How to Permanently Delete Files from Computer without Recovery

When you delete a file/empty the recycling bin, it doesn’t mean the file is permanently deleted automatically. To do this, you need to use Windows PowerShell, a third-party file shredding tool, or wait long enough for the file to be completely overwritten.

Whether you are selling your computer and want to get rid of all personal files, or simply want to remove something sensitive just in case, there may come a time when you want to permanently delete some files.

But how can you get rid of these to ensure they are never found again? Keep reading to find out.

Key Takeaways

  • When you delete a file and empty the recycling bin, it doesn’t delete the files immediately and permanently. It only moves these files to a specific part of the hard drive that is hidden from the Windows operating system for the time being, until they are overwritten.
  • To actually delete the files forever, you can either use Windows PowerShell and a specific command, or enlist the help of a third-party file shredding tool.
  • If you wait long enough and continue to use your device and download/create new files, the files you deleted will eventually be overwritten and unrecoverable, but this process can take a long time in some cases.

What Happens When You Delete a File

When most people delete a file or document, they simply send it to the recycling bin in Windows and leave them alone. Some may go the extra step and actually go into the recycling bin and empty it, thinking this removes all of these files for good.

However, this doesn’t actually delete the file immediately. It simply hides it from the operating system by moving it to a part of the hard drive that the OS doesn’t have access to. Over time, these will be overwritten and lost, but they can still be recovered for a while by using third-party data recovery software.

But thankfully, there are a few ways to permanently delete these files and not need to worry about anyone ever being able to recover them.

3 Ways to Permanently Delete Files from Your Computer

Here are a few relatively simple ways to permanently delete files from your computer.

Solution 1: Use Windows PowerShell

The first way to permanently delete a file from your computer is to use the Windows PowerShell. This is a task automation solution and within it, you can use a secure deletion tool/command called Cipher to delete files with no chance of recovery.

Simply go to the Start menu and search for PowerShell. After launching it, input the command of “cipher /w:C:” next to your name. This will overwrite all of the previously deleted files, and ensure they cannot be recovered. No existing files will be impacted, only ones you’ve deleted.

This specific command will do this for the entire C: drive of your computer, but you can change out the C: for another drive or even add a link to a specific folder to only permanently delete the files from that location.

This method can often take a few hours, so don’t expect instant results, you may need to do it a few times to ensure everything is fully removed.

Solution 2: Use a third-party file shredding tool

In addition to that, you can also use a third-party file shredding tool to permanently get rid of certain files.

Some will scan the computer to fully erase traces of the previously deleted files, while others have you add the files or folders you want to delete into the software and have them disposed of that way. Each may have a slightly different process, so choose one that works for you.

When it comes to choosing the right one, make sure to also consider things like the features it includes, whether it is free or paid, and the reviews/reputation that the tool has.

Solution 3: Wait long enough for the data to be overwritten

Another way is to simply wait long enough for the deleted files to be overwritten by new ones. Once this occurs, the old files you deleted will no longer be recoverable as the space they were stored has been written over by new data.

However, this can take a while and if you need something sensitive or private deleted sooner, this may not be a solution for you.


Here are a few frequently asked questions about permanently deleting files on your computer.

Why is deleting files important?

Deleting files is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is important if you are selling your computer, to make sure the next owner doesn’t have access to your personal info. Even if you’re not selling, you may have some sensitive information you’d like to keep private.

Also, deleting some files can also save storage space if your computer is getting full.

How long does it take to permanently delete files?

The amount of time it takes to delete a file depends on the method you use, and how many you are deleting. Permanently deleting a few at a time will generally be quick, but trying to clear a whole system can be quite a bit longer, sometimes multiple hours.

Final Thoughts

Being able to permanently delete your files can give you peace of mind and the confidence that your private information and files are safe. I hope this guide and the deletion methods in it have been able to help you out.

Is there something else you feel I should have mentioned in this guide? If so, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below.

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