You can delete a file without erasing it, erase a drive without wiping it, shred a file without deleting it, and wipe hundreds of files at once… that were already deleted.
Confused? I’m not surprised! These four terms – wipe, shred, delete, and erase – might sometimes be used interchangeably but they shouldn’t be.
Here’s how these concepts differ and why it’s important that you understand exactly how they do:
Delete: “Hide Me, but I’ll Be Here If You Really Need Me”
The word delete is one we use a lot. A coworker asks if you still have that document on your tablet and you say “I deleted it” or your friend asks if you’ve “deleted” that photo of him from the party last night.
It’s even entered the common lexicon – my son told me once that he “deleted” his gum wrapper. I’m serious (he had thrown it away). It’s synonymous with “get rid of” but in reality, that’s anything but true.
Here’s the truth: when you delete something, be it on your computer, smartphone, digital camera, or anywhere else, you don’t remove it from existence, you just hide it from yourself. The actual data that makes up whatever you deleted is still there.
Deleted files, especially ones that were recently deleted, are easy to get back with data recovery software, much of which is freely available online. That’s great news if you’ve made a mistake, but a big problem if you really, truly did want that file gone.
In summary: when you delete a file, you don’t erase it, you just make it hard to find.
If you want to truly erase data, you’ll need to actually erase the data.
Erase: “Are You Sure? You’ll NEVER See Me Again!”
The term erase is what most of us are probably after when we get rid of, or try to get rid of, files.