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Windows 7 tips and tweaks

Clear the page file when shutting down

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We encrypt files on the hard disk drive using various utilities, we encrypt communications over the internet using secure https:// connections, we securely erase files on the disk and on USB flash memory drives when we have finished with them. If you are doing all these things then you may think that you have the security pretty well covered, but there is one additional security task to perform. There is a security hole that must be plugged or everything else you do is a waste of time. Where is this? It is the page file and anything that is stored in memory by Windows can be copied to the disk and with the right tools someone could access information you thought was secure. Fortunately there is a solution.

You can't do anything about the page file when Windows is running because it is constantly in use. Windows uses it for temporary storage of items in memory and it is used a lot more often when it is short of memory. You can clear it when Windows shuts down though and there is a configuration setting to do this automatically. Once set, the page file is cleared when you shut down and this erases any information it might have contained.

Click Start and enter regedit to start the registry editor. Click the plus signs in the left hand pane to expand the contents and find and select HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \SYSTEM \CurrentControlSet \Control \Session Manager \Memory Management. On the right hand side you will then see a list of values. Double click ClearPageFileAtShutdown and change the zero to a one. Quit the registry editor after doing this and then restart Windows. Your PC is now more secure.

The only downside to this is that it might take a second or two longer to shut down as Windows scrubs the page file clean. However, it is worth it.

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