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We report on the observation of significant optical bistability in the transmission and reflection properties of mesoporous silicon microcavities when illuminated with a 150 ns pulsed laser at 532 nm. The observed optical hysteresis is shown to be transient in nature and the properties are strongly dependent on the porosity of the cavity layer. The onset and damage threshold intensity are also shown to be porosity dependent. Our modeling suggests that the observed effects are due to changes in the nonlinear refractive index where the transient lifetime increases with increasing porosity. We investigate the role of surface states on influencing the bistable process by passivating the internal porous surface with hydrosilylation chemistry.