Files that are erased or deleted on your Mac are not really erased or deleted at all. They’re just invisible. That’s actually the case with most any computer system. Delete a file in the Trash and the file is still there taking up space on your Mac– but hidden. What’s with that?
Permanent Is, Mostly
The way visible and invisible files work is rather simple and that accounts for the confusion of erase and delete. When a file is deleted, your Mac simply turns off a little flag which makes the file invisible. The file, though, hasn’t been permanently removed. And, well, permanent doesn’t mean what it used to mean, but Permanent Eraser mostly permanently erases files so the files cannot be retrieved.
An erased or deleted file on a Mac is mostly forgotten by OS X. Such files can be retrieved with the right utility. To apply a more thorough erasing to delete a file, use the Finder’s built-in Secure Empty Trash (on older versions of OS X, but not OS X El Capitan), which overwrites the file seven times, making it almost impossible to retrieve intact. Almost.
Beyond almost is nearly impossible which is what Permanent Erase does for free. It uses the Gutmann Method which overwrites the deleted file 35 times, scrambles the file name, and truncates the files, then unlinks it from OS X.
That’s about as permanent as permanent can get in the digital world.
Not only does Permanent Eraser delete files in the Mac’s Trash, it can erase files on DVD-RWs, CD-RWs, and it deletes files dropped onto the icon in the Dock. Of course, there’s a pop up warning dialog box to make sure you really, truly, madly, deeply want to get rid of
incriminating evidence the file because there’s no turning back after the deed is done.
If there’s a way to retrieve the fully erased and deleted file then it would take a team of digital forensic experts to get the job done. Or, Abby from N.C.I.S could do it between commercial breaks.
What if you have OS X El Capitan and still want to permanently erase some files from your Mac? There are two ways. iGeeksBlog walks you through the steps. They’re easy enough, but involve six steps.
- Click on the Finder icon in the Dock
- Select the file in the Finder to delete
- Click the File menu while holding down the Option key
- Click on Delete Immediately from the File menu
- Click on the Delete button.
That’s a permanent delete, too. Or, if you have money, you could use Stellar Wipe Mac, which, for a healthy price, will wipe your Mac’s disk drive nice and clean. One caveat with Permanent Erase. Don’t use it on a Mac with an SSD as this kind of overwriting to permanently delete files is best on a hard disk drive.