When Windows writes memory data to the pagefile, it can contain sensitive information that you don’t want to be accessible on the disk, including passwords. If anyone in your organization works with sensitive information, clearing the pagefile on that desktop is an important step to take to ensure that data isn’t accessible to unauthorized users.
By modifying a registry setting, you can have Windows clear the pagefile on shutdown. This will wipe data written to disk and prevent sensitive files from being accessible. However, the system may take longer to shut down because the computer must write to each page in the pagefile to erase the data contained in it.
To clear the pagefile each time Windows is shut down, perform the following steps:
- Click Start. Type Registry Editor in the Search field and press Enter.
- Within the Registry Editor, locate the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SYSTEM CurrentControlSet Control Session Manager Memory Management.
- Set the value for ClearPageFileAtShutdown to 1.
- If the value doesn’t exist, add the following: Value Name: ClearPageFileAtShutdown, Value Type: REG_DWORD Value: 1
You must restart the computer for the setting to take effect. Because this may lengthen the shutdown time, you may want to give the setting a trial period to see how it works out. If shutdown takes an excessively long time, you may want to change the value for the setting back to zero. However, if securing sensitive data is critical to your organization, slow shutdowns may be something you are willing to live with.