By Kevin W.
Here are three free apps you can use to simply manage the cleaning or recovery of your hard disks:
- CCleaner is a sweet little app that centralizes all the disk cleanup functions you’d ever need. This works as a combined and enhanced version of the Windows Disk Clean Up app, the Windows Add/Remove Programs Control Panel function, a Windows start up program manager and cleaner like MSConfig (stop the annoying systray icons!), the IE/Firefox/Opera innate cleanup methods (history, cookies, etc.), a registry scanner and cleaner like RegClean (eliminates broken and old registry entries), as well as cleaning temporary and preference files from a number of recognized apps like MS Office, Adobe Reader, and WinZip. It can add a right-click option to the Recycle Bin to clean everything in one convenient click. The first time I ran this, I cleaned over 40MB off my hard disk.
- Recuva is a companion app to CCleaner. What do you do if you need to recover something you accidentally deleted above? Recuva is a quick and easy file recovery tool for previously deleted files. “Wait, you mean when I empty my recycle bin it’s not actually gone?” Surprise! When you delete something, actually you just erase the pointer to the file. It’s still there (either partially or in-full) until the system writes something on top of it. Recuva works in either a file list or directory tree view with the file name and path, size, and likelihood of recovery per file. I ran this on my brand-new, less than one-month-old laptop and the scanner found over 2000 “deleted” files it could attempt to recover. This would be a nice tool for auditing purposes too, as you could use this to see if someone has been trying to cover their tracks.
- Eraser: So what if you don’t want a tool like Recuva to find what you’ve deleted? Then you need something like Eraser. This is a deceptively powerful tool that can overwrite the free space of your disks. As mentioned above, deleting something really doesn’t get rid of it. This tool goes in and forcibly overwrites the free space (containing the pointer-less delete files from above) until it’s gone. It has a series of pre-defined overwrite methods, including some to DoD standards, or you can customize your own. There is a “verify” application where you can choose a file to be erased and run the overwrite method against it; this will attempt to recover the file and, if successful, show you what’s left of its contents. It also comes with the functionality to create a “nuke” disk, meaning you stick the disk into a machine, reboot, and it kills everything on the hard drive. It’s intended for quick drives cleanups and not for malicious reasons, so no playing practical jokes on your coworkers! You could eliminate the contents of any hard drive with Eraser, so use with caution. I ensured I had a valid system restore point created before I tried Eraser. A nice feature is it will add right-click options to the Recycle Bin so you can not only empty the files, but it will then immediately overwrite them w/ your default method.