The Windows tool for wiping personal data has a problem

Surely, in the course of your computer life, you will have used the recovery tool a few times Windows which can be found in “Settings” -> “Advanced Options” -> “Reset your PC”, choosing to remove personal files before reinstalling the operating system. Obviously, if this operation is carried out simply for pure maintenance, for example to have a clean system after several months of use, there are no major problems, but often this feature is also used when you decide to sell or donate your device. to other people. In the latter situation, it is especially important that all personal files are actually removed and deleted.

Unfortunately, Rudy Ooms, Microsoft MVP, discovered the tool featured in Windows 10 And Windows 11 21H2 it doesn’t do its job perfectly, both locally and remotely. The man later tested the functionality in other versions of the operating system, verifying that, instead, in Windows 10 and Windows 11 21H1 the operation was carried out correctly. In the table below you can see a summary of the results obtained.

Action in Windows 10/11Results
Remote cancellation 21H2User data not removed from Windows.old
Deletion of protected files remotely 21H2User data not removed from Windows.old
Local cancellation 21H2User data not removed from Windows.old
Local deletion of files in the cloud 21H2User data not removedi from Windows.old
Deleting protected files locally 21H2User data not removed from Windows.old
Remote reset 21H2User data not removed from Windows.old
All cancel and restore actions in 21H1User data removed from Windows.old

As you can read, the main problem concerns the failure to remove the directory called “Windows.old” which contains all the previous personal files present before the restore. Furthermore, even in the case of an SSD or hard disk protected with Bitlocker, when the recovery is carried out Bitlocker is removed and all the files are moved to the Windows.old folder, now no longer encrypted and therefore readable by anyone. Finally, files synced to OneDrive marked with the “always keep on this device” option were also included in Windows.old.

Pending a fix from Microsoft, Ooms has created one PowerShell script to be launched before carrying out the operation. The next time you perform a system restore with deletion of personal files, make sure that the Windows.old folder is not present on the main disk or on other storage devices connected to the device.