If you followed my posts on un-deleting files, you now know that when you delete a file, you can often recover it.  A reader asked in email

“So can you delete files forever, by formatting?”

No, and let me show you why.  I’ll “Quick format” & “also “Format” a USB stick, and demonstrate that you can still recover files.  Then I’ll show you what I do to wipe a disk clean.

“Quick” & Full Formatting
Quick formatting, or even Full formatting,
Quick FormatFull formatting

it makes no difference, you can still recover files.

DiskDigger shows files we can un-delete

So how I do it, aka how to sanitise a disk.
Well as it turns out, I wrote about it in, “Deleting files so they can’t be recovered”, and that is to use a product like Eraser.  For a whole hard disk, I’d use one of these.

But if I’m working on a system where I can’t install Eraser?  I use Cipher.exe
Here’s how.

  1. Format the drive
  2. Use the Cipher command with a /W: switch.
    (the /W: tells Cipher to wipe the unused space on the drive)

So say it D: you want to wipe, cipher /w:d:\ would do the wiping for you:
cipher wipe example

Cipher has finished, and here’s the proof the files have gone:
DiskDigger no files found

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