What Is Data Remanence & How to Remove It in 5 Easy Steps

25 Nov 2020 | Jetico Technical Support

What is Data Remanence? If you haven’t been using a data wiping solution to permanently erase your private information, you are likely to have residual data, or Data Remanence, on your computer.

Here, we'll help you learn about Data Remanence and its risks, as well as how to permanently remove traces of unwanted data from your system in 5 easy steps.

What Is Data Remanence?

Data Remanence is the residual data that remains after you perform common activities like moving files or 'deleting' by normal means. In these instances, only references to the files are removed, while the file data and related information will remain intact on your system in various places:

  • Free space and file slack space
  • File names stored in the Master File Table (MFT) and directories
  • Temporary data stored in the system, such as swap files, system log files, and Internet cache 

In order to understand Data Remanence, it’s helpful to think of your operating system as a messy baby. When you’re feeding a baby, there’s obviously a tendency for food to end up in all sorts of places other than the baby’s mouth. Well, that’s similar to how operating systems handle your sensitive data - the data gets splattered all around in many locations you had not intended or realized. While messy babies are harmless and adorable, a messy operating system carries serious risks to your security and privacy.

Picture of messy baby eating

What Is the Risk of Data Remanence?

When operating systems handle your sensitive information and Data Remanence ends up in hidden or unknown places, third parties can easily recover your original data by using widely available file recovery software.

Especially for businesses, unwanted files can lead to harmful situations:

  • Data breaches
  • Violation of compliance regulations
  • Reputation damage

Remove Data Remanence with Data Wiping Software

"Users have grown more aware that 'deleting' files does not mean obliterating the information they contain."
- Matthew Geiger, Carnegie Mellon University, Forensic Sciences

In order to permanently erase your sensitive information and ensure that no traces of unwanted data remain, it’s clear that your operating system needs some extra help in securely deleting your files. This help can be provided by data wiping software, which is used to shred the contents of your sensitive files or disk space beyond recovery. Using data wiping software regularly will eliminate the problems posed by Data Remanence and truly protect your sensitive information from third parties.  

How to Wipe Data Remanence in 5 Steps with BCWipe

Using BCWipe is like having your own magic nanny to clean up your mess of Data Remanence. By clearing your files and Data Remanence beyond forensic recovery, BCWipe will give you peace of mind that your sensitive information has disappeared for good.  

Here’s how you can remove Data Remanence with BCWipe in 5 easy steps. 
First, make sure you have BCWipe installed. For help with installation, see our instructional video. If you aren't ready to commit, the software is available as a free trial

Step 1: Wipe Free Space

  • After opening 'BCWipe Task Manager', select the 'Tasks' tab from the menu
  • Choose 'Create new task'
  • Select 'Wipe Free space'
Screenshot step 1 wipe free space, remove data remanence
  • Select a drive; you can also use the 'Exclude and hide' option to exclude a specific drive
  • Click 'Apply'

OPTIONAL: Wiping free space can be a time-consuming task. To perform this task in less time, enable 'Manage Reserved Space'. This feature will block off a portion of free space after it has been wiped, which then reduces the amount of free space to be wiped in the future. 

  • Click 'Manage Reserved Space' 
Screenshot wipe free space optional remove data remanence
  •  Drag the slider to define a threshold
  • Click 'OK'
Screenshot reserved space manager, remove data remanence
  •  Select the 'Schedule' tab to confirm when the task will run
  • If you are using SSD, please select the 'Wipe options' tab and choose from the dropdown menu 'U.S. DoD 5220.22-M(E)' to ensure secure deletion

Step 2: Wipe File Slack Space

Below the 'Wiping options' tab, there is the 'Wipe file and directory slacks' section. 

Screenshot step 2 wipe file slack space, remove data remanence

'File slacks' may contain data from other files that were previously written there, while 'Directory slacks' might also contain names of deleted files and other deleted data. Check both boxes to wipe the file slack space and click 'Apply'. 

OPTIONAL: Wiping file and directory slacks is sometimes a time-consuming task, especially if there are many files and folders on the drive. For certain files and folders that you plan to keep for a long time, you can just wipe their slacks once and then configure BCWipe to skip these directories. To create a list of skipped files and folders, check 'Use skipped list' and click 'Edit'.

Screenshot step 2 optional, remove data remanence

Step 3: Wipe MFT Records & Directory Entries

Below the 'Wiping options' tab, there is section dedicated to 'NTFS specific options'. The Master File Table (MFT) is a reserved space on NTFS drives where the file system stores the names and attributes of files. Small files may reside completely inside the MFT. To clean these locations, check 'MFT records for NTFS drives' and then click 'Apply'. 

Screenshot step 3 wipe MFT records directory entries, remove data remanence

Step 4: Wipe Temporary Data Stored in NTFS Log File

The 'NTFS specific options' includes another checkbox 'NTFS Transactions Log File'. NTFS is a journaling file system. Whenever you work with any files, temporary data is recorded in the NTFS Log. The transactions log file is used to restore the file system in case of a failure. To wipe the NTFS Transactions Log File, select the corresponding checkbox and then click 'Apply'.

Screenshot step 4 wipe NTFS log file, remove data remanence

Step 5: Review & Run

Next, click on the 'Log file' tab. Check the 'Use log file' box if you want a logfile to be created. Logfiles can be viewed in 'LogView' or 'Notepad'. Now you can go ahead and click 'OK'.  

Screenshot step 5 log file, remove data remanence

If the selected time for the task was current, then select the task and click the play button. 
This will start the process immediately. 

Screenshot step 5 run task, remove data remanence

Transparent Wiping – Set It & Forget for Data Remanence

When Transparent Wiping is activated on your computer, BCWipe will automatically erase all contents – including Data Remanence – of any deleted files or temporary files beyond forensic recovery.

Watch our how-to video to enable Transparent Wiping on your computer now.

Happy Wiping! 

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