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One of the options offered when you right click the desktop or within a Nautilus window is "wipe available diskspace." I'd think that means all unused diskspace but assumptions can be dangerous. I don't want to try it only to find out that available meant "all". I can't remember seeing this option before 12.04.

I was asked to provide an image but unfortunately when right clicking to get the drop down menu, the print screen function doesn't respond thereby making an image impossible.

It appears that no responder so far has actually used this nautilus option. Jorge suggested that the feature was actually nautilus-wipe and I verified that is the case by removing nautilus-wipe and seeing that the menu option is now gone. Documentation for nautilus-wipe is almost non-existent and what little I found was superficial and contradictory. This doesn't leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling regarding my using an application or feature that purports to "wipe disk" without a clear definition of what is wiped.

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Where are you right-clicking when you see this option? Can you edit the question and add this in please? Maybe even a screenshot. – Tom Brossman Apr 22 '12 at 8:33
Yeah a screenshot will be nice, as i'm not seeing this on my system – sarveshlad Apr 23 '12 at 1:21
Maybe it's nautilus-wipe: – Jorge Castro Apr 23 '12 at 1:30
Using locate I found libgsecuredelete which Jorge's link said is used by nautilus-wipe. With Software Center I found there is a nautilus-wipe package installed. Software Center said Nautilus Wipe is a Nautilus extension that adds "Securely erase" and "Securely fill empty space" items to the right-click menu which is inconsistent with the right click Nautilus menu which says wipe available diskspace. – fragos Apr 23 '12 at 3:17
Are you using Tails? It's the only search result for the exact phrase you mention. Also, you can get a screenshot by setting a delay of a few seconds. Set the delay, press the 'Take Screenshot' button, then right-click and wait. – Tom Brossman Apr 23 '12 at 8:35
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I think you are correct. It would wipe the available disk space and not system files or personal files. Unless wipe has changed from the days of 9.10 it "should" be fine to use. As a side note, there are other utilities in the repos that work like bleachbit if security is a factor for you.

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Maybe I can help:

First, this page does a decent job of describing the two options; it's from a live Debian disk called Tails that's designed for incognito security.

Securely clean available disk space

Second, I went ahead and tested the Nautilus "Wipe available diskspace" option on a USB key with a live distro of Ubuntu on it.

  • All of the empty space was securely zeroed out.
  • None of the live disk files that were already on the USB key were touched.

In other words, here's what's happening: When you delete/trash a regular file, it's no longer available, but the content still resides on your disk until it is over-written with new content. So you can't see the data, but it's not actually gone, and is still recoverable. (If you've ever had to use recovery software, you may have found loads of old files you thought were long gone.)

The "Wipe available diskspace" option simply looks at all of the empty/non-used space on a volume, and over-writes that space with zeroes and random data. That means any previously-deleted data that might still be sitting around on the disk will now be unrecoverable. However, the "Wipe available diskspace" option does not seem to touch any of the currently-visible and available data.

I hope this helps, but just to be safe, always be sure to back up your necessary data first.

(I'm curious about the differences, if any, between "Wipe" and "Shred".)

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My hunch, and it's just a hunch, is that "wipe" means "zero-out" and "shred" performs a military grade erasure by writing several patterns of alternating 0 and 1 and some random data on top to ensure no data can be retrieved from residual magnetization of a hard drive surface. – ddaa May 8 '12 at 19:58

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