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Wiping Windows 11 and 10 data may not be as easy as intended for OneDrive users

Windows 10 Wallpaper
Windows 10 Wallpaper (Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Windows has built-in functionalities designed to wipe your PC.
  • A new report indicates these tools aren't completing the job on systems utilizing OneDrive, meaning some of your data will survive the wipe.
  • This apparent flaw can be a problem if you plan on selling your PC and don't want its next owner to have access to any of your old files or data.

If you're planning on wiping your Windows PC using the built-in options for device reset operations, know that you may need to go further to really scrub your system clean. As it turns out, Windows' own tools may not be enough to properly clean a device.

As reported by Rudy Ooms, the issue at hand is fixable with a PowerShell script (via Tom's Hardware). Still, be on the lookout for the base problem if you use OneDrive and plan on attempting to wipe your PC anytime soon.

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Whether attempting to local or remote wipe Windows 11 or Windows 10 version 21H2, Ooms found that some personal data ran the risk of being left on the PC in a capacity wherein it was still, with the right tools and know-how, accessible. To showcase this, he pointed to the Windows.old folder, which retained info even after a proper wipe was executed.

Here's the catch: In an update to his initial report, Ooms clarified that "this issue only occurs when you are using OneDrive," meaning those without OneDrive may have the smooth experience that Windows' built-in wiping tools are intended to offer. Though in the event you do use OneDrive, check out Ooms' post for a PowerShell script that'll help you in totally resetting your device.

Microsoft's operating systems are full of little bugs, but don't let that dissuade you from checking out the best Windows laptops, which are still some of the most capable machines on the market.

Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to robert.carnevale@futurenet.com.

5 Comments
  • Does the "Clean the drive" advanced option make this a non issue? It says it's specifically for those who have selling the device in mind. If that doesnt work than that would be a major issue.
  • I wonder as well, but if it is then it is an issue. Which is why I still go with traditional method of just at least reformatting the system. But we care about the data and want it to sell to others, then deep reformat should be a minimum thing to do. Though that maybe not enough for security minded people and wanting to do a professional disk wipe which is not free. The easier way is to replace the SSD or HDD itself. Then just keep it or physically destroy those.
  • Yeah, a complete re-install with a reformat should be done especially on laptops that use emmc.... Fortunately MS raised the bare minimum of storage to 64 gigs... Better late than never I suppose. However, that also means there are alot of laptops out there with onedrive or some sort cloud storage attached to it.
  • You must overwrite the data on your (analog) hard drive(s) multiple times (10 or more) to prevent data from being retrieved. Format and/or reset your system all day long, it will not erase the data. Formatting only erases the database that keeps track of the files locations, the data remains. Data from hard drives is regularly retrieved from burned, smashed and hard drives with scratched platters. Download a deleted file retrieval app and see how much data from the past lingers on your drive(s).
  • Easiest way to way in some cases for mechanical hdds is to use defrag programs like ultimate defrag fron disktrix (i think that's how it's spelt) and move the data inside the platter then to outer rim or do the opposite. Also most folks these days are only using mechanical drives to store games. With a ssd boot drive although there are still some folks with mechanical boot drives lol...