Why Do I Need Privacy Software?
The top performers in our review are CyberScrub Privacy Suite, the Gold Award winner; east-tec Eraser, the Silver Award winner; and Privacy Eraser Pro, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing software to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
Since hackers, businesses and the government all have vested interest in your online habits and data, it is more important than ever to protect yourself online and off. Installing privacy software does not mean you have done or plan to do something wrong – it simply means you are standing up for your right to privacy on the internet. These programs are also good options for erasing and shredding data from your computer so you can safely recycle or sell it.
Each privacy eraser uses a file shredder and wiper to permanently remove files from your computer beyond recovery. The file shredder wipes a file in a similar manner to a piece of paper being shredded. The data is still intact, but it has been broken down and scattered into a number of small files that are functionally indecipherable and virtually impossible to put back together. Each software allows you to customize how many passes you want it to take when overwriting the files. This process buries a file under so much nonsense data, its original information is virtually unrecoverable.
Privacy software keeps your internet activity private and prevents identity theft. These programs erase internet history, hiding or wiping traces that computers save during and after browsing sessions so others cannot follow your tracks. They also clean your Windows activities. These features keep others from gaining access to your online activities and mask your computer activity.
Programs typically perform the same tasks, such as wiping Windows, internet browsers and applications, with some variance in the techniques they to make your internet use private. Each program has a different feature set, with only some offering free space wiping, removable media wiping and email cleaning. While most applications clear information from all internet browsers, you want to make sure the browser cleaner works with the most recent plugin for your internet browser.
If you are looking for software to strengthen your computer or internet security, we have several other software reviews, including computer protection software, encryption software and internet security suites software that help you protect your computer. To learn more about how to protect your computer from prying eyes, our learning center has articles on privacy software.
More and more, privacy software is being offered as a subscription-based service (SaaS). However, the features each software offers and the techniques it uses remain comparable between the software and SaaS versions. Typically, a paid subscription ensures you have the most up-to-date plugins for your computer’s applications. We reviewed software and subscription services that ranged in price from $25 to $60, with the price of services taken annually.
Privacy Software: What We Tested, What We Found
Several factors determine which privacy software best fits your needs. We tested several key software functions to determine which programs are the easiest to use and the most effective at maintaining online privacy. We performed the same tasks on our test computer’s Windows operating system and internet browsers before using each privacy software to erase our activities. After that, we searched for left-behind tracks manually using the computer’s search tools, followed by using recovery software to bring back as much data as possible.
History eraser software should keep your information private when you are connected to the internet. After you disconnect, the application should erase all evidence of your activities so others cannot reconstruct where you went or what you did. Likewise, it should eliminate tracks of data, including usage history, recently opened files, temporary files, clipboard items and the SWAP files that reveal what you were doing on Windows.
We tested how well the software shredded the internet browser history and Windows history separately, awarding scores for each. Privacy software that completely erased all traces of internet, application and Windows activity beyond recovery were awarded the highest scores. When using recovery software, we found most of the software left behind tracks either from the internet browser or Windows.
Privacy Effectiveness: Keeping Your Browser Activity Safe
With the exception of a few programs, the privacy software we tested secured our online privacy well. Using the recovery software, we found minimal traces of our internet activity remaining when we used Privacy Eraser Pro and ParetoLogic Privacy Controls. While the information left behind did not reveal much about our online activities, it is important to note that someone using recovery software can still see what you do on the internet when you use those programs. When we tested Winsweeper and Winsettings Pro, we found traces of activity left behind in the address bar and internet browser history that could reveal to others where you have been doing online.
Privacy Effectiveness: Cleaning Up Your Windows Activity
The top-rated programs eliminated all traces of activity permanently from our Window-running test computer to the point that even recovery software was unable to identify the documents we created or opened. Many of the software left behind tracks of documents, regardless of their robust tools.
We found that while each software wiped and shredded files, only the best privacy software rendered the erased data unrecoverable and received 100 percent effectiveness scores. When we cleaned Windows activity with Winsweeper and HistoryKill, we were able to recover traces of some documents using recovery software. Two of the software, ParetoLogic Privacy Controls and Winsettings Pro, left behind traces of documents that we were able to find performing a simple search of the computer. Depending on the level of security you need, these programs may reveal unwanted information to others.
Ease of Use
If the software is too complicated, you are more likely to make a mistake and compromise your computer privacy. It may also discourage you from using the software. We found that programs with features that work automatically make it easy to protect your information on a regular basis. The best programs allow you to schedule times to scan and shred your personal information each day or every time you exit the program. While all of the programs have cleanup schedulers, some of the programs offer much more extensive and customizable schedules than others.
Most of the applications allow you to customize which parts of your computer or browser they scan, rather than wiping your entire computer. This feature saves you time, and you can keep information you use on a regular basis. For example, you can save cookies to websites you use daily so you do not have to manually enter information every time you are on the site.
We found that software with clearly labeled icons for Windows cleaning and internet browsers were the easiest to use. Using these top-rated software, you simply mark the files under each category you want scanned and shredded. The applications that also wipe instant messenger programs and email use these same labels, making it easy to quickly erase all your personal data.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the units in our comparison from the companies and through retail purchase. The companies had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
What Else Is Important When Selecting Privacy Software?
In addition to each software’s usability and effectiveness, it is important to consider the scope of each one’s feature set. The applications vary widely in how extensive their features are. Some software wipe your computer, internet browser, emails and instant messengers, while others only scan and shred your internet activities and computer files.
The degree to which you want to protect your computer determines which features you want your privacy software to have. To protect yourself online, the privacy software you choose should include a history cleaner, which completely erases your internet browser data in the address bar history, cookies, visited sites, downloads and favorites list. You also want a program with tools to clean temporary internet files, as well as the data from auto completion forms.
In addition to browser cleaning tools, privacy programs should have tools to clean Windows’ temporary files, recycle bin, computer history and clipboard. By regularly deleting these files, you protect your hard drive. Many privacy software options also have file shredding and free-space wiping capabilities.
Several of the top-rated software scan and wipe your email and instant messengers. If you want to protect everything you do on the computer, you want privacy software that cleans all of the files on your computer, including your instant messages and emails.
Privacy Software: Our Verdict and Recommendations
While most of the software we reviewed maintain your privacy online and Windows security, there are three particular programs that stand out above the rest. CyberScrub Privacy Suite offers a variety of tools that clean your Windows system and internet browsers beyond recovery. Additionally, it has email cleaning tools and wipes data from popular instant messengers like AOL, Yahoo and MSN. Even though it has so many tools and capabilities, this software is still very usable. CyberScrub Privacy Suite has a clean interface, and you can customize its tools to create the level of security you need. The application’s ability to completely remove documents and computer activity makes it the best privacy software available.
East-tec Eraser has an interface that looks similar to CyberScrub Privacy Suite’s interface. Its clean look makes it easy to find tools so you can wipe data from your internet browser or Windows. In addition to the standard privacy tools, such as the file shredder and Windows and internet privacy browser cleaning options, this program has a removable media wiper that shreds data on external devices, such as USB drives, offering another layer of security. This software has several convenience features, including a scheduler and customizable security. It also wipes your email and instant message conversations, ensuring every part of your computer remains safe. This is also one of the most affordable options we reviewed.
Privacy Eraser Pro has a unique, clean interface. It is easy to find the tools you need to scan and wipe data on your computer. Like east-tec Eraser, this software wipes removable media hardware, as well as internet browsers and Windows. Privacy Eraser Pro has more than 250 preconfigured plugins so you can clean popular applications on your computer, as well as the ability to make your own app plugins so you can delete traces of any application. While it is one of the best privacy software available, it does not wipe SWAT files, instant message conversations or email, which leaves some of your information susceptible to falling into the wrong hands.