Windows 10: What Is Windows.old Folder And Can I Delete It?

Every time you switch to a new version of Windows – be it one of Windows 10’s feature updates or an entirely new operating system – Microsoft always takes a note of the previous version. This includes data on all your installed programs and settings, which is stored in a folder simply called ‘Windows.old’.

This can be found in File Explorer, but you cannot delete it like any regular folder. Microsoft blocks the usual right-clicking or drag-and-drop methods, presumably to prevent people from accidentally deleting it.

Windows.old can take up many GBs of system storage, especially if you’ve switched to a brand new version of Windows. But is deletion safe, and how should you handle it? Here’s everything you need to know.

Should you delete the Windows.old folder?

Provided you do not intend to revert to an earlier version, you can safely delete the Windows.old folder. It will not affect your current Windows 10 experience or any future updates.

However, to ensure there are no unintended consequences, you should also meet the following criteria:

  • It’s been more than 10 days since you installed the current version, so the ‘back to previous version’ option in Settings is no longer available
  • You’ve made regular full Windows backups, so previous versions can still be installed in case of an emergency
  • All your documents and personal settings were properly transferred when you installed Windows 10

How to delete the Windows.old folder in Settings

Provided you are running version 1903 (May 2019) of Windows 10 or later, the easiest method is through Settings:

  1. Go to Settings > System and select ‘Storage’ from the left pane
  2. Turn on the ‘Storage Sense’ toggle if you haven’t already, then select ‘Configure Storage Sense or run it now’
    Windows 10 removes Windows.old
  3. Scroll down to the ‘Free up space now’ subhead and click ‘Clean up now’
    Windows 10 removes Windows.old
  4. After a few seconds, this will delete any files your device isn’t using (including Windows.old)
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Aware Provisioned Storage is still enabled, the Windows.old folder will be deleted as soon as any new versions are installed.

How to delete the Windows.old folder from File Explorer

Storage Sense should be your first port of call, but File Explorer provides a way to specifically target files from previous installs:

  1. Open File Explorer
  2. Locate the Local Disk (C:) drive (where Windows is usually installed). Right click on it and select ‘Properties’
    Windows 10 removes Windows.old
  3. From the window that appears, click ‘Clean Disk’ from the ‘General’ tab
    Windows 10 removes Windows.old
  4. Click ‘Clean up system files’ and wait for a few seconds
  5. You should now see a vertical scrolling list of files that can be deleted. All of these files can be uninstalled, but those in ‘Cleanup Windows Update’ or ‘Previous Windows installation(s)’ refer to the Windows.old folder
  6. Select the ones you want to uninstall and click ‘OK’
    Windows 10 removes Windows.old
  7. From the pop-up, click ‘Delete File’ to confirm the deletion
    Windows 10 removes Windows.old
  8. After a few seconds, the files will be permanently deleted

You should follow these steps immediately after installing new updates if you want to minimize the space they take up. Just make sure the update is stable and bug-free first. For most people, setting up Storage Sense to run frequently in the background is enough.

The memory back requirement is especially important for anyone considering updating their device to Windows 11. Microsoft will begin rolling out free upgrades to Windows 10 users with qualified hardware. event from October 5, but it will require at least 64GB of memory to install. If you have a 128GB or 256GB SSD, deleting the Windows.old folder can make a difference.

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A version of this article was originally published in German on our sister site, PC-Welt.

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