Windows Reset Warning: Personal Files May Remain

John Lister's picture

Microsoft has warned users that a "wipe clean" option in Windows won't remove all files thanks to an ongoing bug. It's mainly a practical problem for anyone planning to sell or give away a computer with hopes of removing all personal data prior.

The problem is specifically with the reset option in Windows that lets users "reinstall" the system without needing to download files or create a USB or DVD boot disc.

This option always removes all installed applications, but users have a choice whether or not to also remove files such as documents. When they choose "remove everything", Windows is supposed to wipe the relevant drives clean before reinstalling Windows, as if it was a completely new computer.

OneDrive Data Remains

The problem is that the "reparsed data" is not always being deleted through this method. In this context that means data that exists both on the hard drive and on online servers, thanks to the OneDrive backup and sync tool.

It doesn't affect files that have only ever been saved to the OneDrive folder, or have been synced to the computer's hard drive but not yet opened.

Microsoft notes the problem can occur both with manual resets in Windows and with remote resets of a computer, including through Microsoft's own Mobile Device Management and Microsoft Intune tools. It also notes some devices may use other terms for the manual reset such as Fresh Start, PBW, Push Button Reset, Reset PC and Reset This PC. (Source:

The problem affects all currently support versions of Windows 10 (from 20H2 to 21H2) and Windows 11.

Workarounds Available

Microsoft is working on a fix, but has two suggested workarounds in the meantime. Users who are planning a reset should either sign out of One Drive or unlink it from their PC before carrying out the reset.

Users who've already done the reset can mitigate the problem by deleting a folder which holds a previous installation of Windows, as described here.

Fortunately, the issue shouldn't be a major problem for most users other than "wasting" small amount of hard drive space. However, it could mean personal documents and files remain on a supposedly reset PC that's passed on to somebody else. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Have you ever used the Windows reset tool? Would this bug cause you problems? If you've ever passed on or sold a computer, what did you do to make it secure and remove your data?

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