5 Windows Files and Folders You Can Delete to Save Space
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Windows contains plenty of files and folders that you don’t really need. From hidden caches 7 Hidden Windows Caches & How to Clear Them 7 Hidden Windows Caches & How to Clear Them Cached files can take up a lot of bytes. While dedicated tools can help you free up disk space, they might not clear it all. We show you how to manually release storage space. Read More and old files that you can remove to clear space Free Up Disk Space by Removing Windows.old Folder Free Up Disk Space by Removing Windows.old Folder Windows prepares an automatic backup before you re-install. The Windows.old folder includes user profiles and personal files. Here's how to restore the data and remove the folder to free up space. Read More to files you can actually delete to solve problems, knowing what’s safe to remove can be challenging.

Let’s step through some Windows files and folders that are totally safe to remove, and why you might want to do so. Note that some of these folders are in protected locations, so take care when deleting them.

1. The Hibernation File

Located at C:\hiberfil.sys

Hibernation mode on your PC is like sleep mode, but the system saves all your open work to the hard drive and then shuts down. You can remove the battery from your laptop and stay in hibernation for a week, then start back up and be right where you left off. Of course, this takes up space, which is what the hibernation file is for.

Depending on your hard drive size, the hibernation file is likely several gigabytes or more. If you don’t use hibernation and want to disable it, you can easily do so via the Command Prompt. Note that you shouldn’t just delete hiberfil.sys, as Windows will recreate it again.

Open a Command Prompt (Admin) by right-clicking on the Start Button. Type the following command to disable hibernation:

powercfg.exe /hibernate off

That’s all it takes to disable hibernation. Windows should delete hiberfil.sys on its own when you do this; feel free to delete it if not. Note that disabling hibernate mode will also prevent your computer from using fast startup on Windows 10, which isn’t much of a loss since that can cause boot problems 6 Tips to Fix Slow Boot Times in Windows 10 6 Tips to Fix Slow Boot Times in Windows 10 If your Windows 10 boot time is slow, you aren't alone. We've compiled the most common solutions to help you fix this issue fast. Read More .

2. The Temp Folder

Located at C:\Windows\Temp

As you’d guess from the name, Windows temporary files aren’t important beyond their initial use. The files and folders inside contain info that Windows used at one time but doesn’t need anymore. You can visit this folder and delete everything inside by pressing Ctrl + A to select everything and then Delete. Windows might give you an error about a couple of items when you do this — just ignore those and clear everything else.

3. The Recycle Bin

Located at shell:RecycleBinFolder

The Recycle Bin isn’t really a folder, and it might be obvious to some folks, but we’re including this in case some readers aren’t aware. Whenever you delete a file on your system, Windows sends it to the Recycle Bin. This is a special place where deleted files are kept until you permanently delete them or restore them Turn Back Time: 4 Tools & Tips To Restore Deleted Files In Windows Turn Back Time: 4 Tools & Tips To Restore Deleted Files In Windows One of Windows' biggest flaws could be your rescue, should you ever accidentally delete an important file: The Windows file system does not actually delete files. Until they are overwritten, deleted files can be restored. Read More . If you don’t remember to empty the bin, there could be several gigabytes of old data still in there.

You can access the Recycle Bin through the shortcut on your desktop. If you don’t have one, type shell:RecycleBinFolder into the Run menu (press Windows key + R) or the File Explorer navigation bar. Once here, you’ll see everything you’ve deleted recently. You can right-click on individual items and choose Delete to permanently erase them or Restore to send the file back to its original location. On the Ribbon above, you’ll see buttons to Empty Recycle Bin and Restore all items.

5 Windows Files and Folders You Can Delete to Save Space Windows Empty Recycle Bin

To tweak the way the Recycle Bin works, click Recycle Bin Properties on the Ribbon. Here, you can change the maximum size of the bin, or select Don’t move files to the Recycle Bin. This permanently deletes items and skips the bin completely (but doesn’t actually erase the data right away How to Securely Delete Files From Your HDD or SSD in Windows How to Securely Delete Files From Your HDD or SSD in Windows Did you know files never actually get deleted? That's why they can be recovered; by you or someone else. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, learn how to securely delete files. Read More ). We don’t recommend this because the Recycle Bin gives you a second chance in case of a mistake.

4. The Windows.old Folder

Located at C:\Windows.old

Whenever you upgrade your version of Windows (like you probably did when you installed Windows 10), your system keeps a copy of your old Windows files called Windows.old. This folder is essentially everything that made up your old computer, kept around in case something didn’t transfer correctly. In an extreme scenario, you could use this folder to roll back to a previous version of Windows 3 Ways to Downgrade Windows 10 & Rollback to Windows 7 or 8.1 Indefinitely 3 Ways to Downgrade Windows 10 & Rollback to Windows 7 or 8.1 Indefinitely You've either upgraded to Windows 10 to secure a free copy or were upgraded forcefully. We share three tricks that will help you downgrade now or later and save you if your upgrade failed. Read More . You can also open the folder and grab a few stray files if you need.

Windows automatically removes this folder after ten days (it was once 30 days Windows 10's Rollback Period Is Only 10 Days Now! Windows 10's Rollback Period Is Only 10 Days Now! With the Anniversary Update, Microsoft has shortened the length of time you have to go back to a prior version of Windows. Here's what you need to know. Read More ), but you can remove it yourself if you’re crunched for space. It won’t delete if you try to go through the File Explorer, so type Disk Cleanup into the Start Menu and launch the tool. Click Clean up system files at the bottom of the window and let the utility do another scan. Once that’s done, look for the Previous Windows installation(s) and delete it using this tool.

Obviously, removing these files makes it harder to recover in case of an issue. With the Windows 10 Creators Update coming soon A Peek Into the Windows 10 Creators Update A Peek Into the Windows 10 Creators Update Microsoft just announced the next major Windows 10 upgrade. The Creators Update will come to 400 million users in Spring 2017. Here are the highlights of Wednesday's Windows 10 event. Read More , we’d advise you to hold onto this folder until you’re sure everything is working properly.

5. Downloaded Program Files

Located at C:\Windows\Downloaded Program Files

This folder’s name is a bit confusing. It actually holds files used by internet Explorer’s ActiveX controls and Java applets, so that if you use the same feature on a website you don’t have to download it twice. Thus, this folder is essentially useless — ActiveX is an extremely dated technology that’s full of security holes, and Java applets are rare The Web Just Became More Secure: Google Drops Support for Java The Web Just Became More Secure: Google Drops Support for Java When Java was first released in 1995, it was revolutionary. But now, it's safe to say that Java has lost its shine, and Google is about to drop support for it in Chrome. Read More . ActiveX is exclusive to internet Explorer and you’ll probably only encounter it on ancient corporate websites How to Download Internet Explorer 6 (If You Really Need To) How to Download Internet Explorer 6 (If You Really Need To) There are still some people who use Internet Explorer 6 to this day, and they've got some valid reasons. Here's how you can use it if you need to. Read More these days.

Most home users don’t use IE anymore, let alone ActiveX. Your Downloaded Program Files folder might already be empty, but feel free to clean out its contents if it’s not.

The Best Way to Clean These Folders

We’ve mentioned several items that you can safely remove, but manually deleting them isn’t the best way to go about it. Aside from spending the time doing this yourself when it could be automated, it’s safer to let a tool do these cleanings for you. This avoids accidentally deleting files that you need, or messing with the wrong folders.

5 Windows Files and Folders You Can Delete to Save Space Windows Disk Cleanup

The Windows Disk Cleanup tool does plenty on its own Low Disk Space? 5 Native Windows Tools To Free Up Storage Space Low Disk Space? 5 Native Windows Tools To Free Up Storage Space Don't download a fishy third party tool to reclaim valuable disk space! Windows has its own tools for the job and they're easy to use. Read More and is simple to use. For more control, a third-party disk cleanup tools like CCleaner lets you clean more places and offers some extras 6 CCleaner Tips and Tricks to Effectively Clean Your Computer 6 CCleaner Tips and Tricks to Effectively Clean Your Computer CCleaner is a must-have tool for every Windows user, but are you using it effectively? Here are six awesome things CCleaner can do that you might have missed. Read More , too.

Which Windows Folders Do You Erase?

It takes a bit of looking around, but Windows holds plenty of files and folders that aren’t needed. Remember that your computer does a pretty good job of keeping itself clean, so you don’t have to obsessively remove the contents of these folders unless you’re really low on disk space. Running the Disk Cleanup tool once or twice a month will do plenty to keep the cruft away. You have better things to do than micromanage your PC’s temporary files.

To continue cleaning, check out our step-by-step guide on cleaning your Windows 10 PC The Best Way to Clean Windows 10: A Step-by-Step Guide The Best Way to Clean Windows 10: A Step-by-Step Guide If your Windows 10 PC needs cleaning, here are the tools and a step-by-step process to get it squeaky clean again. Read More .

Which additional Windows files and folders do you delete? Share your favorite useless folders with us in the comments!

Image Credits: designbydx/Shutterstock

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  1. MrL0g1C
    May 29, 2018 at 10:21 am

    esentutl.exe /d c:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\DataStore\DataStore.edb

    The /d is defrag, for some reason this shrinks the file by about a third - mine was over 1GB

    And after you've done that, right-click the file and compress it, I just reclaimed over 800MB doing this. (compressed to 1/4 of it's size).
    Find cruft with windirstat (free)

    • Laurens Burssens
      September 8, 2018 at 2:12 pm

      If you really want to free up space you might want to delete everything in the folder: c:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\download.

      I find it really odd this has not been added to the article.

  2. Phil
    March 12, 2018 at 5:35 am

    Than you SO MUCH for writing this article Ben! You're a god damn life saver! This has been THE single most useful article out of about a gazillion that I have read trying to free up disk space on my C Drive for a Windows 10 update. It's been driving me bloody crazy!!!! (Picture that little German kid at his computer).

    "Number 1. The Hibernation File" step on it's own was the liberating step for me. I have read about the recycle bin and temporary files so many times before but they never gave me enough space. This is the very first time I have read anything about the hibernation file.

    Obviously Mike from the December 3, 2017 comment is a complete douchebag who has been living in front of computers for 50 years. Put him in my environment / career and watch how 'useless' he is and how many 'obvious' questions he would ask.

    Keep up the good work. Your site is now my 'go to', for any windows related info.

    • dejal
      April 12, 2018 at 1:15 am

      Agree 100% on the hibernate file. Didn't know that one. I have a mini/micro PC that came with 8 GB Ram/64 GB of eMMc storage. I just installed a 256 GB M2 SSD card. From what I can gather at least about SSDs, the closer you get to capacity, the quicker the time to a potential failure can occur. One Youtuber stated that if you stayed below 80% of capacity this kind of storage should last the life of the computer. I would expect eMMc would be the same. That 64 GB was hovering between 27 + 32 GB with just a few applications besides Windows 10. In my case, the PC came with PRO even though it was advertised with Home which means out of the box even more storage was taken. Deleting Hibernate freed up of 3+ GB of space. Right now C: is using 26.6 GB after deleting Hibernate.

      Everything that can live on the 256 GB D will be installed there. C will be just for Windows. This PC supposedly can't be changed to boot off of D, though someone was able to do it with a combination of a Windows Re-install and a USB version of Linux to wack Master Boot Records. If C gets filled up , I'll give that a try.

      Agree about Mike.

    • Ben Stegner
      April 12, 2018 at 2:22 pm

      I'm sorry that I missed your comment Phil. Thanks for the kind words and we're glad to have you as a reader :)

  3. Jane
    February 9, 2018 at 9:39 am

    I want to re-allot the wasted space being given, by default, to the recycle bin. I want to shrink it to 500mb, as that's the largest item I'm likely to delete-- however, I want ALL of the difference in that space to be regained for programs, etc....Is there a way to do this?

    Seriously- on a 1 or 2TB drive, the recycle bin is ridiculous! I know I can shrink the size in recycle bin>properties, but I want to actually "gift" or reassign that now unused space to Windows/programs. How?

    • Ben Stegner
      February 9, 2018 at 3:31 pm

      When you shrink the recycle bin, you're effectively freeing up that space for anything else on your PC. If you have a 1TB drive and have the recycle bin set to a maximum of 50GB, it will only hold up to that amount. If you only ever delete 10GB worth of files, the recycle bin isn't taking up the full 50GB of space because you haven't deleted that many files.

      So to answer your question, you don't need to do anything special to reassign unused space to Windows. If files aren't taking it up (normally or in the Recycle Bin), then it's free space for other programs to use.

  4. Mike
    December 3, 2017 at 2:59 am

    Totally useless article. Please stop stating the obvious and provide more in-depth stuff.

    • Ben Stegner
      December 4, 2017 at 3:29 pm

      An article that's "useless" and "obvious" for you could be all-new information and really helpful to someone else.

  5. Max
    September 15, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    Sometimes I watch in computers of other people, inumerous folders with names with long sequences of letters and numbers, some can not be erased. As I currently use linux I do not get over these things, but I want to know the source and if it is recommended, delete them

  6. Loell
    April 20, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    You forgot to include the temp file in the user profile C:\Users\%UserName%\AppData\Local\Temp and also cleaning out the Browser temporary files.

    • Saket Saurabh
      June 1, 2018 at 12:30 pm

      The good old way, yet very useful

  7. Neehar
    March 21, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    You can just use disk clean-up tool in hard drive properties.

  8. pmshah
    March 21, 2017 at 2:25 am

    In the past I have never used the hibernate feature of the OS. Unfortunately I found that my current motherboard does not support WOL if I do a total shutdown but can start if I hibernate the system.

    I also used to relocate my "temp" and "wintemp" settings to use d: drive which I emptied upon boot up through startup batch file.

  9. Ron Ablang
    March 20, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    I already use CCleaner but it doesn't clean out the C:\Windows\Temp folder. I found a bunch of stuff in there but it was still less than 1GB total. It still felt good getting rid of that stuff.

    • Godel
      March 21, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      From memory I think CCleaner does clean out the Temp folder, but it puts in a delay of a day or three on new files. This is to avoid deleting files in Temp that are meant to be run on the next restart.

  10. Anudeep N Rao
    March 17, 2017 at 2:37 am

    You have left out prefetch

  11. Aaron Reid
    March 16, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    I use WinDirStat on a monthly basis looking for large files and move them to my external storage. Very handy for identifying folders and file types.

  12. Bruce Epper
    March 15, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Ben, three issues here.

    First, the size of the hibernation file is dependent upon the amount of RAM in the system, not the size of the hard drive. It needs to be slightly larger than the amount of installed RAM since it dumps the contents of RAM to the file along with context information so it can resume where it left off.

    Next, the Recycle Bin really is a folder, it is marked as a hidden & system folder so it doesn't appear for most users. Actually, it is a folder on each hard drive attached to the system but the OS combines the contents of the folder on each drive attached to the system and presents a comprehensive list for all items across all drives. For most users, they would be seeing the contents of C:\$Recycle.Bin for their single-drive system.

    Finally, on systems running low on disk space, there is a Windows task set up to run cleanmgr (the Disk Cleanup tool) with the autoclean switch to automatically remove temp files and other assorted detritus although it will not clear items less than 24 hours old from the temp folders.

    • Tina Sieber
      March 21, 2017 at 12:28 pm

      Thank you for your comments, Bruce! That's really great additional information.

      • Phil
        March 12, 2018 at 5:44 am

        I realise you have to be diplomatic Tina but I wish you wouldn't be. Bruce is just another tool!

        • Tina Sieber
          March 12, 2018 at 7:56 pm

          Do you have a point, Phil?
          I trust Bruce's technical knowledge.
          What I don't appreciate is foul language.

    • XIIID
      April 20, 2017 at 7:40 am

      The hiberfil.sys file does NOT have to exceed the amount of RAM because Windows compresses it upon writing to disk (since NT5.1 e.q. XP)
      In fact, you could set it's minimal size at half the amount of RAM with "powercfg -h -size 50"