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File Erase and File Delete: What’s the Difference?

by James Musoba
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When you want to sell or donate your hard drive to your friends/family, or dispose of the hard drive, be careful with how you choose to wipe your confidential data from it.

Are you going to delete your files from the drive or permanently ‘erase’ it?

As we highlight the word ERASE, you may think, how is it different from file deletion?

For starters, ‘File Deletion’ and ‘File Erasure’ may sound similar, but indeed are different from each other. Not just a little bit, but a lot-lot different. When you delete a file, there are still chances for file recovery, but it’s gone forever when you opt for File erasure. To understand the real difference between file erase and file delete, you must know how both procedures work. So let’s dig deep and learn more!

What do you understand by File Delete?

File deletion can be done under several circumstances, including:

  • While transferring data from one device to another
  • Removing unwanted photos, videos, files, etc.
  • Impromptu use of Shift+ Del key
  • Emptying the Recycle Bin
  • Accidental drive formatting, etc.

All these situations refer to file deletion. However, the file deletion method is also essential.

  • The first method is simply using the ‘Del’ key to remove data. When you only use the ‘Del’ key to delete something from your Windows system, it generally goes to Recycle Bin.
  • The second method is using the ‘Shift+Del’ When you delete a file using the Shift+Del key from a Windows system or any external storage drive, such as HDD, SSD, USB drive, etc., the File gets deleted permanently. It doesn’t reach Recycle Bin.
  • Emptying Recycle Bin is similar to using the Shift+Del If you’ve accidentally or intentionally emptied the Recycle Bin, the file will be permanently deleted.
  • Drive formatting also leads to permanent data loss.

These were the common methods of file deletion. Now, let’s understand what happens when a file is deleted permanently!

What happens when you permanently delete a file?

When a file is permanently deleted from a hard drive, or the hard drive’s been formatted, it gets removed from its existing location. But the file remains there (though inaccessible), only the file pointers get deleted. And in turn, the space becomes available, or a new index for file storage gets created. But, if you consume this space by adding more data, it will gradually overwrite the existing (inaccessible) files and chances for data recovery will be lesser.

It is to remember that deleted files will be overwritten with the new data over a time period. This process may consume days, but still there’s no assurance that the file will be erased permanently.

What does File Erase mean & how it works?

File erasure means taking an external software’s help to overwrite the data on every sector of the storage drive using Zeros and ones or some random patterns. This method aims to overwrite the data existing on any hard drive or any digital media beyond the scope of recovery. The process of overwriting can be done once or multiple times. After the data erasure, you can be rest assured of the File being erased beyond the scope of recovery.

Why is File Erasure important?

It is directly related to the drawback of file deletion process. As discussed above, when a file is deleted, only the file pointers get deleted, but the File remains there until overwritten with new data. The deleted files can be recovered with a powerful data recovery tool. It means, if you intend to wipe your data permanently, the purpose won’t be served. You’ll be at risk of data theft, data breach, and other IT threats. Whereas, file erasure makes sure that once ‘erased,’ nobody, not even you, will be able to retrieve it, meaning you can be relieved that your data is gone forever and no one can access it.

How to Erase a File beyond Recovery?

Now that you know the difference between File delete and File erase, and the importance of File erasure, check out the steps to erase a file.

There are multiple file erasure software available in the market. One of the most trusted ones are BitRaser File Eraser. It is a powerful yet easy-to-use DIY file eraser tool that can help you erase the deleted data, existing files, folders, browser history, internet cache, traces, app/system traces, and more. You can also set up a Scheduler to run at a given time and date. Then, the software automatically starts performing the data erasure task at the scheduled time and date. Click here to learn more.


Hope now are familiar with the fundamental difference between file delete and File erase. Where file deletion only makes the data inaccessible, erasure ensures that the data is gone forever. Hence, if you want to wipe any confidential data from your drive, sell it or dispose it, make sure you ERASE data, not just delete it. And, to do so, you can use a reliable and robust data erasure tool, such as BitRaser File Eraser. This DIY tool can permanently erase any data with system/app traces, browser history, and more.

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