Microsoft releases Windows 7 patch made to help delete old Windows Updates

While Microsoft does not plan to release a second service pack for Windows 7, that doesn't mean that it will stop updating its older, and currently most used, PC operating system. This week, Microsoft released a new Windows 7 update that should be very helpful for PC owners who want to free up some disc space on their hard drive.

In a post on Microsoft's Server and Tools blog, the company talks about the update along with the Windows 7 problem that it is designed to help out with. Basically, Windows 7 has a WinSxS directory that can get filled up with Windows Update files. Microsoft designed Windows 7 so that when a new service pack is released, the user has an option to clean up all those old Windows Update files that are no longer needed in that directory.

The problem, of course, is that Microsoft has only released one service pack for Windows 7 since it launched in 2009 and has no plans to release any others. That means the WinSxS directory has been getting stuffed with Windows Update files for over two years, including many that were released earlier this week.

So on Tuesday, instead of a full service pack, Microsoft released an update to its Disk Cleanup wizard for Windows 7 SP1 that will allow users to get rid of those old Windows Update files in the WinSxS directory. While it is available to download via Windows Update, it is labeled as "Important" and not "Critical". That means some users may have to change the Windows Update settings to get the new Disk Cleanup version or they can manually download the patch from Microsoft.

Source: Microsoft via ZDNet | Image via Microsoft

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No SP-2 for Windows-7? Unless MS fixes the mess with Windows-8, Windows-7 is going to be around for a very long time. If allowed to get buggy, it will be a further inducement to seek alternative Operating Systems. Of course, a keyboard/mouse oriented Windows-9 for laptops and desktops could be a viable alternative as a logical progression from Windows-7.

Please note that use of this new tool might not result in an immediate reduction in hard disk usage, because copies of the deleted files are held in the latest system restore point. Only after a few months (or however long your system protection holds on to previous versions of files) will the usage of disk space actually decrease.

just a quick question, i haven't had chance to test it myself, but i assume that this patch will be available for Windows 2008R2? be good to clear some servers down, anyone had chance to test this?

I don't understand why Microsoft needs several gigs of files in millions of computers just to re-apply or uninstall Windows Updates in the unlikely scenario that it'll be necessary. Seems like a huge waste, where the Windows Update installer files should logically rather reside in the cloud. Let the computer get them online in case it needs to reapply them? Online connectivity is no rare commodity and you required that to get the updates in the first place...

Microsoft has no trouble providing server capacity for Windows 7 installs with no SP2 causing tons of updates from Windows Update, but they do have a problem with allowing people to reapply patches via the cloud, something people almost never do. Huh...

Any of these Windows 8 "fixes" are just bandaid solutions to poor design which is so typical Microsoft. Obviously a system folder shouldn't balloon in size where the user don't see a noticeable benefit of it.

Edited by Northgrove, Oct 10 2013, 7:55am :

Northgrove said,
I don't understand why Microsoft needs several gigs of files in millions of computers just to re-apply or uninstall Windows Updates in the unlikely scenario that it'll be necessary. Seems like a huge waste, where the Windows Update installer files should logically rather reside in the cloud. Let the computer get them online in case it needs to reapply them? Online connectivity is no rare commodity and you required that to get the updates in the first place...

Microsoft has no trouble providing server capacity for Windows 7 installs with no SP2 causing tons of updates from Windows Update, but they do have a problem with allowing people to reapply patches via the cloud, something people almost never do. Huh...

Any of these Windows 8 "fixes" are just bandaid solutions to poor design which is so typical Microsoft. Obviously a system folder shouldn't balloon in size where the user don't see a noticeable benefit of it.


if you have a large HDD with a ton of free space, would it not make sense to make use of it? Granted when an app gets removed the files in WinSxS that are associated from the program should be removed as well.

paul0544 said,

Just tried this and it works great, thanks!


Yeah that program does wonders. The guy who made it was picked up by Microsoft too

TRC said,
It's a shame that Microsoft doesn't have the money or manpower to release proper service packs anymore.

It would be nice if they could do an update rollup at least. A newly installed Windows 7 will take forever to update and then have this huge WinSXS folder. They need to get that damn folder under control first things first!

I would be happy with a rollup too, anything would be better than downloading hundreds of updates as you said. I agree the amount of space being taken up by that folder is absurd.

Agreed they really would save everyone some grief but putting together a rollup of everything thus far.

That said the reason they don't do that or a service pack isn't because they can't or don't have the cash for it.

knighthawk said,
That said the reason they don't do that or a service pack isn't because they can't or don't have the cash for it.

I know, I was being sarcastic.

mrp04 said,

It would be nice if they could do an update rollup at least. A newly installed Windows 7 will take forever to update and then have this huge WinSXS folder. They need to get that damn folder under control first things first!

I agree.

TRC said,
It's a shame that Microsoft doesn't have the money or manpower to release proper service packs anymore.

They have the money and they could hire more manpower. They just don't wanna spend any of it on more manpower to keep the higher ups rich.

My winsxs folder is 10 GB. After I ran the updated cleanup utility it is still 10 GB.

I'm not sure what point was.

Lord Method Man said,
Mine said it was going to free up 3 GB of space.

When it finished I actually lost 0.1 GB :\

Worked fine for me, just freed 4GB.

Restarting was the key. Strange that it didn't mention the need to do so. After waiting several minutes for the "Cleaning Up" procedure on the login screen I have about 3 GB more space now.

All the good and meaningful updates of Win 8 are slowly coming to Windows 7. Like the Platform update and now this. For obvious reasons MS doesn't want to update 7 so soon... But in a while, there won't be any significant or insignificant reason to upgrade to Windows 8/8.1 -only bloat.

Is this just backporting the feature added in Windows 8?

Dism.exe /online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup

Because that barely does ****. Microsoft really needs to fix this issue, that folder BALLOONS! Even my Windows 8 installs had gotten HUGE and that is just a year old. Thankfully the 8.1 update REALLY shrunk them down, but it's just a matter of time before they grow out of control again.

I just checked the MSDN page and it's actually a SUBSET of what

Dism.exe /online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup

does, and that does pretty much nothing.

Apparently there is a new option in 8.1

Dism.exe /Online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup /ResetBase

That does more. Going to try that out now!

Actually isn't the winsxs folder for their solution to DLL hell, Windows Side by Side. Every time you install a program that has it's own dll versions they get chucked in that folder so each program can have their own. Even if you uninstall the program the dlls remain there though. Over time the folder grows to enormous size and eventually comes to life and eats your hard drive. At least that's what I predict will happen.

TRC said,
Actually isn't the winsxs folder for their solution to DLL hell, Windows Side by Side. Every time you install a program that has it's own dll versions they get chucked in that folder so each program can have their own. Even if you uninstall the program the dlls remain there though. Over time the folder grows to enormous size and eventually comes to life and eats your hard drive. At least that's what I predict will happen.

I think it's both that and stores all previous windows updates. Go read the commends on the linked MSDN site for more info. Windows Updates are the bulk majority of its size though. Install Windows 7 SP1 and check disk usage. Then apply all updates and do nothing else and check disk usage again. It'll be a LOT more.

I just tried
Dism.exe /Online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup
and
Dism.exe /Online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup /ResetBase

On my Windows 8.1 install and neither freed any space, but my 8.1 install is only 1 month old. Time will tell if the new /ResetBase is the solution to the WinSXS problem

From MSDN:
Using the /StartComponentCleanup parameter of Dism.exe on a running version of Windows 8.1 gives you similar results to running the StartComponentCleanup task in Task Scheduler, except previous versions of updated components will be immediately deleted (without a 30 day grace period) and you will not have a 1-hour timeout limitation.

Using the /ResetBase switch with the /StartComponentCleanup parameter of DISM.exe on a running version of Windows 8.1 removes all superseded versions of every component in the component store.

mrp04 said,
Is this just backporting the feature added in Windows 8?

Dism.exe /online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup

Because that barely does ****. Microsoft really needs to fix this issue, that folder BALLOONS! Even my Windows 8 installs had gotten HUGE and that is just a year old. Thankfully the 8.1 update REALLY shrunk them down, but it's just a matter of time before they grow out of control again.

The cleaner works on 7. I just tried it. Removed about 3.5 GB of old update files.
The trick is to restart after using the cleaner. It wont do anything until you do.

Bout time!!! SXS folder really ****ed me off in previous versions. I remember going through various guides on the web just to clean it out... not sure WHAT the heck got in there, I had a 50GB partition and it filled up because of it.