After the upgrade to Windows 10, you may have noticed a Windows.old folder taking up a lot of space on your Surface’s hard drive.
Since hard drive space is always at a premium on a Surface, you may have even tried to delete the Windows.old folder from your drive only to get an access denied message. So, how can you get your precious drive space back?
I have three methods you can try. All three are pretty straightforward, so pick the method that works best for you.
Delete the Windows.old Folder: What Is The Windows.old Folder?
The Windows.old folder contains the files required to Surface. So, make absolutely sure that you’re happy with Windows 10 before you remove this folder.
This is actually the reason Microsoft prevents you from simply deleting the folder, even with admin rights. It’s been “set aside” by Windows as a special system folder to prevent someone deleting it, if they didn’t know what it contained.
If you’re planning on sticking with Windows 10, read on to learn how to remove it. If you’re still thinking about going back to Windows 8.1, you might want to hang onto the Windows.old folder until you make a final decision. However, as I’ll cover in Option 1, you only have 30 days from the date you upgraded to make that decision.
Delete the Windows.old Folder: Removal Option 1 (Wait)
You could just wait and do nothing – 30 days after you upgrade to Windows 10, a built-in utility called Disk Cleanup will go through your hard drive and remove the Windows.old folder automatically. After it does that, you will no longer be able to rollback to Windows 8.1 without completely rebuilding your Surface. Oh, did I say that already?
This is by far the easiest option if you can spare the drive space but it means some of your Surface’s drive will be tied up until Disk Cleanup runs.
Delete the Windows.old Folder: Removal Option 2 (Disk Cleanup)
If waiting isn’t an option and you need the space back now, you can manually trigger the Disk Cleanup program to clean the Windows.old folder from your drive and reclaim the drive.
To use Disk Cleanup, follow these steps:
- Do a search for Disk Cleanup and select Disk Cleanup from the results.
- When the Disk Cleanup program starts, press the Clean Up System Files button.
- The program will restart, it may take some time while it searches your drive for data it can clean from your drive.
- Scroll down the list until you find Previous Windows Installation(s) and Temporary Windows Installation Files check the boxes next to each of them. then tap OK (don’t worry about the other checked boxes).
- You’ll get an “are you sure” prompt, select Delete Files.
The Disk Cleanup program will now remove the Windows.old folder from your Surface’s drive. It might take a few minutes, so be patient. You will not need to restart after it’s finished.
Delete the Windows.old Folder: Removal Option 3 (Elevated RD Command)
If for some reason, Disk Cleanup won’t work on your Surface, you can try deleting the Windows.old folder using the Remove Directory (RD) command from an elevated command prompt.
Here’s how to do it:
- Attach a keyboard if you have one (it’s just easier to do this with a keyboard).
- Start an elevated command prompt by right-clicking the Start Button (tap and hold) and selecting Command Prompt (Admin) from the menu.
- In the Command Prompt window, type “RD /S /Q c:\windows.old” (without the quotes)
- Press Enter.
Technically, there is a forth option you can use to delete the Windows.old folder. Basically it’s just the second option performed from the recovery environment. Fortunately, it’s very unlikely you should ever have to do that with a Surface. You’re more likely going to need to use that method with a desktop or a machine that was upgraded from Windows 7.
And that’s it. You should have recovered quite a bit of disk space by removing the Windows.old folder (I got back 22GB). Just remember that you won’t be able to roll back to Windows 8.1 without completely rebuilding your Surface with a recovery drive.
Tim Rolston is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director).
He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.