Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


Electronic File Shredding
by Alan German

Recently, a friend wishing to dispose of an old lap top computer asked for my assistance. She wanted to give the machine to a good home, but needed to ensure that some personal files, E-mail messages and financial information, were permanently removed from the hard drive. Could I help?

Well, no. I couldn't. But, Google certainly could. The very first hit on a search for “file shredder” provided a link to – what else? – File Shredder.

File Shredder is released under the GNU/GPL General Public License, is free for both personal and commercial use, and runs on Windows NT, 2000, XP, Server and Vista. The download is just 1.2 MB. Program installation is quick and easy by just accepting all the defaults at the various prompts.

Running the program produces a very clean user interface with an intuitive set of options. Basically, you select files and folders for deletion through a standard Explorer-type window, or by dragging and dropping them into File Shredder's main window. If you change your mind, you can remove selected files from the list. But, hit the Shred Files Now button, and the files are gone – permanently – overwritten with random series of binary data, multiple times. For the really paranoid amongst us, the Shredder Settings option allows selection from five different shredding algorithms using between 1 and 35 passes. Now, one of these should fit just about anyone's requirements.

A more all-encompassing feature is the Shred Free Disk Space option which, as the name implies, will shred currently unallocated disk sectors. This may be important if you have deleted files normally under Windows that you really wished to have securely destroyed. You can't add such files to the for-shredding window, since the files are in deleted status. But, we know that the information that the files contain is still on the hard disk. Windows has merely marked the files as being deleted and freed up the space for a subsequent write operation. File shredder will overwrite all such free disk space, thus removing the information from the deleted files, and making file recovery impossible.

There are a few minor quirks with the software and its documentation. Requesting the installer to Create a Desktop Icon doesn't seem to produce one. But, this is easily fixed with a simple Send to Desktop operation in Windows Explorer. There is a Help button on the Shredder Settings window that doesn't provide any information when used. And, for me, running Vista, selecting Enable Shell Integration didn't add File Shredder to my right-click menu. The program's web site (
http://www.fileshredder.org/) is nicely done, with basic operating instructions, but there is a circular link from the on-line help page to the details of the shredding algorithms. Clicking on the link contained in “You can learn about algorithms used to shred files here” merely takes you to the top of the on-line help page. I would have been tempted to point out these minor discrepancies to the program's author, but he – or she – makes no claim to fame, either on the web site, or in the program's About option.

If you have a need for the tasks it performs, file and disk shredding, this little utility is very handy. It's small, fast, and very intuitive. So, to the program's author - whoever you are – thanks.


Bottom Line:

File Shredder (Freeware)
Version 2.0
http://www.fileshredder.org/


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Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

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