7 Hidden Windows Caches & How to Clear Them

Joel Lee 28-12-2015

On a Windows PC, if you have a disk drive with 100 GB capacity, not all of that space is available to you. In fact, if you were to take a peek behind the scenes, you’d be surprised by how much space is taken up by random cache files.


What is a cache? It’s not as technical as it sounds. In the context of computers, a cache is a non-permanent file (or files) that may be needed again in the future, and is, therefore, kept hidden away until that time comes. Simple, right?

Cache files are important because they boost your system performance, but the downside is that they take up valuable space — and that can be a problem if you have an SSD with limited capacity. The good news is that, in most cases, cache files can be safely erased to clear up disk space 6 Ways to Free Up Space on Your Windows Computer Clutter can be a big downer on productivity. Over time, files get lost, programs go unused, and suddenly, your once spacious hard drive is packed with useless things and you have to clean it up.... Read More .

1. Windows 10 Update Cache

For your convenience, Windows keeps a cache of all Windows Updates files, which can come in handy when you need to re-apply an update. The annoying thing is that Windows Updates can take up a lot of space.

The worst offender is the recent November Update that Microsoft pushed. The update itself is great, but it uses up to 24 GB of cache space and doesn’t automatically clear itself after the update is applied. Imagine what you could do with all of that extra space!



How to clear the Windows Update cache: Before we can delete these files, we have to disable Windows Update to make sure no updates are currently downloading. To do this, open the Start Menu, launch the Command Prompt app, and type:

net stop wuauserv

Next, open File Explorer and navigate to C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download. Inside the Download folder, you can safely delete everything. Afterwards, you should re-enable Windows Update by typing the following into Command Prompt:

net start wuauserv


2. Windows Store Cache

One of the biggest changes in the Windows user experience 10 Compelling Reasons to Upgrade to Windows 10 Windows 10 is coming on July 29. Is it worth upgrading for free? If you are looking forward to Cortana, state of the art gaming, or better support for hybrid devices - yes, definitely! And... Read More was the introduction of the Windows Store and Microsoft’s move to turn all of their software into apps. For many users, this move was a jarring one to say the least.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot to dislike about this, including the fake apps in the Windows Store Don't Be Fooled! 5 Tips To Avoid Fake Apps In The Windows Store The Windows Store has been spoiled by useless junkware and scams. Microsoft recently purged many fake apps, but the store still features questionable apps. We show you how not to get scammed. Read More , which is why many have turned to sideloading apps on Windows instead How to Sideload Apps on Windows 8 & 10 The Windows Store isn't the only place where you can get universal apps. We show you how to install apps from external sources using PowerShell or the Settings menu. Read More .


And as you might’ve guessed, Windows also caches downloads made through the Windows Store. Not only does this cache take up space, but it can cause problems when downloads are interrupted or improperly stopped. If this happens, clearing the cache may solve any issues you have.


How to clear the Windows Store cache: Microsoft provides a utility called WSReset.exe that clears the cache for you.

Open a Run prompt (using the Windows + R shortcut), type WSReset.exe into the text field, and click OK. A black window will open and it might seem like nothing is happening, but wait it out. It may take a few minutes on slower computers.

When it’s done, the Windows Store will launch. This means the cache has been cleared and you’re good to go.

3. Temp Files Cache

Windows has a system directory 13 Run Shortcut Tricks Every Windows User Should Know The Run prompt can be used to immediately access various parts of Windows. Here are the most common shortcuts you should know. Read More that’s dedicated to holding temporary files. Temporary files are usually created as an intermediary while another file is being created or modified, but they can also hold temporary data that’s only needed by a program for a little while.


Unfortunately, not all programs and processes are good about cleaning up after themselves, which means that the system directory for temporary files ends up being cluttered by a whole bunch of unnecessary junk.


It’s usually safe to delete temporary files that haven’t been used in over a week. Thankfully, the built-in tool provided by Windows can handle that for you.

How to clear the Temp Files cache: Open the Start Menu, search for the Disk Cleanup app, and launch it. When prompted, select the drive that Windows is on (usually the C: drive). Wait as it analyzes the file system.

Under the Disk Cleanup tab, uncheck all boxes except for the one labelled Temporary Files, then click OK.

4. Thumbnail Cache

Windows has a setting that allows for thumbnail previews of files. For example, when enabled, an MP4 video file will be shown with a frame from the video itself while a PNG image file will be a preview of what the image looks like.

Thumbnails are great from a usability standpoint, but where do you think those thumbnails come from? Windows has to generate them on demand. When you use File Explorer to browse folders, every time you encounter a file for the first time, Windows has to create a thumbnail for it.


Not only does this slow down your day-to-day Windows performance Speed Up & Tweak Windows Explorer [Windows 7] For a long time now, Windows Explorer (the process on Windows that controls everything from the desktop to folder browsing) has had a poor reputation for being a clunky, slow, and arguably useless file navigator.... Read More , but all of those newly-generated thumbnail images have to be stored somewhere — the Windows thumbnail cache. It’s a good idea to clear this cache every few months because it can get bloated quickly.

How to clear the Thumbnail cache: Head to the Start Menu, search for the Disk Cleanup app, and open it. When prompted, select your system drive (typically the C: drive) and wait as it analyzes the file system.

Under the Disk Cleanup tab, uncheck all boxes except for the one labeled Thumbnails, then click OK.

5. System Restore Cache

System Restore is one of the most useful features in Windows What You Need To Know About Windows System Restore Imagine the trouble you could find yourself in, if your system failed! The Windows System Restore feature could save your butt. This article explains how to create and use Windows restore points. Read More . It’s easy to think that you’ll never need it, but it’s amazing how quickly people will flip-flop on that stance when their system malfunctions.

You never hope to use System Restore, but when you need to, you hope it’s there. Better to be safe than sorry, right? And even with all of the new troubleshooting options in Windows 10 Should You Refresh, Reset, Restore, or Reinstall Windows? Ever wanted to reset Windows 7 without losing personal data? Between a factory reset and a reinstall, it was tough. Since Windows 8, we have two new options: Refresh and Reset. Which one is right... Read More , System Restore is still important, so don’t overlook it.


The downside is that System Restore uses a lot of space. Seriously, a lot of space. After all, it has to cache all of the settings and variables that are necessary for a system restoration.

You can free up this space by clearing saved restore points. You can also reduce the space allocated for System Restore or disable the feature altogether, but be aware that allocating too little space may cause System Restore to malfunction System Restore Not Working? 5 Fixes for Windows 7 and 10 System Restore saves your PC from disaster. But what if it System Restored failed you? We've got the fix. Read More .

How to clear the System Restore cache: Open the Start Menu, search for the System app, and launch it. When it opens, look in the sidebar for the System Protection link and click it.

Under the System Protection tab, select the system drive and click on Configure. At the bottom, click on Delete to erase all restore points saved for your system. If you do, be sure to create another restore point right away!

6. Web Browser Cache

Whenever you visit a webpage, your browser adds that page — including the HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and image files — to the browser’s cache. The next time you visit that same page, your browser uses the cached files to load the page faster.

It’s actually more involved than that Everything You Need to Know About the Browser Cache [MakeUseOf Explains] Whenever you have an issue with a website, one of the first suggestions you will hear from IT support is "try to clear your browser cache" along with "and delete your cookies". So what is... Read More , but that’s the general gist of it.

It’s nice because the cache reduces the amount of bandwidth you use and improves your web browsing experience What Can You Do To Speed Up Your Browser? If you’re like me and you spend a huge portion of your day browsing the web then you understand how frustrating it is to have a slow, bloated browser that seems to be on its... Read More , but sometimes the cache can cause problems.


For example, if a webpage changes, but your browser continues to load outdated cache data, the site might not work as intended. That’s why one common troubleshooting technique is to clear your browser cache — this takes you back to a blank slate. Plus, it frees up used disk space.

How to clear the Web Browser cache: Every browser has its own cache-clearing process, but none of them are too complicated.

In Firefox, open the Options menu, go to the Advanced section, select the Network tab, and click the Clear Now button where it says Cached Web Content.

In Chrome, open the Settings menu, scroll down and click on Show Advanced Settings, under Privacy click on Clear Browsing Data, select the Cached Images and Files option, and make sure to clear from “the beginning of time”.

In Opera, open the Settings menu, go to the Privacy & Security section, under Privacy click on Clear Browsing Data, select the Cached Images and Files option, and make sure to clear from “the beginning of time”.

7. DNS Cache

When you access a website, your computer is essentially requesting web data from another computer on the Internet — but how does your computer know to contact that specific computer? It uses something called the Domain Name System How to Optimize Your DNS for Faster Internet "The Internet is just a series of tubes" as one man so wisely stated. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. There’s a complex architecture that supports the Internet, and data packets need to travel... Read More .

The Domain Name System is a network of computers that route Internet traffic between them. Think of it like a postal service: mail gets moved from sender to multiple post offices before finally arriving at the recipient, except we’re talking about Internet data instead of mail.


Whenever Windows learns of a certain route — e.g. from your computer to MakeUseOf’s servers — it temporarily remembers that route in its DNS cache. However, when the DNS route changes, your cached copy of the route becomes outdated, and this can cause problems (like not being able to load a website).

How to clear the DNS cache: Clearing the DNS cache is absolutely harmless. At best, it’ll fix whatever routing problems you were having. At worst, it won’t do anything. The clearing process is really simple, too.

Open the Start Menu, search for the Command Prompt app, and launch it. Then type the following:

ipconfig /flushdns

How Do You Free Up Disk Space?

For a more thorough cleaning of your system Delete These Windows Files and Folders to Free Up Disk Space Want to clear disk space on your Windows computer? Take a look at these Windows files and folders you can safely delete. Read More , we really recommend using a tool like CCleaner The Best Windows Cleaning Tool Gets A Disk Analyzer You can now clean crap more efficiently with CCleaner v5. The new disk analyzer feature reveals what files are hogging space. See how it complements CCleaner's proven junk removing tools. Read More , which is optimized to scan your entire system and free up space by deleting anything that won’t have a long-term negative impact on your system.

However, even CCleaner isn’t sharp enough to do everything listed above. Some things, like wiping the DNS cache, will just have to be done manually.

What other Windows caches can be safely cleared without fear of system failure? What do you do when you need to free up disk space 6 Tips to Free Up Disk Space in Windows 10 Even a terabyte of storage space is quickly filled with media files. Here we'll show you how to easily free up gigabytes of disk space in Windows 10 by removing redundant system files. Read More ? Tell us about it in the comments!

Image Credit: Global Network by teerayut taf via Shutterstock

Related topics: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera Browser, Space, Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8.1.

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  1. gina
    February 7, 2020 at 9:59 pm

    this is a great set of tips. refer to it often! thank you

  2. Lindsay
    December 5, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    If you're using CCleaner you should also download CCEnhancer which offers a large number of additional options.
    After you've ticked all the additional cleaning options you want in CCleaner, click on Advanced > Trim in CCEnhancer. This will dramatically speed up enhanced CCleaner scans.
    CCEnhancer adds new options periodically, so get updates every so often.

    For me the most thorough cleaner is Privazer, but it's also a little scary if you're using it for the first time. Do a full image backup before its first run and be prepared for a full scan to take some time, maybe tens of minutes or more if you have a large disk.

    CCleaner and Privazer will each clean some things that the other one will miss.

  3. Michelle
    September 22, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Thank you. Sometimes I am too busy to take care of my own computer. These are easy steps that make a difference.

  4. Leon
    June 16, 2017 at 8:24 am

    Thanks for the information. It is such a help for someone who has little knowledge of computers

  5. Somto
    February 8, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Wow, this a whole lot of useful tips. Especially number 1 on the list. Some Windows updates that were not installing properly was taking up space on my PC. It helped restore the space that went unaccounted for.

  6. Marlon Aviz
    November 3, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    The best cleanup and optimization tool is actually Tron Script, google it, you will find it on Reddit.

    CCleaner is great, I've used it a lot, but Tron Script is like the clean up and optimization's God, seriously.

  7. Ahmed Mohsen
    October 25, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    You've done a great job, much appreciated. (y)

  8. lordmogul
    July 3, 2016 at 2:28 am

    A great overview of all those caches.
    But the Win 10 update is unly in use if you are still on 7 or 8.1 and don't have the GWX updates disabled.
    Same for the store cache, it is only in existence if you are running Windows 10.
    Browser caches can be disabled or moved. Either by puting them into a Ramdisk where it will be cleaned as soon as the computer gets shut down, or just by moving the cache to the Windows temp files directory, where they can be cleaned in the same task as the rest of temporary files.

  9. Alnoury
    July 3, 2016 at 1:21 am

    Did you missed Temp directories in system directory and in Local directory of each user's directory ? Or did they become history in Win10?

  10. abc
    January 19, 2016 at 2:39 am

    "DNS Cache"

    You are kidding.

  11. Bruce Epper
    January 5, 2016 at 7:47 am

    DNS has nothing to do with routing. It merely translates a human-readable URL like to an IP address for the site or machine in question. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Routing is handled via other protocols such as OSPF, RIP (for the old-timers), IS-IS, IGRP, EIGRP, BGP, and others.

    Clearing the DNS cache is helpful in situations where an IP address for a machine or site has changed. It takes time for this information to propagate through the DNS system (frequently a day or two) and if the currently cached address has not yet expired, it will go out looking for the machine at its old address it pulled from the cache rather than the new address. Clearing the cache will force it to perform a new request to an authoritative server and should result in the new address being returned.

    • LM
      September 14, 2016 at 2:09 am

      Also, if you DNS is poisoned. Like when you see spam ads that pop-up when you are browsing, but it is not related to malware/adware. I had this on my mobile. DNS was poisoned at the router level.

  12. Anonymous
    December 29, 2015 at 2:36 am

    CCleaner doesn't wipe the DNS cache as part of the "stock" settings, but there are advance options that allow you to select DNS cache among many others, i.e., Windows Error Reporting, Font Cache, Old Prefetch Data, and much more.

    • Joel Lee
      January 6, 2016 at 9:58 pm

      Hmm, I must've missed those options. I'll check them out now, thanks Chris!

  13. Anonymous
    December 29, 2015 at 2:16 am

    I would advise against clearing the system restore cache unless you really need the space. There's few things worse than Windows pushing a bad update (or other similar catastrophe) and then discovering that there are no restore points available!

    • Johng
      December 29, 2015 at 3:37 am

      You should have created batch files for these actions or included steps on how to.

    • Bruce Epper
      January 5, 2016 at 7:54 am

      There are many reasons why you may want to drop all previous restore points. After cleaning up any kind of malware infection, if you are not going to do a complete reinstall of the system, a new restore point should be created and all previous ones should be dropped since they can no longer be trusted.

      If you are doing a fresh build of a system, applying all Windows and Office updates create a long string of restore points which are not going to be useful for anything. Once all updates are applied and necessary applications installed, creating a new restore point and dropping all old ones is a sound move.

      By using tools such as CCleaner, you can be more selective of what restore points are dropped as well. If you are hurting for space, you may want to see if there are unnecessary restore points that can be removed. For example, if you installed several new programs in a short period of time, having a restore point for each one is probably overkill. You can just keep the ones created when the first and last programs were installed.

      • Joel Lee
        January 6, 2016 at 9:58 pm

        Thanks for answering and elaborating, Bruce! Always a pleasure to read your comments.