clean space by clicking on Clean Space and then choosing a disk drive (free space of which you want to securely erase). Then choose a wipe method from the drop-down list. You can choose from Zero overwrite, Random overwrite, Russian GOST, US Military DoD, Schneier or Gutmann. You can select Throttle settings from Automatic, Maximum or Limited. The Throttle setting would set the thread priority so that Hard Wipe can use your CPU from a maximum to a limited level. Finally click on the Start Wipe button to start securely erasing the selected item.
In the Options, you would be able to toggle on or off context menus, select default wipe options, setting auto-throttle options and more. The files which are wiped are renamed multiple times before wiping them. This is to ensure that file names are also obfuscated in the file table. You can set the number of times a file is renamed under the Wipe Options. By default, Hard Wipe renames files three times. But you can change this value to upto nine times.
If you are giving away your external hard disk, USB stick or some other memory storage device, first make sure that your erase all the information from it. You can use Hard Wipe to do that. Hard Wipe is free secure file removal utility for Windows. It can be used to securely erase contents from files, folders or disks. You can download it from http://www.hardwipe.com/.