Heavy-duty office paper shredders are great for businesses that need to shred documents on a regular basis. Home users, however, may find these types of shredders to be overkill. For them, a smaller paper shredder that takes fewer sheets at a time can do a perfectly adequate job at a much more attractive price.
The Fellowes Powershred 79Ci (Est. $175) gets very positive reviews from owners at retail sites like Staples.com, Walmart.com, and OfficeDepot.com. One feature that impresses both users and professional testers is its anti-jam technology, which alerts you if you try to feed a bundle of paper that's too thick for it. Editors at Good Housekeeping say it can "shred an impressive amount of documents without overheating," and Tony Hoffman of PCMag.com says it also chews through credit cards, data discs, junk mail, staples, and paper clips with ease. The shredder's quiet operation is also a big plus in both professional and user reviews.
The Powershred 79Ci is a console shredder, so you don't need to lift off the motor and cutters every time the 6-gallon bin needs emptying -- but at 21.3-inches high, it's still short enough to tuck under a desk. It's rated for 12 sheets per pass, but both Hoffman and some users say that feeding this many sheets produces an overload warning and that the shredder does a much better job with about half as many sheets. It chews through about 10 feet of paper per minute, reducing it to 1.5-inch strips, and it can run for as long as 20 minutes at a stretch before requiring 30 minutes to cool off.
Users like the Powershred 79Ci for its smooth, quiet operation, sturdy build, and safety sensor that automatically shuts off the machine if a hand touches the paper-insertion slot. Their main complaint, which is echoed by the editors at Good Housekeeping, is that it's difficult to empty the basket without making a mess. You can use a plastic liner, but several users complain that the way the bin is designed tends to tear the bags. The Powershred 79Ci has a two-year warranty, with a lifetime warranty on the cutter.
For those on slightly tighter budgets, the Staples SPL-TXC122A (Est. $150) is a solid choice. It can shred everything the Fellowes Powershred 79Ci can except for paper clips, and testers at Good Housekeeping say it can consume as many as 17 sheets at a time without jamming. It's also faster than the Fellowes, clawing through paper at 14 feet per minute and reducing it to equally small shreds. However, it can only run for about 10 minutes at a time before needing to be shut off for 90 minutes—though Good Housekeeping says it can still get through more than 400 sheets of paper in that time.
The biggest drawback of the SPL-TXC122A, however, is that it's a wastebasket-style paper shredder rather than a console shredder. That means when it's time to empty the 5.8-gallon bin, you have to lift off the entire cutting mechanism, which weighs a hefty 21 pounds. A red lock-out key is this shredder's only safety feature; the main power switch is in full view (where a child can reach it easily), and there's no sensor to shut off the shredder if a hand gets too close to the insertion slot. It also has only a one-year limited warranty. On the plus side, users say the paper shredder runs quietly, and editors at Good Housekeeping were impressed with Staples's customer service.
If you only plan to shred paper on occasion and don't need to destroy things like credit cards or CDs, a cheap paper shredder could be a good fit. The cheapest paper shredders are less powerful and many lack the convenience and safety features of pricier models, but they're smaller in size and generally adequate for personal use.
The Walmart 6-Sheet Crosscut Shredder with Easy Lift Handle (Est. $25) hasn't been included in any professional tests, but it receives a solid score of 4.5 stars out of 5 from nearly 2,000 reviewers at Walmart.com. It can shred up to six sheets of paper or one credit card; it can also handle staples and small paper clips. Users warn that the 6-sheet maximum is a hard limit; although the machine is supposed to power down automatically if you try to overfeed it, a couple of users say it will actually clog instead.
Security-wise, the Walmart shredder could be better; it shreds paper into pieces that are short but wide -- 1.8 inches by 0.2. This could make it easier for a thief to piece documents back together, but if you're mainly shredding documents that aren't that sensitive, it might be all you need. Since this is a basket-style shredder, you have to lift the cutting mechanism off to empty it, and reviewers warn that it can be difficult to do this without spilling paper all over the floor. But despite these drawbacks, most owners consider this basic paper shredder a bargain at $25.