What is the Windows.old Folder and How To Delete It?

Last Updated on April 26, 2020 by Next Century

Have you upgraded Microsoft Windows lately to a new version of Windows?

You have a Windows.old folder on your computer, and it’s wasting a huge amount of space. You can delete it — but not like you’d delete a normal folder.

The Windows.old folder isn’t something new with Windows 10, but before Windows 10, you would only see it if you purchased a new version of Windows and performed an upgrade install on a PC that came with a previous version of Windows.

What Is the Windows.old Folder?

This folder is created when you upgrade from one version of Windows to another, starting with Windows Vista. The Windows.old folder actually contains all the files and data from your previous Windows installation. It can be used to restore your system to the old version of Windows if you don’t like the new version. If you’re looking for a specific file that wasn’t properly copied to your new Windows installation, you could also dig into the Windows.old folder and find it.

Essentially, the Windows.old folder just contains the old Windows system. From the Windows system files to your installed programs and each user account’s settings and files, it’s all here. The new version of Windows just keeps it around in case you’d like to go back to that older version of Windows or in case you need to dig in and find a file.

But, don’t wait too long — Windows will automatically delete the Windows.old folder to free up space after a month.

How to Recover Individual Files From the Windows.old Folder

If you need to recover individual files from your old Windows installation, you can recover them from the Windows.old folder. This should just be a matter of opening the File Explorer window, accessing the Windows.old folder at C:\Windows.old, and browsing your file system. Your personal files will be located under C:\Windows.old\Users\NAME

How to Delete the Windows.old Folder to Free Up Space

The Windows.old folder can take up quite a bit of space, anything from 10 to 20 GB. A lot depends on your previous Microsoft Windows installation and how large it was.

If you try to delete the Windows.old folder from File Explorer, you will receive an error message that you do not have permission.  You could potentially bypass this error message by modifying with the Windows.old folder’s permissions but the easier way is to use the Disk Cleanup app.

Please note, that once you delete the Windows.old folder, you will not be able to restore back to the previous version of Windows.  But, Windows 10 normally removes these files after a week or two anyway.

To delete this folder with Disk Cleanup, follow these steps:

  • Click Start and type disk cleanup in to the Type here to search box, then click on Disk Cleanup or Open

    NOTE: If the Type here to search box is not visible, just start typing after clicking Start and it will appear

  • Click on Clean up system files

    Disk Cleanup will then analyse the hard drive which can take a while on slower computers

  • Locate Previous Windows installation(s) and make sure it is ticked, then click OK to delete these files from your computer

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