Johannesburg - When you work on a computer, you leave a lot of traces. Whether you visit websites, check your e-mail, view or edit documents or photos, your computer records everything you do.

How, you may ask? Because your web browser saves the web pages you view; your e-mail program saves copies of the e-mails you read, compose or send to others; and your text or image-editing program keeps a list of files you have worked on recently.

To begin with, understand what you are trying to delete and why, and this will help you take the appropriate action. Roberto Caprio, managing director at Dial a Nerd, has practical tips for covering your digital tracks:

l Normal “delete” on a Windows PC will not remove a file from the computer, but will only show the space that was occupied by that file as free. This creates the possibility for new data to overwrite in this space, but there is no guarantee of when this will happen – leaving the original data exposed to recovery from unintended people.

l Formatting a drive offers a higher level of security, but it is still open to recovery depending on the type of formatting. A quick format will not remove the data from a hard drive but simply remove the information where the data is stored.

l It is always advisable to be extremely careful when attempting different techniques to delete information from your computer, as the risk is to also remove valuable data that you never intended to delete…

l There is a free program called Eraser that will provide simple tools to permanently remove files from your computer.

l Dial A Nerd recommends Zdelete – a reasonably priced (R300) fully featured program that allows for secure deletion of a host of information from your PC. It has a user-friendly interface and will allow you to delete your internet history, temporary files, cookies, stored passwords etc.

And if you want to dispose of your old computer, Caprio suggests removing the hard drive and destroying it by physical means as probably the best option.

“Finally, Apple’s most recent operating systems offer built-in features to permanently delete information – any technician at an iStore will be able to assist.” - The Star