WinSxS folder – why is it needed and can it be deleted?

Almost every user faces the need to clean up the system disk. Over time, system files take up more and more memory, and this can lead to various problems, up to system instability. The WinSxS folder is one of the first directories that users pay attention to because of its size. What is this folder? Is it safe to clean or remove WinSxS, and how to do it correctly?

What is this folder and what is it for?
WinSxS is a service folder that appeared in Windows Vista and is present in all subsequent versions of the operating system. Full path to the folder: C:\Windows\WinSxS . You can see it if you turn on the display of hidden files and folders in the folder options (View tab).

 

Update files, configuration data, backup copies of files are stored here. This is the Windows Component Store directory. It is thanks to him that the user can roll back almost any system changes. For example, if another buggy update came out or you didn’t like these same changes. The contents of WinSxS are used in the rollback of the operating system to the original settings, and are also necessary for the operation of Windows.

Given the specifics of the catalog, over time it will expand rapidly.

How much space can the contents of the WinSxS folder take up
Updates come regularly, especially since the user himself often makes various changes to the operation of the operating system. If the catalog has not been optimized before, or the procedure has been performed for a long time, then the folder size can easily exceed 20 GB, but there is one caveat.

The WinSxS folder uses hard links to files in other directories. In other words, Explorer or file managers take into account the full size of the file in the calculations, although, in fact, it is not here, and the place is not occupied.

Hence another question arises. What is the normal size of this folder, and when should you seriously consider optimizing your content?

If the WinSxS folder takes up more than 10 GB of memory, then cleaning is almost certainly needed.

On the other hand, you can free up space with more modest volumes.

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Is it possible to delete the WinSxS folder or its contents?
Yes, you can delete any system folder or file. True, in this case, the consequences will not keep you waiting: the next time you turn on or restart Windows, it may not start, and most recovery methods will be useless.

 

Other possible consequences of deleting individual files in the WinSxS folder:

computer crashes, crashes and restarts;
problems installing updates;
rollback problems.
Deleting the WinSxS folder itself or its contents, like any other system directory, is strongly discouraged, but this does not mean that the user needs to put up with the situation. It is possible to reduce the amount of memory it occupies.

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How to clean up the WinSxS folder: methods and instructions
Let’s start with the fact that you do not need to go into this folder and manually delete files you don’t like. There are other tools for this. The advantage of the methods described below is that unused files are cleaned up during optimization. In other words, there is a safe removal of garbage, which simply clutters up the system. The tools use different algorithms, so the effectiveness of the methods also differs.

Built-in Disk Cleanup in Windows
This is the easiest and safest method that aims to remove unused updates. Internal content optimization does not occur, so if the goal is to free up as much space as possible on the system disk, it is better to use other methods. On the other hand, this is the easiest way that any user can use.

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Instructions for using the built-in Disk Cleanup tool in Windows.

Go to the “Computer” folder, right-click on the system drive (drive C), select “Properties”, and then click the “Disk Cleanup” button, where we are interested in the “Clean up system files” button. An alternative option is to write the following cleanmgr command on the command line (opened as Administrator) .
In the window that appears, check the box next to “Clean up update files” and click “OK”.
Wait for the procedure to complete and reboot.
If the WinSxS directory has not been cleaned before or has been cleaned for a long time, then using this method it will be possible to free up from several hundred megabytes to a couple of gigabytes of space.

This method is relevant for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. Windows 7 does not initially have this option, but it will appear when the KB2852386 update package is installed.

DISM.exe utility
This method assumes the use of the console. Its efficiency is higher and more space can be freed up as a result.

Instructions for using the DISM.exe utility to clean up the WinSxS folder.

Open a command prompt as Administrator and type in the command: Dism.exe /Online /Cleanup-Image /AnalyzeComponentStore .
Wait for the analysis to complete. The utility will evaluate the need to clean up the directory, and in our example there is no need for further actions, but of course this will not stop us.
We initialize cleaning the directory with the following command: Dism.exe /online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup .
We are waiting for the utility to perform the necessary actions.

Ready.
But that’s not all that can be done with the DISM.exe utility. Other useful actions are listed below.

Dism.exe /online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup /ResetBase – command to remove obsolete and unused versions of catalog components.
Dism.exe /online /Cleanup-Image /SPSuperseded – command to compress update packages.
You can now admire the result by calling the Dism.exe /Online /Cleanup-Image /AnalyzeComponentStore command again and comparing the result with the first analysis. By the way, this command is not supported in Windows 7.

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In the above example, the result is insignificant, due to the recent deep cleaning of the system, but it is still there.

Task Manager
Many users forget about the huge optimization possibilities that the Windows Task Scheduler gives. It will be useful in our case as well.To clear the WinSxS folder using the Task Scheduler, you need to perform the following procedure.

Call the task scheduler from the Run menu (Win+R) or from the command line using the taskschd.msc command .
In the window that opens, open the “Microsoft” directory on the left, then “Windows”, and here find “Servicing”.
Select “StartComponentCleanup” and click “Run” in the menu on the right.
The task will be completed within an hour.
The advantage of the method is that the user can set up automatic cleaning of the WinSxS folder on a schedule and forget about the problem. To do this, right-click on the “StartComponentCleanup” task, select the “Properties” item, the “Triggers” tab, and here set the schedule for the procedure.

Removing unused components
This method is for advanced users. Removing components may affect system stability.

In this case, we will clean up inactive components. In the future, if necessary, they can be restored.

In the command line, opened on behalf of the Administrator, we write the following: DISM.exe /Online /English /Get-Features /Format:Table .
We get a list of components with an indication of the state (Enable / Disable).
To remove a feature, you must enter the command DISM.exe /Online /Disable-Feature /featurename:XXX /Remove , where XXX is the name of the feature to be removed.
You can view active and inactive Windows components in the “Programs and Features” section, which is located here: Control Panel\Programs\Programs and Features. The item of interest is on the left side of the window.

The most popular options for clearing a directory are the first two methods, about which many YouTube videos have been made.

Using the methods suggested in the article, you can reduce the size of WinSxS. The result depends on the chosen method and how often the user cleans the system of garbage. As a rule, interest in the WinSxS folder arises when it is necessary to free up space on the system disk. And how to do this can be read here .