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May 19, 2008

Securely Erase Your Hard Disk - All About MacOS Trash

Securely Erase Your Hard Disk
All About MacOS Trash

That little crumpling sound your Mac makes when you empty the Trash may sound satisfyingly final, but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Traces of your personal information and even entire files can easily be left behind on your machine. Follow these steps to make sure your Trash is gone for good.

Securely Erase Your Hard Disk Before you sell or give away a Mac, make sure that no personal data remains on it. After you’ve copied all your files to your new Mac, restart the old one from the Mac OS X installation disc. Open Disk Utility and select your hard disk from the list on the left. Click on the Erase tab and then on Security Options.

Next, choose one of the several erasure methods that are offered. The 7-Pass Erase option is probably sufficient for most people, but if you’re truly paranoid, select 35-Pass Erase, which will make it nearly impossible for anyone, even James Bond, to recover your files. If you’re using a laptop, make sure it’s plugged in. This process can take a long time.

Delete Stubborn Files

Have a file that just won’t delete? There are third-party solutions, such as Marco Balestra’s handy and free Super Empty Trash (donations accepted; www.faqintosh.com). Or you can use the rm -rf command in Terminal to remove the file. Unfortunately, if you mess up with that command, you might erase your hard drive.

Here’s a third method to try. It may take longer, but it’s very safe and will work on files that seem immune to all other attempts.
  • Start by creating a new user in the Accounts preference pane. It doesn’t matter what name or access level you give the new account; it’s going to have a very short life.
  • Once the account is created, move the troublesome file from the Trash into the /Users/Shared folder.
  • Now go to the Apple menu and choose Log Out user name, and then log in as the new user.
  • Open the /Users/Shared folder, and move the pesky file into the new user’s Trash.
  • Now log out of the new account and log in to your main account. Return to the Accounts preference pane, select the account you just created, and click on the minus sign (–), or just press the delete key.
  • A dialog box will appear, asking you if you’re sure you want to do this. Of the three options—Cancel, OK, and Delete Immediately— select Delete Immediately. The troublesome file, along with the new user account and the disk space it used, will disappear. Selecting OK will leave the file on your disk.
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