Snow Leopard: Slow to empty trash?

Whenever Apple releases a new version (or even an update) to the operating system, all sorts of strange things seem to happen. While some problems can be blamed on a bug in the newest software, other issues occasionally appear, but it is difficult to point to a cause for them.

I have seen several reports that the trash can take forever to empty in Snow Leopard. However, I have not seen it happen on my computers or those of any of the clients of Doctor Mac Consulting.

So, what is causing the problem, and how can you fix it?

When you put a file into the trash and use the empty trash command, your file is not really erased. Instead, the name is removed and the space is marked as available in your hard drive's directory file. The file can be recovered if that area of the hard drive has not had a new file written to it.

Sometimes users want a file to really be deleted. They want to make sure someone cannot easily recover the file. In Mac OS X, there is a Finder command to securely empty the trash.



Since there is an ellipsis at the end of the phrase, a dialog box will appear:



But, just what does Secure Empty Trash do? It writes 1's and 0's over the information in the file eight times. If a file is large, or if there are many items in your trash, that can take a LONG time!

Some people want every file that they throw away to be securely erased. There is a finder preference to do just that:



If the check is present, be prepared to wait--and sometimes wait--and--wait--and--wait!

If you only occasionally want a file to be securely erased follow this procedure:

  1. Empty the trash.
  2. Place the file to be securely erased into the trash.
  3. Use the Finder > Secure Empty Trash… command.

Until just a few years ago, data that was over-written eight times was considered to be unrecoverable, even for government security purposes. However, today they require 32 overwrites for a file to be considered unrecoverable.

Mac OS X Snow Leopard has lots of hidden new features. While there are lots of articles and resources available, some of us learn better with hands-on learning. If you would like a bit more help, consider booking a tutorial session with me at Dr. Mac Consulting. The cost is $60 per hour and we will cover just what you want to learn. Give us a call at 408 627-7577 or send us a message at urgentrequest@boblevitus.com.

--Pat

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