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ITS Safe Computing

Encrypt and Securely Delete Files (PC)

Before you proceed: These instructions are intended for users who manage their own computers. If your computer is managed by ITS, do not proceed. Contact your IT administrator for further assistance.

Why Encrypt and Securely Delete?

What do you carry around on your laptop? Does it include things like your resume, transcripts, school or internship applications or financial records?

If your laptop falls outside of your physical control due to loss or theft, the data inside your computer should already be made electronically inaccessible. Encryption is the standard technology used to protect sensitive data from unauthorized disclosure.

Deleting a file from your computer is like opening a book and scratching out the name of a chapter in the table of contents. The chapter isn’t really gone, just the information about how to find it is. To really wipe out the information in a book, you would turn to the chapter itself and scribble over the words until they were illegible.

When a file is deleted from your computer, the only data erased from the hard drive is a small bit of information that points to the location of the file. The actual file remains on the hard drive where it can be retrieved with common software tools.

A secure delete application such as Heidi Eraser will prevent the recovery of deleted files by overwriting the file data with meaningless data. Securely erasing data with this procedure is considered a best practice for eliminating sensitive data, and is a critical task to perform if you donate or sell your computer.

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Encrypt Documents on Your Windows Computer

See these instructions from Microsoft Support to learn how to encrypt documents on your Windows Computer (Windows 7, Vista).

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Securely Delete Files Using Heidi Eraser

Before You Proceed: These instructions are intended for non-technical users who manage their own computers. If your computer is managed by U-M, do not proceed. Contact your IT administrator for further assistance.

Heidi Eraser is the recommended application to perform a secure deletion of files or disks on a Microsoft platform. The application is free and can be downloaded from the Eraser Downloads Page. You should download the most recent build under the Stable Builds header. You need administrative rights to your computer to install the software. Please see the Eraser Forum for assistance with any questions you may have.

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