Among lighter duty shredders that are geared to home or home office use, the Fellowes Powershred 79Ci (Est. $180) gets very positive reviews from both professional testers and owners at retail sites like Staples.com, Walmart.com, and OfficeDepot.com. One feature that impresses reviewers 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 Billy Brown of Wired magazine says it also chews through file folders, data discs, and paper clips with ease. Misfeeds are no problem either; Brown says the paper shredder simply pushes them right through, "crumpling up diagonally-fed sheets and turning them all into 1.5-inch-long strips." 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 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. Its claimed 20-minute run time is also exaggerated, according to Brown; in his tests, the auto-shutoff flipped the machine off after only 12 minutes of use, and it required 20 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.
If your shredding needs – and your budget – are more modest, consider the Fellowes Powershred W11C (Est. $65). This shredder can't process data disks like the Powershred 79Ci, but it can handle credit cards, staples, and up to 11 sheets of paper at a time. The strips it produces are actually slightly smaller than the pricier Fellowes shredder's, at just 1.38 inches long. However, it can only shred for 5 minutes at a time before it needs a 20-minute rest. Its smaller 4.75-gallon bin will also fill up faster, and its warranty is shorter: only 1 year on the shredder itself and 3 years on the blades. It doesn't have a safety sensor like the 79Ci, but there is a safety lock to disable the shredder when it's not in use
The Powershred W11C hasn't been covered in any professional reviews, but it gets good overall ratings from users at Walmart.com, Amazon.com, and BestBuy.com. They say this shredder is fast and reliable, chewing through page after page without jamming. Some say that it really can handle 11 sheets at a time, while others claim that its maximum is closer to 6 sheets.
The main complaints about the shredder are that it's loud and difficult to empty. The Powershred W11C is a wastebasket-style paper shredder rather than a console shredder, so when it's time to empty the bin, you have to lift off the entire cutting mechanism by the attached handle. Several users say it's hard to do this neatly. Also, some owners find that when you put the shredder back on the bin, it's tricky to get it seated precisely in position so that it will start up again. But if you don't have all that much to shred, you shouldn't need to wrestle with the bin all that often.
If you only plan to shred paper on occasion and don't need to destroy disks or bulky junk mail, a cheap paper shredder could be a good fit. The cheapest paper shredders are less powerful than pricier models and typically don't offer the same convenience and safety features, but they're smaller in size and generally adequate for personal use.
In this price category, we found the most positive feedback for the AmazonBasics 6-Sheet Cross-Cut Paper and Credit Card Shredder (Est. $30). It hasn't been included in any professional tests, but it receives a solid score of 4.3 stars out of 5 from more than 5,300 reviewers at Amazon.com. It can shred up to six sheets of paper or one credit card; it can also handle staples and small paper clips. However, it can only run for 2 minutes at a time before requiring a 30-minute cool-down.
Users at Amazon.com say this small, inexpensive shredder is reliable and seldom jams. Since this is a basket-style shredder, you have to lift the cutting mechanism off to empty it, but most reviewers don't find that a big problem since the whole thing weighs only 8 pounds. Perhaps the biggest problem with the shredder is that the pieces it produces are short but wide -- 1.8 inches by 0.2 inches. 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. Users also note that the shredder is noisy, and there are a few complaints about durability. But despite these drawbacks, most owners consider this basic paper shredder a good value at $30.