Windows keeps updating its operating environment and resources on an ongoing basis. As a result, additional files keep growing in your computer’s hard drive, even though you may have recently performed computer maintenance on it. One of the most prominent of such system folders that keeps increasing at a staggering rate is the WinSXS folder. It is often a large folder that is undeletable and manually un-modifiable, located at C:\Windows\WinSXS. It contains files which have details of all bunch of software installed in your system.
How the WinSXS Folder Grows in Size?
The WinSXS folder contains all the files that pertain to the Windows operating system. Any other system file that resides in the hard drive is actually a shortcut to the actual file in the WinSXS folder.
For example, whenever you update your Windows, the system provides a feature to roll back on the update, in case it introduces errors. This feature (available via the Control Panel) causes the corresponding update files to be stored in the WinSXS folder while maintaining the older version files to cater for roll back possibilities. Since a non power user rarely undoes his/her updates, this means that a lot of files keep on getting stored over time with each subsequent update.
Consider a system that runs Windows 7: A program was introduced to mop up unused update files automatically whenever you install a new Service Pack. However, since Windows 7 had only one Service Pack released in the course of its lifetime, it means that users of Windows 7 machines had the cleanup program run only once. Over the course of its existence, therefore, the WinSXS folder has kept on growing in size to considerable sizes.
Winsxs Folder Cleanup – How to Remedy This Problem?
We all know that cleaning up your files can speed up your computer so let’s get rid of some more junk in the Winsxs folder.
1. Deactivate Features on Demand
To access the features that can be optionally turned on or off, go to the Control Panel (if running Windows 7 and later) and locate the feature that lists all the Windows Features on Demand. An option to clean up these features completely from the hard disk will be provided. Choose this to remove the files related to these components from the WinSXS folder with an option to download at a later date if the features are needed.
The reasoning for this action is due to the fact that Windows stores the files of the inactive features in the WinSXS folder while awaiting the possibility that you may activate them as you feel necessary. While it is advantageous for the fact that you will not have to supply installation disks or connect to the Internet to get access to these features, it will however be a waste of hard disk space for the typical user that does not install power tools over the course of their computer use. An example of a user who would rather sacrifice the availability of these files in the WinSXS folder than use up hard disk space includes one with low hard disk specifications or a Systems Administrator that requires more of free standby hard disk space than large system file sectors.
To remove features on demand via the command line tool, follow the guidelines below:
- Go to the command prompt as administrator and explore the features that are installed in your system, by executing the command:
DISM.exe /Online /Get-Features
- Choose a feature you want to remove and remove the feature from the system by typing:
DISM.exe /Online /Disable-Feature /featurename:[INSERT FEATURE NAME HERE] /Remove
- Run the first command again to confirm that the feature removed is marked ‘Disabled with Payload Removed’ which means that feature’s files have been completely removed from the WinSXS folder.
2. Remove Unused Update Files
To remedy a growing WinSXS folder, a Windows update has been introduced that offers a capability to remove unused system files. This feature can be accessed from the Disk Cleanup Wizard by running ‘disk cleanup‘ from the run menu of the Start button. Choose: Clean up System Files > Windows Update Cleanup then confirm by clicking OK. On the next reboot, Windows will clean up unused files before you are allowed to log in.
Remember, this is a fairly new feature which may not show up in the Disk Cleanup dialog box unless the required update has been installed. To do this, go to Windows Update and bring your system up to date.
Users of Windows 8 have a similar capability that comes with the system by default. The system contains a scheduled task named: StartComponentCleanup. This feature is scheduled to run every month to clean up unused system files of every software that gets installed in the system. Within a month, Windows expects that you would have made the necessary changes to any software component that may contain bugs.
To remove unused update files, you may also use the same functionality provided in Windows 7 that is accessed by typing: ‘disk cleanup’ in the run field of the Start button then clicking on the ‘Free up disk space by removing unnecessary files‘ link. This will bring up the Disk Usage dialog box from where you can start Windows Update Cleanup.