Cleaning off my hard drive this week, I discovered a few years' worth of tax documents in a long-forgotten-about folder. As I prepared to toss the folder into the trash, I paused to consider whether there was a more secure way to dispose of these files, which contain all the information someone would need to hijack my identity. A quick stroll though the Mac App Store turned up File Shredder, an inexpensive utility that seemed to fit the bill.
Unlike sending an item to the trash which only removes the pointer to the file and not the actual file, File Shredder uses an algorithm to overwrite the file with data and erase it past the point of recovery. With File Shredder, I could securely delete a file and rest easy knowing that no one could retrieve that file if my computer ever fell into the wrong hands.
File Shredder is a no-frills app that is easy to use. It inserts a "shred" and "secure shred" option in the contextual menu so you can select an individual file or a group of files to delete without opening the app. The shred option will delete the file immediately without an additional erasure, while the secure shred will overwrite the data with one pass, seven DoD-compliant passes or the strongest 35-pass Gutmann deletion. You can choose the deletion algorithm in the app's preferences. File Shredder also lets you drag the files to the app's icon in the dock to delete files. This deletion method will either shred or securely shred the files, depending on how the app is configured.
For some, File Shredder may be overkill as OS X has a built-in Secure Empty feature for the trash that'll delete your files and overwrite them with random data. When you have files and folders in your trash, you can select Finder > Secure Empty Trash to remove the files securely. You can also right-click on the Trash icon in the dock and hold down the command key to select the Secure Empty Trash option. If you want to always securely delete files, you can enable this setting by going to Finder > Preferences and then selecting "Empty Trash Securely" under the Advanced tab.
Though this secure empty in OS X is useful, I decided to go with File Shredder as I wanted to securely delete files on an individual basis and have them removed immediately. I didn't want to fuss with the Trash bin as an intermediary, especially since I leave files in the trash for a few days to make sure I don't need them again. Additionally, I am always throwing away non-sensitive files like the images I prep for blog posts and can easily get 100+ files in just a few days. As you would expect, the secure emptying of files from the Trash takes time, and I don't want to wait an extra five minutes to securely delete two sensitive files thrown in with 200 non-sensitive ones. To me, the added convenience of File Shredder is worth the few dollars I paid for the app.
File Shredder is recommend for OS X users looking for a fast, easy and secure way to delete individual files and folders. It is available in the Mac App Store for US$3.99.