Erase Free Space on Mac Hard Drive with OS Disk Utility to Prevent File Recovery

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The Mac OS X Disk Utility app offers the ability to erase free space on traditional hard drives, overwriting free space on the drive to prevent possible recovery of deleted files (i.e. files that have been deleted traditionally instead of via secure methods). This is an unnecessary procedure for most users, but if you plan to transfer ownership of a traditional hard drive or computer to someone else and don’t want to securely format the entire hard drive first, this provides an alternative option that allows you to instead, to safely overwrite and delete only the deleted files.

Yes, this only works on traditional spinning platter hard drives, which is typical of MacBook Pro, Mac Mini and iMac models, and is the case with most external hard drives used for backups. This option is not available for flash memory-based SSD models (such as those bundled in MacBook Air, Retina MacBook Pro) because those drives use the TRIM function to quickly delete and restore blocks, which has the side effect of file recovery is prevented automatically quite quickly – often within 10 minutes of emptying the trash.

Clearing free space on hard drives in Mac OS X

Here is how to to erase free space on a Mac hard drive with Disk Utility:

  1. Launch Disk Utility, found in / Applications / Utilities / or via Launchpad
  2. Connect the hard drive if it is an external drive, then select the hard drive from the menu on the left
  3. Choose the tab “Delete” and then choose the option “Delete free space”
  4. Delete free space on a hard drive

  5. Select the desired erasing level and choose ‘Erase Free Space’ to start overwriting the free space on the hard drive

The three options for clearing free space are as follows:

  • Fastest – the fastest option, it writes a number of zeros at once over the unused portion of the hard drive
  • Safe (middle option) – a triple wipe, this writes three zeros over the unused space
  • Most Secure – The most secure option that also lasts the longest, this writes data a total of 7 times over the free space

Clear free space in Mac OS X to avoid file recovery

Choose the option that best suits your needs, but it is generally recommended to use the ‘safe’ or ‘most secure’ option if you intend to transfer ownership of a hard drive, or if you suspects that a hard drive that once contained important data is likely to be stolen or misused. Keep in mind that the last two options take longer to complete as they run the same overwrite job 3 or 7 times.

These options are exactly the same as what is presented by the general safe formatting of an entire hard drive. The difference here, of course, is this trick focuses only on securely erasing the free space (ie focusing on files deleted via the recycle bin), and does not affect the other contents of the hard drives. This makes it a great solution for cleaning situations up Want to keep an existing OS X installation for a new owner and keep things like installed applications, but don’t want anyone to recover your deleted personal information.

Again, this is largely unnecessary for most users, but it is good practice to clear free space on a traditional hard drive on which ownership will be transferred. This can also provide a delayed alternative to using OS X’s safe empty recycle bin if you later decide that you want to avoid the recovery of some deleted files. Finally, if you are absolutely determined to complete this process on an SSD, you can use this workaround to securely erase on SSD volumes, although it really isn’t necessary due to the way SSD drives work, and it gets also not recommended as it writes unnecessarily on an SSD drive, which could shorten its potential lifespan. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting to be thorough.

You will notice this feature is available in all versions of Mac OS X with the exception of El Capitan, where it has been removed from Disk Utility, presumably because many of the popular Macs come with SSD drives by default.

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Erase Free Space on a Mac Hard Drive with OS X Disk Utility to Prevent File Recovery: FAQ

Tutorial Summary: Erase Free Space on a Mac Hard Drive with OS X Disk Utility to Prevent File Recovery

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What is actual time in which this method complete?

The time to complete the Erase Free Space on a Mac Hard Drive with OS X Disk Utility to Prevent File Recovery tutorial is 10+ minutes.

What are the supported Device?

Apple

What are the supported Operating system?

mac OS


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