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Best Shredders: Top Five Picks for Maximum Security

shredded paperAccording to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 17 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014, and that number continues to grow each year. Anything with your name and address, bank account details, credit card information (current or expired), Social Security number, pay stub information, usernames or passwords, or even your signature makes you vulnerable to identity theft, which is why document shredders are so invaluable to keep your information safe.

With a focus on security features, including shred size and types of materials that can be shredded, we’ve got our top five picks for the best document shredders for keeping your information safe.

Quick Comparison

Our Ranking1st2nd3rd4th5th
Product NameFellowes Powershred 79Ci Fellowes Powershred 99Ms Amazon Basics High-Security Micro-Cut ShredderStaples 12-Sheet High-Speed Cross-Cut Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut
View ProductBuy on AmazonBuy on AmazonBuy on AmazonView on WebsiteBuy on Amazon
Shred TypeCross-cutMicro-cutMicro-cutCross-cutMicro-cut
Shred Size4 x 38 mm.2 x 12 mm.4 x 12 mm.4 x 32 mm.4 x 10 mm.
Security levelP-4P-5P-4P-3P-4
Cut materialsPaper, staples, paper clips, credit cards, CDs/DVDsPaper, staples, credit cardsPaper, staples, paper clips, credit cards, CDs/DVDs, cardboardPaper, staples, credit cards, CDs/DVDsPaper, staples, paper clips, credit cards, CDs/DVDs
Capacity16 sheets14 sheets12 sheets12 sheets8 sheets
Speed10 fpm11 fpm6 fpm14 fpm6 fpm
Duty cycle20 min. on/30 min. off20 min. on/40 min. off8 min. on/40 min. off6 min. on/90 min. off3 min. on/40 min. off
Overheating alert
Waste basket capacity6 gallons 9 gallons6.7 gallons5.8 gallons5.5 gallons
Caster Wheels
Warranty2-year machine; lifetime cutter1-year product; 7-year cutter1-year limited1-year limited1-year limited
Our Ranking
Product Name
View Product
Shred Type
Shred Size
Security level
Cut materials
Capacity
Speed
Duty cycle
Overheating alert
Waste basket capacity
Caster Wheels
Warranty
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Fellowes Powershred 79Ci Fellowes Powershred 99Ms Amazon Basics High-Security Micro-Cut Shredder Staples 12-Sheet High-Speed Cross-Cut Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut
Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon View on Website Buy on Amazon
Cross-cut Micro-cut Micro-cut Cross-cut Micro-cut
4 x 38 mm. 2 x 12 mm. 4 x 12 mm. 4 x 32 mm. 4 x 10 mm.
P-4 P-5 P-4 P-3 P-4
Paper, staples, paper clips, credit cards, CDs/DVDs Paper, staples, credit cards Paper, staples, paper clips, credit cards, CDs/DVDs, cardboard Paper, staples, credit cards, CDs/DVDs Paper, staples, paper clips, credit cards, CDs/DVDs
16 sheets 14 sheets 12 sheets 12 sheets 8 sheets
10 fpm 11 fpm 6 fpm 14 fpm 6 fpm
20 min. on/30 min. off 20 min. on/40 min. off 8 min. on/40 min. off 6 min. on/90 min. off 3 min. on/40 min. off
6 gallons 9 gallons 6.7 gallons 5.8 gallons 5.5 gallons
2-year machine; lifetime cutter 1-year product; 7-year cutter 1-year limited 1-year limited 1-year limited

Increase Your Security

While any kind of shredding is preferable to just throwing away sensitive documents, some shredders have features that turn the security up a notch and even make the shredders themselves safer to use.

Shred size

There are three main types of shredders:

  • Strip-cut shredders that simply shred items vertically into long, thin strips
  • Cross-cut shredders that cut vertically and horizontally to produce hundreds of tiny strips from a single sheet of paper
  • Micro-cut shredders that create tiny confetti-like pieces

While using a strip-cut shredder is better than nothing, we recommend using a cross-cut or micro-cut shredder to make it extremely difficult for anything to be pieced back together. The smaller the shred size, the better.

Security rating

The German Institute for Standardization (Deutsches Institut für Normung or DIN) Security Standards define the international standards for paper shredding. Currently, shredders are classified by DIN 66399 into seven levels of security (P-1 through P-7).

Security level P-3 and up are for sensitive or confidential documents. P-3 is for confidential information, such as internal company documents, and P-4 is for sensitive information that requires high protection. Anything above P-5 is generally used for commercial or governmental use.

shredding sizes

Types of materials

shredding credit cardThe most secure shredders can handle more materials than just paper. Most can process plastic credit or store cards, and some can even destroy CDs and DVDs. These shredders can also usually shred staples and/or paper clips left on your papers, which doesn’t necessarily add to the overall security of the machine, but certainly makes it easier to use.

Additional safety features

Not only should your document shredder keep your information safe, but it should also not become a hazard to you or anyone in your home. Look for extra safety features, such as these:

  • Slim or angled feed openings so fingers can’t get caught inside
  • Blade guards
  • Lockout features to disable the shredder when it’s not in use
  • Sensors that will automatically stop the shredder if a finger gets too close to the feed opening

Most shredders also have a light that alerts you if your shredder is overheating, and some even have an automatic shutoff feature if that happens.

Shredding capacity

Be sure to pay attention to usage and processing volume recommendations. If you overload a shredder meant to handle only small volumes at a time, it will wear out quickly, but there’s no need to pay for a shredder meant to process hundreds of pages if you don’t anticipate needing that.

Also check the speed of the shredder measured in feet per minute (fpm), as that will factor into how many papers you can dispose of in one sitting. You probably don’t need a particularly fast machine for personal use, but if it’s too slow, you may leave out documents waiting to be shredded, which could be potentially unsafe.

Duty cycle

shredded paperAlso known as a shred cycle, this is the length of time a paper shredder can run continuously before the cutter blades will begin to overheat. The cycle includes a run time and a cool down; run times can be as short as two minutes and cool down times can be as long as 90 minutes depending on the machine. As with the speed of the shredder, the advantage to having a machine that can run longer is that you are less likely to have a pile of unprotected documents out in the open while you wait for you shredder to cool down.

To determine the overall effectiveness, you really have to look at both the duty cycle and the shredding capacity. For example, even if you have a shredder with only a 3-minute run time at 6 fpm that can take 8 sheets of paper at a time, you’d still be able to shred 156 sheets of paper before it needs to cool off.

Our top five recommendations

While budget, size, and ease of use are important factors in choosing a document shredder, our rankings were determined by the level of security and additional safety features we found. The security ranking, shred size, safety features, and range of materials were the most heavily weighted factors. As a result, all five of these products are highly secure as well as usable.

#1 Fellowes Powershred 79Ci 100% Jam Proof Cross-Cut Shredder

The Fellowes Powershred 79Ci is a heavy-usage shredder that can handle almost anything. It’s a cross-cut shredder with a shred size of 4 x 38 mm. While this size is longer than any of our other top picks, it is still too small for an identity thief to piece together any of your information. It’s also enough to earn the Powershred 79Ci a P-4 security level (recommended for highly sensitive information, like something with your bank account or social security number).

The Powershred 79Ci is equipped with the Fellowes SafeSense Technology, which will automatically turn off the shredder if it senses fingers too near the opening. This is especially important if you need a home office machine and you have small children at home. The Powershred 79Ci can process up to 16 sheets of paper at a time and shreds through paper clips, staples, credit cards, and CDs/DVDs. To top it off, it has the best warranty we’ve seen—two years on the machine and a lifetime warranty on the cutter. The combination of the security level, range of materials it can shred, SafeSense feature, and excellent warranty make this cross-cut shredder our #1 pick for either home or office use.

Pricing & Tech Specs

  • Price: $179.99
  • Dimensions: 21.3 x 15.3 x 10.5 inches
  • Weight: 28.22 lbs.

Pros

  • Security level P-4
  • SafeSense Technology
  • Cross-cut shredder
  • Can shred paper, staples, paper clips, credit cards, and CDs/DVDs
  • Overheating alert light
  • Capacity for 16 sheets
  • 20-minute continuous use
  • 6-gallon waste basket
  • 2-year warranty on the machine
  • Lifetime warranty on the cutter

Cons

  • Larger shred size than our other picks

#2 Fellowes Powershred 99Ms Micro-Cut Shredder

Our #2 pick is another heavy usage Fellowes product: the Powershred 99Ms paper shredder, a micro-cut shredder with a shred size of just 2 x 12 mm, earning it a security level P-5 (recommended for highly confidential or secret information). It also has the Fellowes SafeSense Technology that shuts off the shredder if fingers get too close to the opening.

The Powershred 99Ms can handle up to 14 sheets of paper at a time and also cuts through staples and credit cards, though it does not shred paper clips or CDs. It has one of the faster feet-per-minute rates we saw at 11 fpm and can run continuously for 20 minutes before overheating. Although it might be more than you need for home use and it’s unable to shred CDs, the Powershred 99Ms has one of the highest security levels of any personal/small office paper shredder we found and that placed it near the top of our recommendation list in the #2 spot.

Pricing & Tech Specs

  • Price: $404.86
  • Dimensions: 25.2 x 11.5 x 17.3 inches
  • Weight: 41.5 lbs.

Pros

  • Security level P-5
  • SafeSense Technology
  • Micro-cut shredder
  • Can shred paper, staples, and credit cards
  • Overheating alert light
  • Capacity for 14 sheets
  • 20-minute continuous use
  • 9-gallon waste basket
  • 7-year warranty on the cutter

Cons

  • Does not shred paper clips or CDs/DVDs
  • Very heavy at 41.5 lbs
  • High price

#3 AmazonBasics 12-Sheet High-Security Micro-Cut Paper, CD and Credit Card Shredder

With a shred size of just 4 x 12 mm, the Amazon Basics 12-Sheet High-Security Micro-Cut Paper, CD and Credit Card Shredder has a security level of P-4, plus it can cut up staples, paper clips, credit cards, CDs/DVDs, and even cardboard in addition to paper.

This shredder has an 8-minute shred cycle at a speed of 6 fpm, though if it begins to overheat, an overheating alert will light up and the machine will automatically shut off. As an added safety feature, it also has an angled paper feed entry point, which prevents fingers from accidentally getting too close to the cutters, though it isn’t quite as secure as the SafeSense feature of our Fellowes picks. However, these extra bits of security bumped the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet High-Security paper shredder up our list to be #3, making it a great pick for both a home or small office with medium usage needs.

Pricing & Tech Specs

  • Price: $99.99
  • Dimensions: 24.3 x 17 x 13.3 inches
  • Weight: 25.8 lbs.

Pros

  • Security level P-4
  • Angled paper feed
  • Micro-cut shredder
  • Can shred paper, staples, paper clips, credit cards, CDs/DVDs, and cardboard
  • Overheating alert light and automatic shutoff
  • Capacity for 12 sheets
  • 8-minute continuous use
  • 6.7-gallon waste basket

Cons

  • Speed of only 6 fpm
  • 1-year limited warranty
  • No additional safety features

#4 Staples 12-Sheet High-Speed Cross-Cut Shredder

shredder on white

In our #4 spot is the Staples 12-Sheet High-Speed Cross-Cut Shredder, with a shred size of 4 x 32 mm. It can take all the usual materials (paper, staples, credit cards, CDs/DVDs) except paper clips, but it runs at an amazing 14 fpm, the fastest we’ve seen in a personal paper shredder.

It takes up to 12 sheets of paper at a time with a 6-minute continuous use/90-minute cool down shred cycle before you’ll get an overheating alert. It only has a security level of P-3 (good for internal company documents or your personal info, but not the most sensitive information, like banking details or social security numbers), which brought its rating down a bit on our list. However, it is equipped with a safety lockout feature that allows you to lock the machine when it’s not in use so small children or pets can’t accidentally turn it on. One of the drawbacks of this product is that it weighs 26 pounds and the top has to be lifted off in order to empty the waste basket. If this isn’t a dealbreaker for you, though, this would be a great high-speed cross-cut shredder to consider.

Pricing & Tech Specs

  • Price: $119.99
  • Dimensions: 21 x 16 x 10 in.
  • Weight: 26 lbs.

Pros

  • Safety lockout feature
  • Cross-cut shredder
  • Can shred paper, staples, credit cards, and CDs/DVDs
  • Overheating alert light
  • Capacity for 12 sheets
  • 6-minute continuous use
  • 5.8-gallon waste basket

Cons

  • Only a P-3 security level
  • Does not shred paper clips
  • Heavy top lifts up to empty waste basket
  • 1-year limited warranty
  • 90-minute cool down period after shred cycle

#5 Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut Paper Shredder

The last paper shredder to make it on our recommendations list is the Bonsaii DocShred C156-C paper shredder. It’s a micro-cut shredder with a tiny shred size of 4 x 10 mm and a security level P-4. It takes up to only 8 sheets of paper at a time at 6 fpm, but it can also shred CDs/DVDs and credit cards, as well as any staples or paper clips that end up in a stack of papers.

The Bonsaii DocShred C156-C is not a heavy usage machine, as it can run continuously for just 3 minutes before it needs a cooldown, but that it pretty typical of personal paper shredders. It also does not have any extra safety features other than an overheating alert. However, it is still a solid product choice with a great security level for such a compact size (with the added bonus of being the most inexpensive of our picks), and that earned it a spot on our list of recommendations.

Pricing & Tech Specs

  • Price: $54.99
  • Dimensions: 17.7 x 13.8 x 8.6 in.
  • Weight: 10.7 lbs.

Pros

  • Security level P-4
  • Micro-cut shredder
  • Can shred paper, staples, paper clips, credit cards, and CDs/DVDs
  • Overheating alert light
  • Capacity for 8 sheets
  • 5.5-gallon waste basket
  • Compact size
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Only 3 minutes of continuous use
  • Lifts up to empty waste basket
  • 1-year limited warranty

Cut to the bottom line

Whether you need a document shredder for personal use or at your office, choose a machine that will give you the widest range of security options. Look for products that can shred more than just paper and use cross- or micro-cut shredding for higher security ratings. Safety features that will protect you and your children from accidents are especially important for home office use. Pay attention to the other specs, such as the fpm speed, the shredding capacity, and the duty cycle times so you can shred everything you need to in one batch. It may seem strange to think that your personal details need to be protected even in the trash, but using a document shredder to dispose of anything with your information on it is the safest and smartest way to go.

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