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I have a Windows 7 computer which currently has a large working Microsoft Access 2007 database on it containing some tables with confidential data. I would like to securely delete/remove the tables with the confidential data. I'm looking for a good protocol on how to do this.

Does all the data live in the *.mdb file?

Should I be concerned about temporary back-ups made by Access while the DB is open?

I would also like to kill the backups managed by Windows 7 back-up. Is there a good way to remove sensitive data from a Windows backup?

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Just please remember that "delete" an archive isn't enough, you should overwrite it... – woliveirajr Feb 16 '12 at 17:57
Remove all other data except the confidential data. Then destory the HDD. – Ramhound Feb 17 '12 at 15:13

All data lives in the mdb, so once you delete the table, the data is gone.

The backups are going to be the tricky part. If you are using Windows 7 Backup, then you cannot selectively remove data without making the backup potentially unusable for a restore (unlike other backup solutions).

I would delete all backups, remove the data from the Access database, then perform a fresh Full backup of the system. I would also look for any backup media that would have the old mdb files and delete those, as well.

If deleting old backups is not possible, I would encrypt and physically secure the backup media.

All this is assuming that the removal of the confidential data will not break the database or the application relying on the database. I, personally, would keep a copy of the current database before deleting and let the application run for a period of time to determine the effect of the data removal. Then delete the one-off backup once I was sure things ran as expected.

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Data remains in the data file after the table is deleted. Only when that space is used by other data or the database is "compacted & repaired" is the space collected. – Jeff Ferland Feb 17 '12 at 15:37

If you really don't want that information around, consider

  • Compacting and repairing the database

  • Re-formatting the partition where the MDB used to reside (or physically shred that physical drive)

  • Shredding the backup tapes

I can't say if access stores data in temporary locations on a users drive, though that is an interesting question ...

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Remove all other data except the confidential data. Then destory the HDD. The system images that were created by Windows 7 should be treated as they are confidential. So EVERY SINGLE copy that exists should be destroyed or at the very least treated as being confidential.

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You should review the MSDN article for restoring tables using VBA. You can paste the code into a module in your database and run it in under a minute. If a table can be restored it will be.

The deleted table can be recovered prior to the database being closed and/or compacted. The VBA script can give you some peace of mind. Backed up mdb files will need to be addressed tin the same manner.

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This doesn't address the author's question in the slightest. – Ramhound Feb 17 '12 at 15:15

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