Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I posted a question about the meaning of ‘hit Delete’ a couple days ago. Now I came across another texting word, “hard-delete” in the headline of Maureen Dowd’s article dealing with Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal, “Time to hard-delete. Carlos Danger” in today’s New York Times. She wrote;

“Yet, while married to the classy, gorgeous mother of his infant son and planning a redemptive run for mayor, he told a Facebook friend and phone-sex partner he had never met that he loved her. Then he told her to “hard-delete” all their correspondence — if that is what you call it.”

I can understand ‘hard to delete memory, stigma, and scandal.’ But I puzzle over what “tell someone to hard-delete correspondence” means, because Dowds deliberately adding to “if that is what you call it.”

Though I guess “hard-delete” is a computer or texting lingo meaning to remove all messages or memory from the hardware, i.e, PC (or mobile), what does “tell someone to hard-delete “exactly mean? Is it a verb established as computer word?

share|improve this question

closed as off-topic by Carlo_R., simchona Jul 28 '13 at 21:25

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. A list of these references can be found here: List of general references" – Community, simchona
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I had never seen the term until I also read Dowd's column today. But I easily figured out the meaning from other expressions in computing like "hard return" (an intentional line break), to "hard code" (enter parameter values directly in the code, making them difficult to alter), and "hard copy". in each case there's a "soft" counterpart that's somehow less permanent than the "hard" action. –  jlovegren Jul 28 '13 at 21:56

1 Answer 1

up vote 8 down vote accepted

To "hard-delete" is to delete irreversibly. Many software applications provide a "soft-delete" function, meaning that it can be reversed. The object deleted can be undeleted. In such applications, there is an option such as "empty trash" which deletes finally or permanently. That would be a "hard-delete". A Google search for "soft deletion" will give examples of both "hard-delete" and "soft-delete" in context. See also:


share|improve this answer
There are different levels of this. Sometimes, an "empty trash" function simply means "this file will no longer be available to be restored," even though a computer forensicist would still be able to recover the files. A "hard delete" (or "secure delete") would instead overwrite the content with 1's and 0's, so that the file is truly permanently erased (as opposed to simply deallocating the disk space). "Hard delete" means, "don't just delete this; make sure it's irrecoverable." –  J.R. Jul 28 '13 at 21:04
Actually, such a hard-delete typically involves writing a random pattern of bits over the disk blocks at least 5 or 6 times, often as many as 10 or 12 times. Where sufficient incentive and resources exists, it is possible to read the last several versions of content for each disk block. Such hard erasure of disk contents is recommended for everyone disposing of a disk drive that has held personal financial information such as bank account numbers and PINs. –  Pieter Geerkens Jul 28 '13 at 22:57

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.