The Windows Cipher Command
Wipe free disk space with a simple command and make deleted files unrecoverable
This tip is for Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and Windows 11
By now you know that when you delete files or folders in Windows, they’re not really deleted. Not even close. Deleting a file or folder merely tells Windows that the space occupied by the file or folder that you deleted is now available for use, and Windows considers it free space – that is – space it can use.
So everything you delete is still on your computer, but the hard drive space it used shows as free space. Of course, this means any of those files you deleted are recoverable at least for a while. In fact, with the right software, everything you’ve ever had on your computer, every word you’ve typed, every picture you’ve saved and deleted, and everything else is recoverable.
But did you know there’s a hidden utility in Windows that will overwrite all the free space, thus making the files you’ve deleted unrecoverable – or at least nearly impossible to recover? There is — and all it takes is a simple command to run it.
Press the Windows Key plus the “R” key and type:
cipher /w:C (where C is the letter of the drive you want to wipe). So, for example, if you want to wipe the free space on drive C, type:
If you want to wipe drive F, type
Please note the space between the word cipher and the forward slash.
Don’t worry. Wiping the free space on your drives does not affect any of your data or programs. It merely wipes the space Windows shows as free to use that was once occupied by files you deleted. So you won’t lose anything by doing this.
One more thing: If you have a very large hard drive with a lot of free space, this process is going to take a long time, so be prepared. Also, closing all open applications while the free space is being wiped, helps speed up the process. So it’s best to do this when you’re not actively using your computer.
And yes, we know… there are plenty of free programs that claim to wipe free disk space and claim to make files unrecoverable. But now you know how to wipe free space with a simple Windows command – no third-party software needed.