I have low space on the C: drive (C: drive is 12 GB). I hear somewhere on the net that you can actually delete the install files of Windows updates.

How can I delete them? Where are they located? Is deleting these files going to damage Windows or remove the installed security patches?


You're probably thinking about people suggesting deleting the $NtUninstall*$ subdirectories pof %SystemRoot%. These subdirectories contain the uninstall files for updates.

Deleting these directories removes your ability to uninstall the updates that created them. I tend not to delete these directories because I prefer to have the flexibility to back-off an update, if need be.

In a couple dire situations I've moved these directories to another volume for "safe keeping" to free up space but I wouldn't recommend deleting them.

  • I just need to install Acronis but the installer but the installer needs 500 MB for temporarily installation files. So, Now I have the idea, I will just move the $NtUninstall*$ folders to another volume then moved them back to the original location. Thank you Evans, – Zeros-8 Oct 14 '14 at 20:17

If you are referring to the update cache here: C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution

If it has grown very large, then yes, you can delete it by stopping the Windows Automatic Updates service and then delete the folder and restarting the Windows Automatic Updates service.

It's definitely not best practice, since it deletes the cache and install history and upon the next check of updates will have to catalog everything again to see what is and isn't installed, but sometimes the folder does get bloated beyond what it should.

But beware that it might quickly balloon again and is really a stop-gap so that you can get true free space on the server somehow (additional storage, new drives, etc.).

An example KB article somewhat alludes to this after you "fix" this folder but the same concept applies for just freeing up disk space in general (only if it is really bloated): http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2509997

Note If the issue is resolved and you can successfully download and install updates, you can safely delete the SoftwareDistribution.old folder to recover disk space.

  • 3
    +1 - Deleting the %SystemRoot%\SoftwareDistribution folder (or, really, just the %SystemRoot%\SoftwareDistribution\Download folder) is a perfectly reasonable thing to do and won't harm the machine or your ability to uninstall updates in the future. – Evan Anderson Oct 14 '14 at 20:29

Use Disk Cleanup utility from the system drive properties and see how much space you can gain there. You could also compress old files and that should free even more space. You could (if you haven't already done so) move the paging file on a separate drive or a dedicated partition. Check the log size and eventually move the location.

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