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Large hysteretic resistance changes are reported on sub-100 nm diameter metallic nanowires including thin dielectric junctions. Bi-stable 50% switching in a double junction geometry is modeled in terms of an occupation-driven metal–insulator transition in one of the two junctions, using the generalized Poisson expressions of Oka and Nagaosa (2005 Phys. Rev. Lett. 95 266403). It illustrates how a band bending scheme can be generalized for strongly correlated electron systems. The magnetic constituents of the nanowires provide a magnetoresistive signature of the two resistance states, confirming our model and enabling a four states device application.