Windows, one of the most popular and widely used OS in the world, does have its share of problems. One of those is – Windows contains plenty of files and folders that you don’t really need. While some are very useful to operate the system, there are many of them you don’t really need. Some of those unneeded files may have been on your computer for a really long time, without having any space issues. But, over time, they do take up a lot of space and can also slow down your PC.
From hidden caches to temp files, there are so many reasons as to why disk space suddenly disappears. Here are some Windows files and folders (that are totally safe to remove) you should delete to save space on your computer or laptop.
1. The Temp Folder
Folder Location – C:\Windows\Temp
If there is ever a Windows folder that is full of files you don’t really need, it is the temp folder. Windows temporary files and folders contain information that isn’t important beyond their initial use.
Even though Disk Cleanup is great, sometimes for whatever reason, it doesn’t always get stuff out of the TEMP folder. So, we recommend you try to delete the TEMP folder.
You can visit this folder at C:\Windows\Temp and delete everything inside by pressing Ctrl + A to select everything and then Delete. When you do this, Windows might give you an error message that the files cannot be deleted. This will happen if you have a program open that is using those files. Be sure to close out everything to make it easier.
It’s best to reboot after cleaning out all the files you are able to delete. Some files can’t be deleted because they are locked while your system is running.
2. The Hibernation File
Folder Location – C:\hiberfil.sys
The Hibernation File is one fat file that, quite often these days, may never see any real use. The hibernation mode on a computer can be compared to the sleep mode. The only difference is that the operating system ends up saving all of the work you have open to your hard drive. It then shuts down when it needs to.
Depending on your hard drive size, the size of your hibernation files is likely few gigabytes or more. If you don’t really use hibernation mode, you can disable it easily via the Command Prompt and claim back a quantity of hard drive space equal to the amount of RAM you have. The reason for disabling it, instead of deleting it, is because if you do delete it, Windows will recreate it all over again.
To disable it, Just log on as an administrator and open a Command Prompt by right-clicking on the Start Button. Once there, type the following command – powercfg.exe /hibernate off – which will disable hibernation mode and then you are done.
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.
3. The Recycle Bin
Folder Location – shell: RecycleBinFolder
Yes, we know that the recycle bin is not really a folder. However, it is a place where lots of junk is stored. Whenever you delete a file or folder on your system, Windows automatically sends it to the Recycle Bin. This is a special place where deleted files are kept until you permanently delete them or restore them. If you don’t remember to empty the bin, there could be several gigabytes of old data still in there.
Just go to your recycle bin and explore the contents there. Once you are sure you don’t need any of them, hit delete. 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. You can also ‘Empty Recycle Bin’ or ‘Restore all items’ with just a single click using the buttons present on the Ribbon above.
In case, if you don’t want to have this extra work of deleting all the files again in Recycle bin, you can select ‘Don’t move files to the Recycle Bin’ by right-clicking on the Recycle bin folder, and then going to ‘Properties.’ This permanently deletes items and skips the bin completely (but doesn’t actually erase the data right away). But, we don’t recommend this to our users, as you miss your second chance of restoring your deleted files, in case if you need them again.
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 (Windows key + R) or the File Explorer navigation bar.
4. Downloaded Program Files
Folder Location – C:\Windows\Downloaded Program Files
The Downloaded program files folder is a bit confusing for many Windows users. The files found in this folder are not really for programs you have downloaded. They actually hold 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 them twice.
But the reality is that this folder is basically useless and it’s just taking up space. In addition, Java applets are seldom used and ActiveX is an extremely dated technology that’s full of security flaws. Lastly, most home users don’t even use the Internet Explorer browser that much either. If you have junk there, delete it now.
Your Downloaded Program Files folder might already be empty, but feel free to clean out its contents if it’s not.
5. The Windows Old Folder Files
Folder Location – C:\Windows.old
Most of us don’t know that there is actually a folder called ‘The Windows.old folder.’ This folder is usually found whenever you upgrade from one version of Windows to another. Your system keeps a copy of all the files that were part of your old Windows version, in this folder.
They stay there in case the files did not transfer properly when you made the upgrade. In an extreme scenario, you could use this folder to go back to your previous version of Windows.
If you want to explore the folders to see if there is a file you may want to use, then do so before you delete them all. To delete them, 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.
Still, even if you don’t delete this folder, Windows will automatically remove that folder after 10 days anyway.
6. Windows Update Folder
Folder Location – C:\WindowsSoftwareDistribution
Windows Updates are, rather unintuitively, downloaded to C:\WindowsSoftwareDistribution. This folder is a good candidate for destruction if it grows too large as Windows will self-heal and re-download everything it needs to carry on, but you do need to disable the Windows Update Service in order to be able to delete the folder.
To do so, log in as an administrator, click the Windows Start menu icon, enter “Services” in the search box and press Enter. Navigate to the bottom of the list, right click the “Windows Update” (or “Automatic Updates” on Vista) and select “Stop”. Now navigate to C: Windows, Windows and delete the ‘SoftwareDistribution’ folder.
Restart the Windows update service by right-clicking it again and selecting “Start.” The ‘SoftwareDistribution’ folder will be recreated and Windows Update will do its thing. This can also be a good way to repair Windows Update in the event that its database has become corrupt.
Note that some of these folders are in protected locations, so take care when deleting them.
The Best Way to Clean These Folders
We’ve mentioned several things that you can safely remove to free your disk space, but manually deleting them isn’t always the best idea. Using automated tools to do cleanings for you is safer. This avoids accidentally deleting files that you need or messing with the wrong folders.
While the ‘Windows Disk Cleanup’ tool also does plenty on its own and is simple to use, we recommend that you download a third-party disk cleanup tools like CCleaner program. This is a great tool to help you delete your browsing history, junk files and keeping your computer running smoothly.