The “Mysterious” Cipher Command
After last week’s Wednesday Newbytes, we received several questions about the cipher command.
The Cipher command has been around as long as Windows and is still an available command in Windows 10 and Windows 11.
When you delete files or folders, the data isn’t removed from the hard drive. Instead, the space on the disk that was occupied by the deleted data is deallocated. After it’s deallocated, the space is available to use when new data is written to the disk. Until the space is overwritten, you can recover the deleted data using data recovery software.
So, simply put, when you delete something on your computer, it’s still there until the disk space occupied by whatever you deleted is overwritten by something else. Until that space is overwritten, the data you deleted is easily recoverable.
You can use the cipher command to overwrite the space that was occupied by deleted data thus making it unrecoverable. You can use the cipher command to overwrite deleted data on an entire drive or directory. The cipher command does not delete, change, or affect undeleted data. So, you can run the cipher command without affecting the undeleted data in directories or drives.
To overwrite all deleted data on an entire hard drive, type CMD into the taskbar search and press enter when you see Command Prompt appear.
To overwrite all deleted data on the C: drive, use the command:
CIPHER /W:C \TEST
The spaces in the command must be included. W:C means overwrite deleted data on drive C:\. If you want to overwrite deleted date on drive E:\ then the command would be CIPHER /W:E \TEST
To overwrite deleted data in a specific directory use the example command below. You can substitute the directory name in which you want to overwrite all deleted data. Below we’re overwriting deleted data in the Documents folder. You can substitute any directory name (folder name) instead of Documents.
Remember…any files or folders you delete in Windows are not deleted, they ca1 still be recovered until the space occupied by those files and folders is overwritten. If you want to make all your deleted files and folders unrecoverable, you can use the Cipher command to overwrite all deleted data.