Does McAfee Remove Emails for Good in Shredder?

By Dan Stone

McAfee Shredder is like a paper shredder for computer files.
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McAfee Shredder can remove locally stored emails permanently. According to McAffee, the "Shredder tool lets you permanently delete items on your PC you no longer need." The whole point of McAfee Shredder is to make deleted files unrecoverable by even by the most sophisticated of file recovery techniques. McAfee Shredder is limited to deleting the email files stored on the computer through programs like Outlook; however, McAfee Shredder can't touch copies of emails stored on another device or server.

How Files are Undeleted

When a computer deletes files through the Recycle Bin, it's only removing the data path to that file. The computer no longer sees the file and considers the file's former location as empty space. The computer will eventually overwrite the old file when new data is stored on the hard drive. Eventually, the file will be unrecoverable when it has been completely overwritten. File undeletion programs scan the hard drive for files through brute force instead of using the file directory system. The undelete program will find any files that haven't been overwritten or are only partially overwritten. The programs can also be used to restore the files to their original state even if they've been partially overwritten, applying data checksum algorithms to try to fill in the missing information.


File shredder programs like McAfee Shredder are designed to make deleted files impossible to be identified or restored via undeletion software. McAfee Shredder works by shredding, or scrambling, the erased files, writing over the deleted files with an algorithmically determined data pattern. Depending on the Shredding level, McAfee will overwrite the deleted files one or more times. The overwrite algorithm will disrupt the data pattern in such a way that it becomes unrecognizable. When the shredding method works, undeletion programs will produce only incomprehensible data dumps from the former file code.

On Computer Client

McAfee Shredder can shred deleted emails stored on the local computer through client programs like Outlook, Windows Mail and Mozilla Thunderbird. The email shredding option is listed as "deleted items in your email" under McAfee's QuickClean tool. QuickClean will once-over shred locally stored copies of emails from POP3, IMAP and Exchange accounts so the files will not be recoverable on the computer. However, server-based email services may be configured to store copies of the emails on the server in addition to sending copies to all synced devices.

On Server

McAfee Shredder is unable to shred online, server-side stored copies of emails. McAfee Shredder would have to run on the server hosting the email account to destroy the server-side copies of emails. However, it is much more difficult to gain access to the server hard drives where email is stored than a local computer.