Receipts, tax returns, credit card and bank statements. Once these documents would pile up on your desk until, after a few weeks (or months), you had to decide: do I keep this piece of paper or do I shred it?

Of course, on your computer cleaning up your files is simpler: just delete them by putting them in the Recycle Bin (assuming you’re using a Windows computer) and emptying it. However, you might be surprised to find out emptying your Recycle Bin (or Trash on a Mac) isn’t enough for really sensitive files. People with knowledge of computer forensics can fairly easily retrieve files that you thought were gone for good (and you don’t have to have CSI levels of tech to do it).

As with many things, this is both good and bad. Let’s say you deleted some precious digital photos. A data recovery company can get them back, for a price. But what happens if your laptop is stolen and the criminals who have it are able to recover that copy of your 2006 tax return you intentionally deleted? Or worse, you attract an infection which searches your disk for your private files and transmits them to the thief. It happens and it’s not good!

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a digital version of the paper shredder, which would shred your digital documents and delete them for good? Most security suites, in fact, include tools to do just that.

Comcast High Speed Internet customers have access to the McAfee® Security Suite, so we’re going to concentrate on that for the moment, but if you are using a different product it probably has a similar feature.

The McAfee Shredder is an easy way to make sure that those documents which include sensitive information are permanently deleted from your computer. If the McAfee® Security Suite is running on your PC it is very easy to get to the Shredder. Right click the McAfee icon (a big red M that looks like this: mcafeeicon.jpg) which is located on the bottom right corner of your computer screen, select Open SecurityCenter, select Advanced Menu, click Tools, then click Shredder and select what files you want to shred and click Start (see the above screenshot. The Shredder can delete single files or whole folders, just be sure you have the right folder before you click start!

If you’re on a Mac you can securely empty your Trash, which is a similar idea to the McAfee Shredder, by going to the Finder menu and selecting ‘Secure Empty Trash.’