Clear your Windows paging file at shutdown to protect your private data
The Windows paging file is a temporary area of storage on your computer’s hard drive. Although the hard disk in your computer is usually too slow to be used for data that the computer is currently working on, Windows can use the hard drive to store paging files, which contain data that is quickly swapped out of memory to make room for new information. If you ever noticed a pause, followed by a burst of disk activity when you switched from one program to another, this could have been caused by Windows using your paging file, to store or retrieve data from your hard drive into main memory.
Because Windows can potentially store any information in these files, they represent a security risk. Although the risk is fairly minimal and the effort required to search through a Windows paging file is considerable, nevertheless the risk does exist. Some security experts recommend disabling Windows paging files altogether. However, on systems with limited memory this is not practical. If you need to use paging files and you are concerned about security, you can set Windows to clear your paging files every time you reboot. There are a number of things you should keep in mind before you decide to do this however:-
- Wiping your paging files will add between 5 and 15 minutes or more to the time it takes to shut down your PC
- If you don’t shut down your PC correctly (i.e from the Start menu) paging file cleaning will not take place
- There is no reason to enable this option if you have encrypted your entire Windows drive (unless you moved a paging file to an unencrypted drive as shown in this tutorial)
If, having read the above, you still want to enable this feature, the video below will show you how.
Please exercise caution when following this tutorial!
This tutorial involves the Registry Editor. Editing the wrong settings in the Registry Editor can have catastrophic effects on your PC, so please follow the tutorial carefully. If you are not confident with using the Windows Registry Editor, you may wish to consider a utility like Evidence Eliminator instead, which has facilities for cleaning the Windows paging file.
To start the video presentation, please click on the picture below.
For your reference, the registry key you need to edit is called “ClearPageFileAtShutdown” and is located at “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE -> SYSTEM -> CurrentControlSet -> Control -> Session Manager -> Memory Management”.
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