Introduction

If you have upgraded to a new version of Windows 10, you end up with a folder named Windows.old under C:\.

Now comes the next question, is it safe to delete the Windows.old folder?

In this blog post, I explain the Windows.old folder and if it’s safe to delete the folder.

What is the Windows.old folder?

This folder contains the contents from the previously installed Operating System. It is used to restore to a previous version of Windows 10.

The Windows.old folder is created after an update to a new version of Windows 10.

The Windows.old folder is automatically deleted after ten days if you have not made any changes to it locally or via a Group Policy.

Here you can see the Recovery area in the Settings app in Windows 10:

Recovery settings in Windows 10

Is it safe to delete the Windows.old folder in Windows 10?

If you are sure you do not wish to restore to a previous version of Windows 10, it is safe to remove the Windows.old directory.

The Windows.old folder may take 50+ GB of storage, so it’s advisable to delete it if you want to free up disk space.

The folder contains temporary files that you can use to restore the previous version of Windows 10. If you are not planning to restore your operating system, these are not essential files.

How to restore a previous version of Windows 10 using Windows.old

If you want to restore your PC to the previous version of Windows 10, you can do it through Settings -> Recovery > Go back to the previous version of Windows 10.

Note that there is a time window when it’s possible to restore your machine. In my case, I can’t restore, since I upgraded my PC more than 10 days ago. The amount of time here can be changed via Group Policy.

Go back to the previous version of Windows 10

How to delete the Windows.old folder

Here I describe a few different ways of removing the Windows.old directory:

  • Using the Disk Cleanup Tool
  • Using the Command Prompt

Delete Windows.old using the Disk Cleanup Tool

Open the File Explorer in Windows, Right-click and press Properties.

C: \Properties in Windows Explorer in Windows 10

Select Disk Cleanup.

Disk Cleanup in File Explorer

To remove the Windows.old folder, you need to click the Clean up system files button. Because the folder is considered to be a system folder, and requires elevation, you might receive a UAC prompt. Press Yes at the prompt.

Disk Cleanup for Windows (C:) - Clean up system files


5. Select Previous Windows installation(s).

Disk Cleanup for Windows (C:) - Previous Windows installation(s)


6. Select Yes at the confirmation prompt.

Disk Cleanup in Windows 10 - Are you sure you want to permanently delete these files?

Delete Windows.old using the command prompt

To be able to delete the Windows.old folder, we need to do the following:

  • Take ownership of the Windows.old directory
  • Set permissions for the Windows.old folder
  • Remove the folder

You can accomplish the above actions using the following sequence:

  1. Open an elevated command prompt or elevated Powershell prompt
  2. Run the following command: takeown /F C:\Windows.old* /R /A /D Y
  3. Follow up with this command: cacls C:\Windows.old*.* /T /grant administrators:F
  4. The last command to run: rmdir /S /Q C:\Windows.old

Summary

If you are not planning on rolling back your Windows 10 installation to a previous version, you should safely remove the Windows.old folder.

Have you removed your Windows.old folder? Please leave a comment below!

References

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Dave here, as a suggestion for newer win10 systems please have them do the following with success!

    1. Add c:\ to exact directory to be remove on all commands EX: instead of using “%SystemDrive%\Windows.old” in your commands use “c:\windows.old” in all three commands and they work successfully!

    2. Your cacls command is actually icacls as per link at
    https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/insider/forum/insider_wintp-insider_perf/builds-10547-10162-windowsold-still-there-after/bb5e024a-f74e-4738-8981-a053fa37a01d

    Thanks for your info – saved me another day trying to figure it out! 🙂 Dave S. from Redwood City

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