Windows.old: How to delete the system folder correctly

The Windows.old folder takes up valuable space after a Windows upgrade. This is how you get rid of the folder.

When changing to a new Windows version – such as the currently available Windows 10 May 2021 Update (Windows 10 Version 21H1) – the Windows installation routine automatically moves the Windows version used up to now, including programs and settings, to the system folder named windows. old. This folder can contain many gigabytes of data and simply deleting it in Explorer is not possible.

You can use Disk Cleanup to free up valuable hard disk space.


You can use Disk Cleanup to free up valuable hard disk space.

The windows.old folder is also created when upgrading from Windows 7 or Windows 8 to Windows 10. Now that some time has passed, you should consider whether the folder is really still needed.

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Since Windows 10 May 2019 Update (Windows 10 Version 1903), a new option has been added to remove the windows.old folder. We will introduce you to this option below.

Some reasons for deleting windows.old:

  • You are absolutely satisfied with Windows 10 and do not plan to switch back

  • It is now 10 days (previously: 30 days) since the switch to Windows 10 and a direct return to the Windows version used immediately before using the rollback function integrated in Windows 10 is no longer possible.

  • You regularly create a complete backup of the system drive anyway and can use this to restore the system at any time.

  • All personal documents and settings were correctly carried over to Windows 10 from the previous Windows version.

Method 1: To remove the windows.old folder:

  • Start the Explorer (Windows key + E)

  • Then select “This PC” and right-click the icon of the hard drive on which Windows is installed. Select “Properties” in the context menu.

  • In the new window, click on “Clean up” in the “General” tab.

  • Windows now determines whether and which files can be deleted from the hard drive. This can take a long time.

  • In the “Data cleanup” window, click the “Clean up system files” button at the bottom left.

  • Windows now determines again whether and which system files can be deleted from the hard disk. This too can take a while.

  • The entry “Previous Windows installation (s)”, which refers to the windows.old directory, is important in the “Data cleansing” window. Immediately to the right of this you can see how much hard disk space is freed up during a cleanup.

  • Now decide whether and which other checkmarks should be set under “Data cleansing”.

  • Note: Think carefully again whether you want to delete Windows.old – the following step is at your own risk. Also consider whether there are still personal files in Windows.old that should definitely be backed up beforehand.

  • After clicking on “Ok”, the desired hard disk cleanup will be carried out.

Method 2: Remove Windows.old starting with Windows 10 May 2019 Update

With Windows 10 May 2019 Update, the “Memory Optimization” function was introduced in Windows 10. This can be activated under “Settings, System, Storage”.

In the Windows 10 settings you can use the "Storage optimization" activate


In the Windows 10 settings you can activate the “memory optimization”

If you switch to a new, larger Windows 10 version with memory optimization activated, you can release the memory space occupied by the older Windows 10 version as follows: Go to “Settings, System, Memory” and click Then click the “Configure or run now” link.

Under “Free up space now” you now have the option of deleting an earlier version of Windows from the hard drive or SSD by clicking on the “Clean up now” button.


click under “Settings, System, Storage” on the entry “Temporary files” of the drive on which Windows 10 is installed. Windows 10 now suggests various temporary files for deletion. Including the files that come from a previous Windows installation.

Remove Windows.old after major Windows 10 updates

The windows.old folder is also used when switching to a new, larger version within Windows 10. In this scenario, too, you can revert to the previous version within 10 days if problems should arise.

You can revert to the previous, working Windows 10 version via Settings -> Update & Security and Recovery. This only works as long as the Windows.old folder and its contents still exist. In other words: after a major Windows 10 update, you shouldn’t touch the Windows.old folder. It is better to wait a few days to see whether errors still occur or the system suddenly becomes unstable.

Alternatively, you can also initiate the recovery as follows if problems arise: Hold down the Shift key on the keyboard and then click on the Start button at the bottom left. Here you select the entry “Restart” (while holding down the Shift key). After the restart you will end up in safe mode and can switch to the previous Windows 10 version using the advanced options.

In safe mode, you can also completely delete the Windows.old folder after the 10 days have elapsed, if there are still files left over after the method described above.

Windows.old backup for recovery – is it worth it?

Alternatively, you could of course swap Windows.old to an external drive. However, this is not recommended because Windows.old contains a lot of data garbage and the system files stored in it quickly become out of date. Windows.old should therefore only be used to switch from a new version to the previous version within a short period of time, for example if problems arise. Otherwise, Windows 10 should be repaired or even reinstalled. How this works is explained step by step in this guide.


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