Secure Empty Trash in Mac OS X
If you need to delete sensitive information and have it completely inaccessible, you’ll want to use the “Secure Empty Trash” feature. This works by writing random patterns of data over a trashed file immediately after it has been emptied, or removed from the filesystem, such a process which otherwise takes place over time throughout normal computer usage as more files are created and deleted.
There are two easy ways to secure empty the Trash on the Mac. In order for either option to be visible to you, you must have some file or folder within the Trash can, otherwise the option will not be visible since there is nothing to trash.
1: Secure Empty Trash Quickly in Mac OS X with a Right-Click
Mac OS X makes it easier than ever to access secure file removal:
- Command+Right Click the Trash can
- Select “Secure Empty Trash
You must hold the “Command” key while right-clicking the Trash icon in the Dock, or else the Secure option will not be visible.
2: Secure Empty Trash from the Finder Menu
The “Secure Empty” option is also accessible from the Finder menu, and the resulting behavior is identical in that it overwrites the removed data:
- With anything in the Trash, pull down “Finder” menu and choose “Secure Empty Trash”
Using secure empty will take a bit longer than emptying the Trash as normal, this is because the aforementioned overwriting process is taking place. The more files you are secure deleting, the longer this process will take.
Get in the habit of using Secure Empty Trash anytime you are removing something that is truly sensitive and that you don’t want others to regain access to. Things like financial statements, credit card information, personal files and diaries, or deleting the source files and finished documents from openssl file encryption.
Enable Secure Empty as Default Method of Trashing
For nearly every version of Mac OS X, there is also an option to always securely empty the Trash, enabled within the Advanced Finder preferences. If you regularly work with private data this is a good feature to turn on.
While the Secure Empty Trash feature makes recovering data significantly more difficult even by professional data recovery services, if you want true data removal without any traces, performing a secure format of a hard drive is the safest bet and is always recommended when transferring ownership of a Mac or it’s hard drive.