Automatically Erase Your Page File

Delete potentially sensitive information

Virtual memory represented by a brain and electrical circuits.

 Yuichiro Chino / Getty Images

Windows uses part of your hard drive space as "virtual memory". It loads what it needs to load into the much faster RAM (random access memory) memory, but creates a swap or page file on the hard drive that it uses to swap data in and out of RAM. The page file is typically on the root of your C: drive and is called pagefile.sys, but it is a hidden system file so you won't see it unless you have changed your file viewing settings to show hidden and system files.

Virtual memory allows Windows to open more windows and run more programs simultaneously while only keeping the one being actively used in RAM. The "problem" lies in the fact that information remains in the page file. As you use different programs and perform different functions on your computer the page file may end up containing all sorts of potentially sensitive or confidential information.

To reduce the risk presented by storing information in the page file you can configure Windows XP to erase the page file each time you shut down Windows.

Here are the steps to configure this setting:

  • Click Start
  • Click Control Panel
  • Click Administrative Tools
  • Click Local Security Policy
  • Click the "+" next to Local Policies
  • Click Security Options
  • Doubleclick "Shutdown: Clear Virtual Memory Pagefile"
  • Select the "Enabled" radio button
  • Click OK