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Privacy issue: Resetting Windows doesn't delete all files

Privacy issue: Resetting Windows doesn’t delete all files


If you reset your Windows device, it assumes that all files from the previous installation will be removed. However, the files can survive the reboot.

Microsoft warns its users that even after restarting a Windows device, data from the previous installation may still be present. This is also the case if users have expressly selected “Erase Everything” on reboot, such as Bleeping Computer

reported
.


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This issue affects Windows devices with files that are on Onedrive or Onedrive for Business and have been downloaded or synced from there to the Windows computer. Such files can survive a reboot in the Windows.old directory.

However, the issue only affects files that are open or downloaded on the Windows device that is being reset. Files stored online only in Onedrive and not downloaded or synced locally are not affected.

“This issue can occur when you try to initiate a manual reset from Windows or a remote reset. Remote resets can be initiated from Mobile Device Management (MDM) or other management applications such as Microsoft Intune or third-party tools.”

writes
Microsoft in this blog post.

These versions of Windows are affected

The issue affects all versions of Windows, such as Windows 11 21H2 and Windows 10 20H2 and 21H2.

According to Microsoft, the October 2021 cumulative update KB5006670 causes this issue on Windows 10 systems. This update already has a bad reputation,

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because it had also caused printing problems.
However, Microsoft did not reveal what causes this issue with surviving files in Windows.old on Windows 11 machines.

The problem

discovered
last week Rudy Ooms. Additionally, Ooms found that on some systems, Bitlocker-encrypted data is also moved to the Windows.old folder unencrypted and readable after a Windows restart.

Microsoft is developing patches

Microsoft is working on a solution to this problem and will fix this bug in an upcoming Windows update.

alternative solutions

Until then, Windows users can avoid this issue by signing out or unlinking Onedrive before restarting their Windows device.

Users affected by the issue should be able to delete any remaining files on devices that have already been rebooted using the Storage Sense feature in the Settings app. You can read here how to proceed with Windows 10 and Windows 11.