Windows 10/11 Reset (Wipe) Function May Leave Files Behind, Microsoft Warns

Image: Microsoft

If you thought that Microsoft’s “Reset your PC” option was a great way of wiping an installation and its associated files, think again, as the company has now admitted via its official documentation site that doing so may still result in leftover data.

As initially detailed in an extensive post by Rudy Ooms, author of Call4Cloud, the manual/remote wipe functionality in certain versions of Windows is actually stupid enough to leave data on the machine. More specifically, user data is not removed from the Windows.old folder, a brilliant bug that could potentially allow sketchy buyers to skim sensitive information from second-hand systems.

As noted in Microsoft’s list of known issues for Windows 11, the platforms that are affected include Windows 11, version 21H2; Windows 10, version 21H2; Windows 10, version 21H1; and Windows 10, version 20H2. Files might persist after resetting a Windows device on these versions of the OS, as the title of the issue states.

This issue is almost as dumb and careless as when Microsoft set loose a Windows 10 update that resulted in people’s files deleting themselves. Luckily, there is absolutely no way that could ever happen again in current/future versions of the operating system…

Files might persist after resetting a Windows device (Microsoft)

When attempting to reset a Windows device with apps which have folders with reparse data, such as OneDrive or OneDrive for Business, files which have been downloaded or synced locally from OneDrive might not be deleted when selecting the “Remove everything” option. This issue might be encountered when attempting a manual reset initiated within Windows or a remote reset. Remote resets might be initiated from Mobile Device Management (MDM) or other management applications, such as Microsoft Intune or third-party tools. OneDrive files which are “cloud only” or have not been downloaded or opened on the device are not affected and will not persist, as the files are not downloaded or synced locally. Note: Some device manufacturers and some documentation might call the feature to reset your device, “Push Button Reset”, “PBR”, “Reset This PC”, “Reset PC”, or “Fresh Start”.

Workaround: To mitigate this issue, you can do the following:

  • This issue can be prevented by signing out or unlinking OneDrive before resetting your Windows device. For instructions, see the “Unlink OneDrive” section in, Turn off, disable, or uninstall OneDrive.
  • This issue can be mitigated on devices that have already been reset by following the steps in KB5012334—Delete the Windows.old folder using Storage sense in the Settings app.

Next steps: We are working on a resolution for an upcoming release and will provide more information when it is available.

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