How to Securely Delete Data on Your Mac

| Updated on February 13, 2024
Your-Mac

Whether you’re using a smartphone, laptop, or desktop, you have to delete data from your device securely. Sometimes you might be changing your device, selling it off, or simply giving it to someone else. Based on the software used, different devices have different data deletion methods.

If you’re a Mac user, then this is something you should be aware of. The last thing you want is someone else seeing your sensitive or private data after you no longer possess the device. Simply deleting files from a Mac won’t ensure that those deleted files won’t be recovered. Here’s everything you need to know about securely deleting data on your Mac.

What is Erasing vs. Wiping?

When data is deleted from a Mac, it can happen in one of two ways- erasing and wiping. Though they might be synonymous, they are entirely separate functions. Erasing is temporarily deleting data from a particular partition of your hard drive. This temporarily clears the disk space, but the data remains recoverable using the right tools.

Wiping, on the other hand, is the process of permanently deleting data from a particular partition by deleting disk space on your hard drive, making the data recoverable. This means once you wipe a partition or the entire hard drive, it will be scrubbed clean, resetting it to default factory settings.

The appearance of the settings panels for both erasing and wiping look very similar, so make sure to double-check.

Erasing data isn’t an amateur’s job, so it’s best to let the pros do it if you don’t feel confident about securely deleting data by yourself. You can easily find laptop and computer repair services around you by looking up ones near your geographic location online. 

How to Erase a Hard Drive or SSD

In most instances, erasing data from your Mac involves using Apple’s Disk Utility “standard erase” for an SSD as specified in Apple’s FAQ section. The section doesn’t tell you that this process doesn’t properly erase data from your hard drive. To altogether remove the desired data from the hard drive, you need to perform a cryptographic erase.

Cryptographic erase is a form of data sanitization that makes it almost impossible to recover the targeted data once the process has been performed. It is a kill switch that eradicates the encryption key of a device or hardware with a self-encrypting drive. It only works on encryption algorithms comprising 128 bits or more.

Cryptography

To perform cryptographic erasure, you need to use cryptography software that will link with your device’s API, requesting permission to have access to your device’s encryption key. It then removes the old key and replaces it with a new key. To ensure that the process has been performed properly, the software will also generate a certificate once the process has been executed properly.

The main benefit of using cryptographic erasure is that it’s a fast and easy way to format a hard drive more thoroughly than the default SSD erasing option. On the flip side, it also comes with the disadvantage of not meeting compliance requirements for verification and certification.   

How to Securely Erase Files 

Aside from cryptography erasure, you can also use different free tools available on the internet to erase data from your Mac. This software, commonly known as ‘file shredders’, do a serviceable job of erasing data from your hard drive if you don’t have access to cryptographic erasing software. These tools work a bit differently from cryptographic erasure, which makes them a viable option in a pinch.

File shredders are basically software that rewrites the files with a random string of binary codes instead of tampering with the encryption protocol of your device. Usually, they’re free to download and can be used on most commercial operating systems. However, not all of them work on Mac, so make sure to check if the one you plan to use is compatible with Macs.  

Take Things Slowly

Now that you know the basics of deleting data from your Mac and the most common ways to do them, you shouldn’t have trouble figuring out the rest. Tinkering with the various options might seem intimidating at first, in which case you should look up a tutorial video online. That way, your chances of making any mistakes will be significantly reduced. 





L. Dias William

Education

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