Enable or Disable Clear Virtual Memory Paging File at Shutdown in Windows 11 – Windows Blog by Brink

Enable or Disable Clear Virtual Memory Paging File at Shutdown in Windows 11

A paging file (aka: “page file” and “virtual memory”) enables the system to remove infrequently accessed modified data from physical memory to let the system use physical memory more efficiently for more frequently accessed data. Windows also uses the page file to store data when physical memory (RAM) is full.

The Shutdown: Clear virtual memory pagefile policy setting determines whether the virtual memory paging file is cleared when the device is shut down or restarted. Virtual memory support uses a system paging file to swap pages of memory to disk when they aren’t used. On a running device, this paging file is opened exclusively by the operating system, and it’s well protected. However, devices that are configured to allow other operating systems to start should verify that the system paging file is cleared as the device shuts down. This confirmation ensures that sensitive information from process memory that might be placed in the paging file isn’t available to an unauthorized user who manages to directly access the paging file after shutdown.

Important information that is kept in real memory might be written periodically to the paging file. This periodical write-operation helps devices handle multitasking functions. A malicious user who has physical access to a server that has been shut down can view the contents of the paging file. The attacker can move the system volume into a different computer and then analyze the contents of the paging file. This process is a time-consuming one, but it can expose data that is cached from RAM to the paging file. A malicious user who has physical access to the server can bypass this countermeasure by unplugging the server from its power source.

Enabling the Shutdown: Clear virtual memory pagefile policy causes the amount of time that is required to complete a shut down or restart depends on the size of the page file. It takes longer to shut down and restart the device, especially on devices with large paging files. Because the process overwrites the storage area that is used by the page file several times, it could be several minutes before the device completely shuts down or restarts.

This tutorial will show you how to enable or disable clear virtual memory paging file at shutdown or restart for all users in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

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