Delete vs Erase vs Shred vs Wipe: What’s The Difference? Which One Should I Use?


Short Bytes: Many of you might be using the terms delete, erase, shred, or wipe interchangeably. But, do you know that a “deleted” file is easily recoverable and you need to “erase” it to make sure that it’s gone forever? Depending upon the sensitivity of data and your intent, you can use an appropriate option and make sure that your data is always safe.

Whenever we talk about the terms like wipe, shred, delete, or erase, we often use them interchangeably. It’s generally acceptable in layman terms but these technology terms have distinct meanings and specific uses. In this article, I’m going to tell you why it’s important to understand the underlying differences and working.

What is Delete?

Without a doubt, Delete is the common term on this list. In literal meaning, delete refers to the act of removing a file from a computer and smartphone. You might have noticed that the deleted files in your computer are sent to Recycle Bin. But, is that it?

Whenever you perform the delete action on your computer, smartphone, or any other electronic device, you don’t get rid of it. The deleted file exists on your computer–you’ve simply hidden it in some place that’s not visible. Various data recovery software make use of the same fact and impress you by recovering your “lost” data. In more technical terms, deletion process simply updates a database that keeps track of files on the disk and removes the location information. It simply tells the operating system that the space is now available to be written over.

When should I use delete?

bart-simpson-hard drive data delete

If you’ve understood how delete operation works, you might’ve started feeling the risks of a simple delete operation. As your data is still on the hard drive, one can easily recover it and use it against you.

So, you shouldn’t use delete operation if you’re trying to get rid of some sensitive information. Use delete when it’s some movie, song, or some casual data–something that can’t be used against you.

Recommended: How To Listen (And Delete) Every Word You’ve Ever Said To Google

What is Erase?

When we talk about erasing a file, it means removing the file completely from a hard drive and making its recovery impossible. There are many ways to erase the data, including wiping, scrubbing, or simply destroying the data storage device. This process overwrites the data with repeated patterns of 0s and 1s. The level of sensitivity of data also decides what levels of erasure one should use to get rid of the data.

What is Shred?

Shredding is a process similar to erase. When you perform the shred operation, which is usually performed on one or more files/folder, you erase the selected data. It overwrites the space with the patterns of 0s and 1s. So, shred is the erase process performed on a small level.

What is Wipe?

Wipe process is the erase process on a big scale. Usually used for getting rid of all the data on a drive, special programs that can wipe the entire hard drive are used. They overwrite every part for the drive and make sure that your drive becomes completely clean.


When should I use wipe or shred?simpson hard drive wipe

You must have a shredder installed on your computer all the time. If you’re getting rid of some sensitive files of folders, use shred operation.

If you’re getting rid of your PC or you’re going to sell your hard drive, it’s a good idea to wipe it. It’ll remove all the data from your computer and prevent it from passing to wrong hands. You can also wipe your hard drive when you’re done with it and you want to throw it away.

Just in case you’re wondering what happens during a format process, erase or delete, read the following article:

Recommended: Difference Between Quick Format And Full Format — Which One Should I Use?

So, did you find this article on the difference between delete, erase, shred, and wipe helpful? Don’t forget to share your views and feedback.


Adarsh Verma

Adarsh Verma

Fossbytes co-founder and an aspiring entrepreneur who keeps a close eye on open source, tech giants, and security. Get in touch with him by sending an email — [email protected]
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