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winsxs folder way to big!

    Question

  • This folder is 11.01 gigs. I google around some say you should not delete any thing since it might cause damage to your system and cause programs not to run right. Some say to delete it at your own risk. But the thing is what should I delete I know some stuff is use full. There is a folder call backup which takes 512mb also folders call manifest. Then all the tons of folder and fiels in the winsxs folder.
    How big is going to get? The more I install programs the more it grows and what is safe to delete?
    Saturday, September 13, 2008 7:01 PM

Answers

  • Hi

     

    There is no way to 'safely' delete anything in the WinSxS folder, at this time.

     

    The WinSxS folder is a system folder, just like the Windows, System32 or any other system folder.

     

    This folder has a 'scavenging' component built-in and, although it works slowly, it will identify items that have been replaced with a newer version and remove them.

     

    Have you recently installed Service Pack 1?

     

    If so, there is a tool included in the Service Pack 1 installation that will immediately clean up all of the components that it replaced in the WinSxS folder. This tool has been documented to remove up to 3GB from the WinSxS folder. YMMV.

     

    Here is how to use this tool.

     

    ***NOTE: After you use this cleanup tool, you will no longer be able to remove Service Pack 1, should any problems occur. Make sure that the system is stable before using.

     

    ***NOTE 2: This tool is a one-time use tool. Once it's used it will no longer work on the same installation.

     

    Open Windows Explorer and navigate to C:\Windows\System32. Look for the file "vsp1cln.exe."

    Right click this file and select the 'Run As Administrator' option.

    The Vista Service Pack 1 Cleanup Tool will remove all of the redundant files that it has replaced.

    The amount of disk space you gain will depend on the system, what files are installed, etc.

     

    Let us know how it works for you.

     


    If this post helps to resolve your issue, click the Mark as Answer or Helpful button at the top of this message.
    By marking a post as Answered, or Helpful you help others find the answer faster.

    Ronnie Vernon
    Microsoft MVP
    Windows Desktop Experience
    Saturday, September 13, 2008 7:40 PM
    Moderator
  • "Look at my sig"
    I do have SP1 install for many months. This OS was install with SP1 from the DVD so is all good.
    I will try this tool, I hope it won't screw any thing.
    Before I do this I have one question, when I install the OS it already had SP1 slip stream in it like I mention above, is it ok to use this tool?
    Saturday, September 13, 2008 8:31 PM

All replies

  • Hi

     

    There is no way to 'safely' delete anything in the WinSxS folder, at this time.

     

    The WinSxS folder is a system folder, just like the Windows, System32 or any other system folder.

     

    This folder has a 'scavenging' component built-in and, although it works slowly, it will identify items that have been replaced with a newer version and remove them.

     

    Have you recently installed Service Pack 1?

     

    If so, there is a tool included in the Service Pack 1 installation that will immediately clean up all of the components that it replaced in the WinSxS folder. This tool has been documented to remove up to 3GB from the WinSxS folder. YMMV.

     

    Here is how to use this tool.

     

    ***NOTE: After you use this cleanup tool, you will no longer be able to remove Service Pack 1, should any problems occur. Make sure that the system is stable before using.

     

    ***NOTE 2: This tool is a one-time use tool. Once it's used it will no longer work on the same installation.

     

    Open Windows Explorer and navigate to C:\Windows\System32. Look for the file "vsp1cln.exe."

    Right click this file and select the 'Run As Administrator' option.

    The Vista Service Pack 1 Cleanup Tool will remove all of the redundant files that it has replaced.

    The amount of disk space you gain will depend on the system, what files are installed, etc.

     

    Let us know how it works for you.

     


    If this post helps to resolve your issue, click the Mark as Answer or Helpful button at the top of this message.
    By marking a post as Answered, or Helpful you help others find the answer faster.

    Ronnie Vernon
    Microsoft MVP
    Windows Desktop Experience
    Saturday, September 13, 2008 7:40 PM
    Moderator
  • "Look at my sig"
    I do have SP1 install for many months. This OS was install with SP1 from the DVD so is all good.
    I will try this tool, I hope it won't screw any thing.
    Before I do this I have one question, when I install the OS it already had SP1 slip stream in it like I mention above, is it ok to use this tool?
    Saturday, September 13, 2008 8:31 PM
  • Hi

     

    Sorry, I missed that.

     

    Running the tool cannot hurt the installation.

     

    However, since SP1 was already integrated into Vista, the tool will probably not have any effect.

     


    If this post helps to resolve your issue, click the Mark as Answer or Helpful button at the top of this message.
    By marking a post as Answered, or Helpful you help others find the answer faster.

    Ronnie Vernon
    Microsoft MVP
    Windows Desktop Experience
    Saturday, September 13, 2008 9:29 PM
    Moderator
  • I just went ahead and run it and I got 3 gigs less on my winsxs folder. From 11gigs to 8.60 gigs
    thanks for that tool
    Saturday, September 13, 2008 10:08 PM
  •  Digitalmind wrote:
    I just went ahead and run it and I got 3 gigs less on my winsxs folder. From 11gigs to 8.60 gigs
    thanks for that tool

     

    That's great!

     

    We both learned something today. I didn't think that tool would work on a system that had SP1 integrated.

     

    Thanks for the information.




    Ronnie Vernon
    Microsoft MVP
    Windows Desktop Experience
    Saturday, September 13, 2008 10:59 PM
    Moderator
  •  

    The WinSxS folder does NOT contain actual files, just links to them from other System folders.

     

    It's used as a central place for locating the current machine state (such as driver versions, etc), and is used by things such as Windows Update.

     

    Don't worry about it.

    Sunday, November 23, 2008 6:16 AM
  • My home OS: Vista x64 Ultimate SP1 Russian
    RAM: 4 GB
    Disk C: System, Boot
    Disk C size: 50 GB

    Today 11.04.2009.

    Size of WINDOWS folder: 46 GB
    Size of WinSxS folder: 30 GB

    Lets see to system requirements:
    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/get/system-requirements.aspx
    and what we see:
    40 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space

    After VSP1CLN.EXE:
    Size of WINDOWS folder: 46 GB
    Size of WinSxS folder: 30 GB

    I think that microsoft MUST write in Vista system requirements:
    ... at least 100 GB of available space

    Vista must die!

    After home usage, I don't want implement Vista in my organization.

    Microsoft, WTF?

    Sory for my english...


    MCP, MCSA, MCSA: Messaging
    Saturday, April 11, 2009 7:26 AM
  • Sorry if my points have been made before – but winsxs is a long thread.

    I seem to have lots of junk? in Roaming, Local and LocalLo as well as winsxs
    I have an Acer 7520 laptop and did not install vista myself. I do not have original Vista dvds but only what Tesco supplied when I bought the laptop.

    I do have extended warranty and am not sure if I am covered if I try and replace/or repartition the 32.5 GB partition with a new bigger disk or partitionL

    Unfortunately 9.48 of that partition is winsxs almost a third of my disk space and so I am spending an inordinate amount of time trying to clean up everything else.

    One problem that I seem to have is that trying to install software [such as vb express] on another drive seems to require quite a it of free space on c: are there any walk-rounds of this?

    This morning the laptop reported 0bytes free on c: despite me leaving it with a couple of Gb last night (it has supposedly been downloading to another drive) 

    Thanks

    Alfred

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009 2:31 PM
  • Hi

    There is no way to 'safely' delete anything in the WinSxS folder, at this time.

    The WinSxS folder is a system folder, just like the Windows, System32 or any other system folder.

    Let us know how it works for you.


    Ronnie Vernon
    Microsoft MVP
    Windows Desktop Experience
    There is no way to 'safely' delete anything in the WinSxS folder, at this time.

    This is Absurd! ABSOLUTE BS!!!!

    ive got a 25gb WINSXS folder. do you know how big my original 1.8" HD shipped with Windows Vista Ultimate is??? 30GB!

    im running an 80gb now....Thank some god. THIS IS CRAZY.

    im flabbergasted, appalled, deeply offended, this should be a top priority creating a reliable easy fix for this.

    i dont know what to do, for the first time in my life, wiping my copy of Vista (which being a godsent), is a really horrible options for this runaway disk space hog you, Microsoft have created.
    I sincerely demand and request that you provide me with a free upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate??? because i cant continue using Vista when its taking all my disk space!!!! ...not to mention all its other issues.


    Colin
    Please email me with details for obtaining my free upgrade to Windows 7.

    Thanks and and Sunshine Smiles





    Friday, October 02, 2009 7:31 AM
  • I ran it. Somehow my free disk space went from 870 meg to 803 meg. Great.

    I've read the MS blogs about how wonderful this feature is. How you can roll back to any point blah blah. And how every possible configuration permutation can be achieved.

    What it doesn't explain is why in the heck, on my Vista 64 laptop with an Intel motherboard, do I have 5 different amd64_microsoft-windows-naturallanguage6_* files?! These files are 294 meg EACH! I'm not planning on ripping my motherboard out of my laptop and switching it from an Intel platform to the AMD platform. Even more infuriating is the 143 meg amd64_microsoft-windows-moviesamples* file. Seriously!?!! Are you friggin kidding me?!! 143 meg of movie samples for the AMD platform that I can't delete? Really!? There's a huge list of other amd64 files as well...too many to list. And then the Intel files, while some of them may be useful, I have a hard time believing I need hundreds of megs of movie sample files.

    I haven't installed any security patches or updates in months since who knows how many more copies of each useless file the update will spawn. I'm pretty sure any change at this point will consume the remainder of my disk space.

    Seriously, there's got to be a list of BS files that can be removed. At the very least a way to remove the files that are for a completely different motherboard architecture.

    Is Windows 7 the answer? I'd be amazed that it didn't also have this "feature".

    MS, listen to your users. This is a huge problem that MUST be addressed. You can't just continue to ignore it.

    Thursday, October 08, 2009 5:05 PM
  • Yea hate to inform you that this problem is in windows 7. I just noticed all my hard drive gone so I find the winsxs folder started googling and there is a good chance I may be reinstalling xp. I really cant believe this. I know dll ____ was a problem in the past but Ive installed tons of programs on xp and yea maybe every once in awhile you get a hiccup but nothing to justify 40 gigs worth of redundancy.

    The best solution would be to be able to turn it on or off. If you dont know anything bout computers and you got the space go for it, but I see know reason to use it as all the programs Ive used in xp most of which I'm using in windows 7 and never had any dll problems

    for love of God Microsoft give me the choice to turn it off. If I screw it up hey its my system (and hopfully I learn something in the process) but forcing needless redundancy is just a waste of resources
    Saturday, October 10, 2009 9:29 PM
  • Yea hate to inform you that this problem is in windows 7.
    OK Microsoft. Time to answer the question. Will you or will you not be fixing this? Just let us know so we can make alternate plans if no fix is to be coming. It's a simple question and we deserve and need an answer. The days of ignoring your customers are over. You can choose to not fix it. Fine. But answer the dang question instead of ignoring us.
    Tuesday, October 13, 2009 2:15 PM
  • Just had to drop in here and clarify "amd64".

    "amd64" is the code name for EVERY 64-bit component of Windows. Since AMD was the first company to produce a consumer-class 64-bit processor (Athlon 64, far before Intel's em64t technology), the code was named "amd64". Very short sighted, for sure, but that's what that means - simply that it's 64-bit. There's no special code that runs on AMD versus Intel, just that it's 64-bit.

    Yes, the winsxs folder is wildly out of control and is a very poor solution (called "component based servicing"). It really doesn't solve any problems and contributes to other large problems (the number of files in the winsxs folder often leads to corruption and other hangups). But that's Windows 6.0 for you. I doubt Windows 7.0 (not "Windows 7") will be any better, but I can hope. Windows 7 goes to some length to resolve this with a much smaller winsxs folder, but it's still there and it's still huge.

    The Winsxs folder is, basically, a known good copy of Windows system files. It's actually cross-referenced (linked) to virtual files in the System32 folder which are updated when the components in the winsxs folder are updated. That's why Vista doesn't have a sort of "$NtServicePackUninstall$" folder like XP does - uninstalling a service pack or hotfix merely consists of reverting the links to the previous versions of the files. Component Clean (compcln with Vista SP2 or vsp1cln with Vista SP1) cleans up most unused components leaving only the active versions. A very useful tool I routinely use at the computer shop I work at. It should be given more exposure IMO...

    In related news, Vista still sucks.
    Saturday, October 24, 2009 12:43 AM
  • This issue is pretty ridiculous.  My laptop drive is at 14 GB free space right now and that will soon be shrinking as I install some more software and my winsxs folder keeps getting bigger and bigger.  It's currently over 15 GB and I could really use that space.  I'm an advanced user that is not in the least bit worried about messing up my installation EVER.  I have system restore turned off and all services even remotely related to making backups disabled for this very reason.  I couldn't care less about reverting to a prior state for anything.  If there's a problem I would just pop in my USB stick with BartPE and mirror my installation image to my drive.  There needs to be an option for people like myself to just disable the use of and delete this folder.

    -Edit: I ran compcln.exe in a command prompt and freed 2 gigabytes of space, but that still leaves 13.4 gigabytes.  Are you really suggesting I have 13 gigs of .dll files that I really need backed up?

    -Edit: I also realized that there was a massive chunk of missing space on my drive to the tune of 34 gigabytes.  Even though I have shadow copy services and anything related to system restore disabled it was still reserving a huge chunk for system restore backups.  You can follow this guide to free up all of that space or at least make it smaller so Vista isn't hording too much disk space for backups.  http://vistasupport.mvps.org/decrease_storage_space-allocated_to_system_restore.htm
    • Edited by arfett Friday, November 13, 2009 5:01 AM because Vista blows.
    Thursday, November 12, 2009 9:22 AM
  • Clarification of a still ugly situation.

    First, MS claims that the folder only 'appears to be big but is not' are absolute BS.  Claim that it is actually about 400MB?  Wrong.  Open winrar and check the folder information from within there for the real info.  For me, its this:

    files: 207,011

    total size: 23,811,897,999

    cluster size: 4096 (this is important here...!)

    real file size: 24,210,498,846

    files slack: 398,600,847


    Thusly, as file slack describes ONLY the actual free space within a cluster or group of clusters after the end of actual data and before the eoc, the actual usage for it's data IS 23.8GB, with approximately 400MB of files slack bringing the total to 24.2GB.  This is disgusting, and totally unacceptable.  Claim they are just hardlinks misread as actual data?  That should be fixable in a miniscule patch, which we will no doubt ever see.  So then the conclusion has to be, that regardless of the reason, the space is consumed, unusable, and the OS is to blame.  Has anyone felt the sting of pain trying to defrag or chkdsk their drive?  It takes forever..

    I think the worst part is that I was just about to upgrade to win 7 but now finding out this problem is going to come along for the ride, I'm thinking xp is the only real, viable option, besides a *nix distro.  Does anyone else realize that MS will NEVER stop doing everything in their power to coerce you into buying a new OS, over and over again?
    Thursday, November 12, 2009 9:34 PM
  • I just did a simple test.
    I installed copy of Windows 7 to virtual machine and measured disk usage for various parts of the OS.

    Entire drive C: has 6.24GB taken.

    WinSxS folder is 4GB
    All other files on drive C: are 5GB

    Obviously 4+5 is 9GB. So the difference of nearly 3GB is amount of space which is not actually taken by WinSxS but are hardlinks to files outside of WinSxS. Roughly 70% of files in WinSxS are not actually there.
    Tuesday, November 17, 2009 6:22 PM
  • real file size: 24,210,498,846
    'Real files size' in WinRAR does count hardlinks as real files - so it is not a 'real' thing actually (the word 'real' in WinRAR refers to problem with cluster sizes - so basically it is the same as 'Size on disk' in Windows Explorer, size of clusters taken by files in question). So WinRAR is just as misleading as Windows Explorer.
    Tuesday, November 17, 2009 6:28 PM
  • It still doesn't change the fact that there is no reason for winsxs to be as big as it is.  I just recently installed a 40GB SSD to run windows 7 on and my other main applications for speed. The WinSxS folder will continue to grow and cut away most of my SSD disk space.  Since SSD's are mainly intended to be OS drive and windows 7 is supposed to be optimized for SSD's, then explain to me why M$ doesn't fix the WinSxS issue. Are the programmers morons or are they too busy wasting money on those crappy "Windows 7 was my idea" commercials?  C'mon microsoft, get off you lazy rumps and fix this issue!!!
    Saturday, November 21, 2009 9:09 PM
  • It's never going to go away, not in xp, vista, or win7.  Win8?  I certainly hope so, since they have already announced their intentions to move on to it in the near future.  My guess is that it simply comes down to this: even though we all know that 'the hard links don't *really* take up space', microsoft built their file system to view them and count them as if they were real files, and built a billion and a half apps AROUND this functionality.  It's a near fatal flaw, and one that cannot be fixed.  One could also call it a useful 'feature'.  If MS were to release a hotfix to patch the OS so that it was fixed, countless apps including the OS itself would fail to work as they would now see all of the hard linked files as shortcuts of sorts instead of 'real' files, and would spit out error upon error.  It's the Microsoft paradox; space which is actually unused is literally unusable.  

    I know the winrar file size sounds wrong when you use reasoning, but I disagree.  As long as my OS believes my disk space is literally used due to a direct result of a function of it's own design, then the disk space IS USED.  It cannot be written to, it may contain nothing but a long string of 0's, but it is used.  I'm happy the side by side idea helped so much with the blue screens, but seriously, was it really that much of a problem before?  I beta tested XP and had my test machine up for 3 months straight, used daily, with not a single crash, and I install/uninstall/play/test/etc like a madman.  ____, we had a very solid 6+ years of great performance from XP, and it has an sxs folder, but it's teeny tiny. *shrug*  I guess that introducing an OS that looks WAY better than XP (Vista), getting people to buy it even with it's faults, improving it and then selling THAT improvement (win7), and then eventually resolving the sxs issue and selling THAT under the guise of win8 or win9, well, it's a darn good business plan if you are microsoft.  Unfotunately for most of us, we know that when the sxs issue IS resolved, something else will be built in that is 'pretty great but needs improvement and updating', thus necessitating another purchase of a new operating system.  There's no money for MS if you build an OS that works indefinitely, right?  

    This is likely going to become a tragic failure point in the next year or two, but I hope the rest of you will be safely aboard linux/OSX/Chrome with me, I'm done with MS!
    • Proposed as answer by M3700 Wednesday, January 11, 2012 11:25 AM
    Thursday, December 03, 2009 3:24 PM
  • The WinSxS folder is not big. The files are hardlinks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_Link). The files are stored inside the WinSxS folder and are mapped to the destination folders (for example C:\Program files, C:\Windows and many more).

    You can use the Tool Link Shell Extension (LSE) (http://schinagl.priv.at/nt/hardlinkshellext/hardlinkshellext.html) to see which files are hardlink and which not.

    For the growing.

    This will happen when you install new updates. Do you remember XP? After every update you have several
    $NtUninstallKBXXXXXX$ folders. Those folders are move to WinSxS. Every file is now versioned inside the WinSxS folder. When you install a new update, the GDR and LDR version is placed into the WInSxS folder and the matching version is mapped as hardlink to the destination folder.

    The folder is only so large, because Windows Explorer doesn't understand that all those files are hard link.

    This misreporting of space usage also happens with ISOs. Download this ISO:
    http://download.microsoft.com/download/E/8/E/E8EEB394-7F42-4963-A2D8-29559B738298/VS2008ExpressWithSP1ENUX1504728.iso (Express Editons of VS2008).

    The ISO file size is 750MB. Now mount it to a virtual DVD drive and select the size of the DVD. Now you have 2.5GB usage. How can that be? The answer is, that the WCU folder is only stored once and mapped to the other Express Edition folders, just like the Hardlinks from your WinSxS folder.

    I hope this helps a bit, that you can understand WinSxS folder in Vista and Windows 7.

    André

    "A programmer is just a tool which converts caffeine into code" CLIP- Stellvertreter http://www.winvistaside.de/
    Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:35 AM

  • Hi, if anybody with Vista SP2 (Service Pack 2) is reading this thread, this information probably will be usefull to you and save you some further googling: 

    Vista SP2 has changed the Vsp1cln.exe tool to Compcln.exe, which was
    integrated into SP1, but it is no longer a part of the SP2. However,
    the basic functionality has been successfully preserved.

    SP2 also includes a Service Pack Clean-up tool (Compcln.exe), which
    helps restore the hard disk space by permanently deleting the previous
    versions of the files (RTM and SP1) that are being serviced by SP2.

    How to-
    Open Command Prompt as Administrator (when UAC is enabled) and click on
    Continue to jump ahead.
    Execute the command Compcln.exe
    It prompts to make SP2 permanent on your computer. Press "Y" to confirm!
    Wednesday, December 16, 2009 9:52 PM
  • Hi guys. I read about the winsxs folder and i was very exctited. A made a test, how about the hard links and others. The result:
    - Windows folder: 9.19 GB
    - Windows folder without winsxs folder: 4.99 GB
    - winsxs folder: 4.19 GB
    There is nothing strange. But after that:
    - All other, without Windows folder: 8.89 GB
    - All: 15.0 GB (Windows Explorer said)
    - All: 18.0 GB (Total Commander said after when I selected all folder and file on the partition (CTRL+A on the root))

    If we think that, the winsxs folder use only hardlinks, i that sample shows, 3.0 GB hardlink. If you calculate, it show the winsxs folder original size only 1.19 GB.

    Guys. If someone have a very big winsxs folder, please do this test after me (you have to download Total Commander, huhh...) and write here, what you see.

    Sorry for the bad English.

    Bye-bye

    Sunday, January 03, 2010 10:27 PM
  • I also had the problem with a huge winsxs folder.
    I used the compcln.exe tool.

    Before: winsxs = 20,3GB
    After: winsxs = 9,31GB

    The compcln tool worked great.
    I only wish I've heard about this tool earlier.
    To make it more user friendly, it should have been a option in the disk cleanup dialog.
    Wednesday, January 06, 2010 12:07 AM
  • Using WinDirStat instead of Total Commander, I find no difference in the reported size of the winsxs folder and the actual disk usage.
    On my system (Vista SP2) WinDirStat and Explorer are in agreement that the Windows directory is 19.9 GB, with 11.9 GB (60%) being the winsxs folder.
    Adding up the reported bytes by WinDirStat I find it is agreement with the total size of the partition.

    My brand new Windows 7 machine has only 12.4 GB of Windows folder and starts with a winsxs size of 5.65 GB.
    I predict this folder will balloon in size just like Vista with time.

    I guess we could complain all day about the inefficiency of this system and how its a disk hog, however, tools like 'compcln.exe' do show that Microsoft is willing to provide (albeit hard to get) solution to the problem.
    Thursday, January 07, 2010 3:54 AM
  • I predict this folder will balloon in size just like Vista with time.
    Yes, because the WinSxS folder will "grow" with every update you install. Remember XP? There you have an extra folder $NtUninstallKBXXXXXX$. Those folders are now moved to the WinSxS folders.

    With WIndows 7 Sp1 will grow again, becasue there are now the Sp1 files stored too.

    "A programmer is just a tool which converts caffeine into code" CLIP- Stellvertreter http://www.winvistaside.de/
    Thursday, January 07, 2010 4:14 PM
  • So i just ran the compcln program on my 110GB laptop which has less 10GB C\ left and my Winsxs folder went from 20.9GB to it says 9.8GB but my C\ drive which was at 8.5GB free now says it has 10.2GB free, so am i missing something, where did that 11GB that didnt show up go?

    My files go as this-
    Program files-14.3
    Users-10.4
    Windows folder-18.6
    system32-3.2
    Winsxs- 9.8
    Ive gone through and looked at my myriad other folders and these ones are the only ones breaking a GB so where the heck is all my space(since i didnt get back what i was supposed to from the Winsxs folder)
    • Edited by Extront Tuesday, February 09, 2010 1:42 AM Lost disk space
    Tuesday, February 09, 2010 1:36 AM
  • please download the program TreeSizeFree ( http://www.jam-software.com/treesize_free/ ) and run it. It shows you which folders use all the space.
    Are you able to locate the folder which uses most space?

    André
    "A programmer is just a tool which converts caffeine into code" CLIP- Stellvertreter http://www.winvistaside.de/
    Tuesday, February 09, 2010 4:04 PM
  • ok, necro-posting here, but this deserves a bit of my time. first lets place some blame where its due: microsoft botched the nt 6 kernel and everything around it. from the ground up, its thumbs down. not even the "new" "features" could save that iteration. the nt 7 kernel and related is praised as "better then vista", but how about some perspective?: you could say the same about herpes being great because at least its not aids.

     

    now i've learned computing the hard way, my geekdom earned in blood. i can say that the winsxs folder is a "yes and no" scenario; its bigger then a folder should be and grow to, but its not as big as you think. the folder needs to be neutered and here's how:

     

    1. search for and download the digital volcano software "duplicate cleaner" then install it.
    2. run it on the windows folder with all protections off, searching for "*" (without quotes) and don't have it exclude hardlinks.
    3. use the selection assistant to select all but one from each group.
    4. use the remove tool to hardlink the duplicate files.

     

    you should now notice an interesting shift in disk space usage, and the rest of the problems are from the way windows guesses and reports filesystem usage. yes, "guesses"; windows has no brain, use your own. you'd do well to learn the new technologies filesystem and look through the /? outputs on the built-in commands of the command line interface to be able to better (ab)use your disks. short-stroking, sector/cluster size optimizations, mft zone shrinking/removal, and hardlinking are a few of the tricks you pick up over the years.

    final note: my advice requires you be more-then-proficient with windows, hard drives and file systems, to include backing up your data. i have absolute zero fear of data-loss/corruption for my total of 11 tib of local storage, and have vast raid 0 arrays with high-usage. if that makes you queasy, then my advice isn't for you. i don't care about your data, and if you brick something i wont help.

    doing something you don't fully understand will break something, there are no exceptions.

    • Proposed as answer by [LF] fluffy Tuesday, March 23, 2010 6:40 AM
    Tuesday, March 23, 2010 6:39 AM
  • ok, necro-posting here, but this deserves a bit of my time. first lets place some blame where its due: microsoft botched the nt 6 kernel and everything around it. from the ground up, its thumbs down. not even the "new" "features" could save that iteration. the nt 7 kernel and related is praised as "better then vista", but how about some perspective?: you could say the same about herpes being great because at least its not aids.

    now i've learned computing the hard way, my geekdom earned in blood. i can say that the winsxs folder is a "yes and  no" scenario; its bigger then a folder should be and grow to, but its not as big as you think. the folder needs  to be neutered and here's how:

    1. search for and download the digital volcano software "duplicate cleaner" then install it.
    2. run it on the windows folder with all protections off, searching for "*" (without quotes) and don't have it exclude hardlinks.
    3. use the selection assistant to select all but one from each group.
    4. use the remove tool to hardlink  the duplicate files.

    you should now notice an interesting shift in disk space usage, and the rest of the problems are from the way windows guesses and reports filesystem usage. yes, "guesses"; windows has no brain, use your own. you'd do well to learn the new technologies filesystem and look through the /? outputs on the built-in commands of the command line interface to be able to better (ab)use your disks. short-stroking, sector/cluster size optimizations, mft zone shrinking/removal, and hardlinking are a few of the tricks you pick up over the years.

    final note: my advice requires  you be more-then-proficient with windows, hard drives and file systems, to include backing up your data.  i have absolute zero fear of data-loss/corruption for my total of 11 tib of local storage, and have vast raid 0 arrays with high-usage. if that makes you queasy, then my advice isn't for you. i don't care about your data, and if you brick something i wont help.

    doing something you don't fully understand will break something, there are no exceptions.

    Way to be an elitist about it.

    It sounds like you're just trying to force programs that don't normally look in the winsxs folder for common DLLs and manually using a third party program to create the necessary hard-link to that file. Yes?

    For example, Mr. At-Home Programmer creates a program using Microsoft Visual Basic and instead of having Windows hard-link the VB library from the winsxs folder, he just includes msvbvm60.dll in the program's folder. Digital Volcano Software's Duplicate Cleaner then finds msvbvm60.dll and replaces it with a hard-link to the one in the winsxs folder. Precious hard drive space is saved.

    I think I see how this would work and yes, I believe spc fluffy is right. While this guide should work, it is only recommended for advanced users. You know, people who obsess over offline defragmentation runs and the latencies on their memory. On top of that, I don't expect the gain in performance or disk space to be very big (if noticeable at all).

    The only potential problem I see with this is that the third party program mentioned above might use one of the "duplicate files" instead of the ones it should be using in the winsxs folder as the file to hard-link from. For example, if c:\RandomProgram\Common.dll is used as the source for a hard-link to c:\Windows\winsxs\Common.dll, then RandomProgram is uninstalled, the DLL would go missing. (Ideally, one would want the hard-link to work the other way around.)

    Although I would definitely think this would save some space, I can't imagine it would save much. As far as I can recall, things such as common DLLs usually aren't very large and the number of "professional" programs that don't take advantage of shared DLLs should be very slim. Then again, I'm no expert on the subject of hard-linking things.

     

    I might as well report that on a client's Windows Vista SP2 system, compcln.exe has reduced the winsxs folder from around 16GB to 9GB. I wish Microsoft would advertise this tool a little more. Better yet, I wish they had a better system for determining and eliminating redundancy.

    • Edited by tech.kyle Monday, April 05, 2010 12:57 AM Adding a bit to say that I agree with spc fluffy's guide. Didn't mean to sound like I didn't.
    Monday, April 05, 2010 12:55 AM
  • On top of that, I don't expect the gain in performance or disk space to be very big (if noticeable at all).

    The only potential problem I see with this is that the third party program mentioned above might use one of the "duplicate files" instead of the ones it should be using in the winsxs folder as the file to hard-link from. For example, if c:\RandomProgram\Common.dll is used as the source for a hard-link to c:\Windows\winsxs\Common.dll, then RandomProgram is uninstalled, the DLL would go missing. (Ideally, one would want the hard-link to work the other way around.)

    Although I would definitely think this would save some space, I can't imagine it would save much. As far as I can recall, things such as common DLLs usually aren't very large and the number of "professional" programs that don't take advantage of shared DLLs should be very slim. Then again, I'm no expert on the subject of hard-linking things.

    didn't intend to sound elitist, but this isn't something i can recommend without much due warning. you're effectively deleting all your critical backups and killing windows ability to self-heal. if restoring these files and your personal files isn't something you're prepared to do (specifically people who only think external hard drives are for ____, or those gamers trying to eek out extra space on their new and fancy solid states but don't know enough about tweaking to really understand what they should have resorted to first) then you're only setting yourself up for a massive headache and end up throwing blame everywhere.

    now on to real-world results: tested on a virtual machine under which i installed a standard deployment worth of software, updated all software and windows (ultimate, no service pack to sp2, x64) and then opened up a bookmarks file in firefox, chrome and opera. yes, all three crashed. the winsxs folder grew from the initial install and was loathsome. running the duplicate scanner and hardlinking reduced the windows folder to the size of bitwise data only (that is, the initial size plus the updates and files installed by third party programs, less then 11 gib). the benefit was rather negligible, but i'll attribute this to only having spent two days on testing. a longer testrun on a primary machine might be in order, but i don't see myself switching to a vm for a month.

    i would agree under a posix filesystem, however microsoft got this bit right; hardlinking is done in such a way under ntfs that every file is a hardlink, additional hardlinks are equal to the first, and accesses to any hardlink are treated as a direct access to the file. this can be demonstrated and exaggerated by having a very large file, an archive of some sort, and hardlinking that file hundreds of times. a quick batch script could be written to hardlink the file using a count and inserting a hundred hardlinks into new folders. one can create hundreds of hardlinks in a matter of seconds. your filesystem should now read as being overfull. to test i used the 50 gib vdisk file from the test and ran a loop in the windows powershell. 10,000 iterations later my 4 tib raid 0 read as having 1.01 tb free, 502 tb used with 3.08 tb on disk. i deleted the original and replace it with one of the subsequent hardlinks; it worked normally. i deleted all hardlinks; it worked normally.

    the only danger in hardlinking your winsxs folder is that the files have no back-ups, so you have to make your own. if a file becomes infected or corrupt windows has no built-in way of restoring it. this is preferred as off-site and secure backups are obviously better. so to conclude; microsoft gave you the perfect tool for managing the size of the winsxs directory but it only removes obsolete revisions, microsoft gave ntfs a more mature version of an ancient posix tool that allows you to collapse duplicates into a single bitwise reference which allows you to negate redundant functions like the system volume information and winsxs directories, a bit of patience and a backup method or two later you've got a secure system that runs the way you thought it should. microsoft has made plenty of mistakes, and has armed you with the tools to cleanup after it.

    bonus: call microsoft windows support and ask them how to hardlink in a batch file. this is guaranteed to kill several hours and end with "i'm sorry sir, but i can't help you; however, if you call the corporate help line i'm sure they could help you for $400 an hour." so, where do you want to go today?

    Sunday, April 11, 2010 4:41 PM
  • If at first you don't succeed install linux and move on. The reality is that Microsoft clear intent is to have you buying hardware every time you upgrade. This has never changed. It's a way to show off the hardware and get you to purchase software. But the real intent is instant obsolescence. If you want the new software you have to buy the new hardware.
    Tuesday, November 16, 2010 5:39 PM
  • Rascalwind,

    I love Linux too, but its not fair to make that comparison between Microsoft and Linux (admittedly, 20 GB for a base OS seems to be a bit much, but you comment wasn't geared to that point).  Linux is also growing and adding software that utilizes newer faster hardware.  And there are a lot of Linux programs (i.e.  OpenGL apps), which require that faster video card, for instance.  The truth is that everyone wants 'real time', so as the hardware speeds up there will be more software out there that uses it and sometimes that software needs major updates to accommodate.  The 32-bit to 64-bit transition is a good major example of this.

     

    Everyone,

    If you want to shrink Windows 2008 or the others down, you can do the following and whatever else you can come up with, until you are satisfied:

     

    *** Always make a system backup before attempting these types of procedures ***

        - Uninstall unneeded/unwanted programs from Add/Remove Programs

        - Shrink your pagefile (mine was 8 GB)

        - Run the programs designated above (compcln.exe and vsp1cln.exe, if you have SP1)

     

    I tried mounting the file system under Linux and deleting the winsxs folder's contents (after making a backup), and true to what was said above (hardlinks, etc.) the system would not boot - so don't do that (attempted here for brevity).

     

    Anybody that wants to upgrade to a new OS or software package must be aware that those usually come with "minimum system requirements", so if your system won't handle it -- or it takes up too much room on your system, then  Do Not Upgrade.  Stay with Windows XP or buy or build a new faster system if you have the means before upgrading.

     

    P.S. Be careful of 3rd party tools to clean your system as these may contain viruses, Trojans or the like.  Make sure that they come from trusted sources as even your virus scanner will not detect a new "zero day" attack program that's out there.

     

     

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010 12:42 AM
  • Can I simplify this question a bit more...

    As Andre Ziegler says:

    > Yes, because the WinSxS folder will "grow" with every update you
    > install. Remember XP? There you have an extra folder $NtUninstallKBXXXXXX$.
    > Those folders are now moved to the WinSxS folders.

    I have deleted those folders from the XP because I somehow trust that if I haven't needed those files with in year, I probably need them in next year either. This is very big issue on the test environments where you like to have tiny OSes so that your virtual images are not growing too big.

    Anyone knows the expected behavior if WinSxS folder will be cleaned?


    Friday, January 07, 2011 8:10 AM
  • I have deleted those folders from the XP because I somehow trust that if I haven't needed those files with in year, I probably need them in next year either. This is very big issue on the test environments where you like to have tiny OSes so that your virtual images are not growing too big.

    Anyone knows the expected behavior if WinSxS folder will be cleaned?

    there is no cleanup (even in Windows 7 Sp1).

    "A programmer is just a tool which converts caffeine into code" CLIP- Stellvertreter http://www.winvistaside.de/
    Friday, January 07, 2011 3:20 PM
  • But......we all can use Crtl+A and Shift+Delete.... Will that have some undocumented effect or behavior?



    This is not the first place where the MS has no automatic delete operation, e.g. IIS logs, random directory...
    Friday, January 07, 2011 9:33 PM
  • But......we all can use Crtl+A and Shift+Delete.... Will that have some undocumented effect or behavior?

    Doing this damages your Windows irreparably.

    "A programmer is just a tool which converts caffeine into code" CLIP- Stellvertreter http://www.winvistaside.de/
    Friday, January 07, 2011 10:00 PM
  • Ok, thanks for the clear answer :-D

    So it is not possible to delete old "backup files" for the patches as it was possible to do on the WinXP/W2003? Don't you think it is sad...?

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011 11:49 AM
  • So it is not possible to delete old "backup files" for the patches as it was possible to do on the WinXP/W2003?

    I already submitted this to MSFT. Maybe this is fixed in VistaSp3/Win7Sp2/Win8.

    "A programmer is just a tool which converts caffeine into code" CLIP- Stellvertreter http://www.winvistaside.de/
    Wednesday, January 12, 2011 2:06 PM
  • Let me make some things clear that may help you understand winsxs.

    Q1. What is the meaning of "winsxs"?

    A1. It's an acronym for the "windows side-by-side" feature. it's mainly a compatibility mechanism allowing you to run software that depends on specific versions of system files - while other softwares on your rig might be dependent on the exact same system files - but a different version.

     

    Q2. What does this thing do? and

    Q3. Why is is so freaking big?

     

    A2. Within the winsxs folder windows keeps different version of windows system files needed specifically by the applications on your pc. to make it more clear: only 1 copy per system file and version is beeing kept and only of those systemfile/verion combinations actually needed by your applications. So each time you start one of your applications which request a specific version of a system file from the \Windows or \Windows\System32 folders the windows kernel grabs and loads the real file from within the winsxs folder. It only can grab the specific version from there because of what happened during the installation process of your applications: Let's say your application setup tried to replace a system file within the \Windows\system32 folder (a typical example would be a VB runtime dll) and succeeded - at least that is what was reported to the setup process. In reality the windows kernel used winsxs feature to evaluate whether it already has a copy of this system file/version combo in the winsxs storage or if it has to store a new system file/version copy as needed by your application.

    A3. With A2 beeing said you allready have a glimpse why this folder "seems" to be so big and even "seems" to get even bigger. this perception is somewhat of an illusion tough due to the hardlinks being used.

     

    A4. Meaning? plaintext please!

    Q4. To clear up the hardlink myth: Hardlinks are a file system feature allowing you to access the the exactly same blob of data located anywhere physically on your hard disk via different file system paths. here's the catch: there is no such thing as "i-am-the-first-hardlink-so-im-the-real-position-where-the-data-lies". In fact there is no way to distinguish between hardlinks in this way. there is only one truth: If you delete different hardlinks of one and the same data blob on the disk, the data remains untouched - until you delete the last hardlink. Then the data blob get's also deleted.

    Having all that said it is valid to turn all those winsxs laments the other way around: The original \Windows and \Windows\System32 folders are in fact getting thinned out. As far as disk space goes: Applications unaware of hardlinks can't distinguish between regular files and hardlinks. Such software takes each entry for the real deal and gives you wrong file/folder sizes.

     

    Q5. Any other quirks?

    A5. Apparently if you uninstall unneded apps, system file copies specifically for this app should also get deleted from the winsxs folder. Unfortunately the cleanup process is somewhat slow and not invocable by the user - at least as far as I know. What makes things even less clear: I haven't found any solid piece of information as to when exactly the scavenging process takes place.

    Some things are indeed a bit frustrating. Take the patch uninstallation folders from Windows XP $NtUninstallKBXXXXXX$ or in case of an ServicePack the folder $NtServicePackUninstall$. As we all know with each and every patch that got installed a corresponding uninstall folder was generated so that the patch could get safely uninstalled. So regarding these uninstallation folders i developed a habit: if I didn't encounter any problem with installed patches after a month or so I deleted the uninstallation folder - because it wasn't gonna happen that i would uninstall the patch.

    In Windows XP I had the choice to do so and I regularly did so. With the NT 6 kernel series of the Windows operating system this choice got killed. It's no longer possible to regain space used by patch uninstallation folders like it was in Windows XP. Instead we are bound to wait for the scavenging process to kick in - and hope it will cleanup unused copies of system files. To be fair: There is at least a cleanup tool for service packs - but my nagging self would ask in the same breath: Why is there no such tool for the average patch?

     

    Let's draw a summarizing line underneath all of this: One of the main design principles of the NT 6 kernel series of Windows operating systems was to stay compatible with older hardware and software - so winsxs was born (not exactly because an early version of winsxs was already existent in windows xp though barely used). The winsxs feature accomplishes another task: If applications cannot effectively replace system files Windows will definitely stay more stable and reliable - a fact that I personally feel even more proven with the latest releases of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

    As a matter of fact I'm juggling with WIM images (Windows installation source files) in the office for the last few weeks and I'm really interested in how SP1 for Windows 7/ Server 2008 R2 will impact on the winsxs folder.

     

    And on a last note: Did you even hear me talking about re-hardlinking via 3rd party tools or deleting files from within the winsxs folder or do anything even more fancy to the winsxs folder?The answer is for a good reason a clear, unmistakable and resounding: NO! There is no way for you to identify which files and folders within the winsxs store would be obsolete so that they could be safely removed from your drive. My one and only advice here is: Keep your hands off of the winsxs.

    Well maybe there is a clever programmer anywhere out there who can analyze the winsxs store or maybe there is even a Windows API interface to ask what files you could safely delete. But for now I'm not aware of either such an program or interface. Maybe Microsoft will implement such a feature in the next release of Windows.

     

    If there are still things unclear - please keep asking!

     

    P.S.: While writing this I remembered something for those of you who want to try something proactively: In Windows XP it was possible to install a Windows patch with the "somepatch.exe /nobackup" flag. I'm not sure if this possibility still exists in the NT 6 kernel series of windows because it is not feasible for me in the first place - but even if this possibility still exists and you would want to make use of it: The consequence would be for you to stop using automatic windows updates and install each and every patch manually with this method. If you just have one rig to maintain you may give this approach a try. As for me: Definitely too much hassle. At home I've got a number of PCs and notebooks and in the office i've got a few hundred machines so I'm using WSUS - and I've yet to find a way to tell WSUS to skip the backup process before installing a patch as for I have a lab and tested the patches thoroughly before admitting them on each and every PC in my network.

     

     

    /edit: completed the explanation and fixed some typos

    • Proposed as answer by Dominik Gauß Saturday, February 19, 2011 1:27 PM
    Saturday, February 19, 2011 11:28 AM
  • How big is going to get? The more I install programs the more it grows and what is safe to delete?

     

    this has nothing to do with programs. It only grows when you install new Windows Updates / Service Packs. And it NEVER Delete anything or you damage your Windows.

    Read here more about WinSxS:

    http://blogs.technet.com/b/joscon/archive/tags/winsxs/


    "A programmer is just a tool which converts caffeine into code"

    Want to install RSAT on Windows 7 Sp1? Check my HowTo: http://www.msfn.org/board/index.php?showtopic=150221
    • Proposed as answer by ShawnAlan Wednesday, March 16, 2011 11:38 PM
    Wednesday, March 16, 2011 10:58 PM
  • Here is what you need to do to clean it(works in win 7 Ult, not tested in vista or other oses) I HAVE USED THIS AND IT DOES WORK!!:
    open command prompt as admin, then type:
    dism /online /cleanup-image /spsuperseded
    Resource:
    http://www.iishacks.com/2011/06/23/reduce-windows-7-winsxs-folder-size/
    • Proposed as answer by Gordie81 Thursday, August 18, 2011 11:53 AM
    Friday, July 15, 2011 10:43 PM
  • WinSXS folder on Windows 7 / Vista / Server 2008 is one important folder and it keeps shadow copy of all your important system files, which gets changed during any installation of Patches or Updates or software. It will store a backup copy of all those system files which are changed by installation program so that it can restore them back in case something bad happens due to patch or Installation or you want to completely remove the patch. In earlier version of Windows this facility was available but not all system files were reverted to original state. With the use of WinSXS Folder all system files can be reverted back to the stage where it was before installation of Patch/ Update.

     

    This is really a great feature but for users who got limited space this great feature is becoming worst nightmare as with everyday new updates/ patch keep coming and WinSXS folder increases to 10-15 GB in size within a short period of time. There are few Built in tool in Vista Sp1 & SP2 which can clean up some files from WinSXS folder but they will make the patch installation permanent, which means you will not be able to uninstall the patches after using these tools.

    Well Now question does I can simply remove the files in WinSXS folder like I delete any other file, well that’s a viable option but is not recommended, I tried it once on my Vista Installation, it did not harm anything and after deletion my windows was working fine except one thing I cannot install any Patch/ Update after that. Whenever I try to do that I simply get an error that some important system file missing and installation cannot proceed. So I recovered about 14 GB space but in return I left with no patch support.

    Microsoft did not thought about this problem because now the days TB of space is available in less than 100$ which makes them think to use it and provide a user experience which will be good and robust. They did not think about SSD and Virtual machine usages. Anyway coming back to cleanup tools Vista SP1 has this small utility called “vsp1cln.exe”, to use this simply go to Run and type “VSP1CLN” and hit enter.

    Once run it will purge all unnecessary files created by Vista Sp1 and recovers about 3-5 GB of space from WinSXS folder. For Vista SP2 user there is similar tool called “COMPCLN.EXE”, This small utility can be run in similar manner as mentioned above and will recover another 3 GB of space for you depending upon on your installation and components you have.

    These utility was about Windows Vista and we have not found anything similar for Windows 7 as of now, so if you looking to recover space in Windows 7 probably you have to wait till Microsoft announces some utility to address this problem.


    Joe
    Friday, August 12, 2011 5:10 PM
  •  
    I had a strange case today, when on a freshly installed W2008 64-Bit Standard edition after installing the IIS, ASP Net and running a WIN Help patch and winsxs took all the space.
     
    Read this thread. There are good posts by Andre Ziegler, explaining the essence and goodness of "winsxs". And posts by Gordie81 trying to clarify the feature.
     
    Please correct me if I got it wrong - "winsxs" has a duplicity nature, as it is not only storing "real" files but also "hardlinks", pointing to the required files?
     
    In practical terms server were installed 4 days ago and got only a few updates online plus a few MS patches on top... and "winsxs" is taking 18GB?
     
    Something is not right!
     
    But what?
     
    1) The real files flooded the disk?
     
    2) The "hardlinks" "spoofed" the file system to think, that there are no free space, as it counted them as some real size files?
     
    3) If the 2) is true then, the problem lies (partially) not in collecting all possible (required?) versions of files, but with the OS mechanism that is unable to distinguish a "spoofing hardlink" from a real file?
     
    In light of Andre Ziegler posts only 3) looks like a real explanation.
     
    Whatever the nature of the problem I've seen it on my system- stalled system with Windows Explorer reporting no free space and GIGS and GIGS taken by  "winsxs" after 4 days of life.
     
    Any positive solutions?
    Monday, August 22, 2011 6:21 PM
  • And now everyone's finished speaking all this trash, here's the fix:

     

    DISM /online /Cleanup-Image /SpSuperseded

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011 9:57 PM
  • Is there a similar tool for Vista?
    Wednesday, October 19, 2011 11:53 AM
  • Um, no.  That solution is only valid for cleaning up *after* an SP is applied; it does nothing WRT the concept of an ever-growing OS over time.

    /no, not referring to os getting larger with each new release or service patch
    //am referring to ~same os~ growing larger over time due to expanding winsxs directory
    ///install is so fat now that i can't believe my hdd hasn't died from a freaking myocardial infarction
    Wednesday, January 11, 2012 3:22 AM
  • Okay maybe some background on the root of the problem would help.

    Windows XP (and Windows 2000) used a fast and great mechanism called Hotfix Installer (Update.exe) to install updates. Updates installed in very little time. If you wanted to further reduce update times on Windows XP, you could just temporarily stop the System Restore service and updates would install at crazy speeds. Note that this is not recommended for novice users who don't know advanced recovery methods, as some updates can sometimes cause your system to stop booting so you cannot even uninstall them. The method the Hotfix Installer used was simple, it just installed a new version of files to be updated at %windir%\system32 and %windir%\system32\dllcache (the Windows File Protection cache). For files that were in use, a restart copied them from dllcache to the system32 folder. This is simple file-based servicing. The hotfix installer (Update.exe) also supported various command line switches like /nobackup which means not to backup files it patches. Again, this is not recommended for novice users as some updates can screw your system even after the comprehensive testing Microsoft does before releasing them. But if you won't be uninstalling any updates (usually one only requires uninstalling updates if they cause problems), you could save a ton of disk space by not backing up the files it patched. The Hotfix Installer backed up files to C:\Windows\$Uninstall$KBxxxxxx folders so even if you did back up the files at install time, they could be safely deleted after a few days if no stability issues were found after using Windows with the newest updates applied. Update.exe also supported the very important and convenient ability to slipstream a service pack or update into the original Windows setup files using the /s switch.    

    .

    When Microsoft was developing Windows Vista, they realized that components had gotten too many interdepencies on each other and to service each file reliably without breaking another component that relied on it, Microsoft introduced what they called as Component Based Servicing (CBS). You can read all about it in a much more technical way at The Servicing Guy's blog. What CBS does basically is it installs all files of the entire operating system, including all languages into C:\Windows\WinSxS and then it hard-links files from there to C:\Windows\system32. This has the benefit of not having to insert the OS disc to add or remove any components, and some other advantages as well like offline servicing of a Windows Vista or Windows 7 image. But the design introduces a major disadvantage of taking up a lot of hard disk space. Whenever an update is installed, it no longer installs it to C:\Windows\system32 and C:\Windows\system32\dllcache like Windows XP's hotfix installer (Update.exe) did. Instead, it updates the files in C:\Windows\WinSxS. Now, Windows keeps multiple copies of the same file but with different version in WinSxS if it is used by more than one Windows component. The higher the number of components, that many number of times the file exists in C:\Windows\WinSxS. When a Windows Vista update (.MSU) is installed, the components get updated, each and every one, instead of the files and the worst part is it still maintains the older superseded previous versions of components in WinSxS so the user would be able to uninstall updates. Microsoft does say that some sort of "scavenging" or deleting older copies of components takes place but is scarce on the details. The scavenging seems to take place automatically at certain intervals in Windows 7 but not in Windows Vista. In Windows Vista, you have to add or remove any Windows component for the scavenging to take place. And Microsoft says the scavenging will free up some disk space but in practice, on my system, I see my free disk space only decreasing on Vista as I remove or add any component. Windows does not give the user an option to not backup the earlier versions of components like Windows XP's /nobackup switch in Hotfix Installer did. As as you install more and more updates on your system, they will take more and more disk space. This is one of the primary reasons Windows Vista and Windows 7 are so bloated. Another reason for them being so bloated is the DriverStore that these OSes store. All drivers that are shipped with the OS and the OEM ones which you download and which are installed for a particular system are staged in C:\Windows\System32\DriverStore. But let's not go there for now.

    .

    Now, an important thing to note is that the size of the WinSxS folder is not what Explorer or the dir command report, it is far less but is misreported by Explorer because it counts the hard links more than once when calculating size. That does not mean, the size of WinSxS is not causing real-world disk space problems on numerous Windows Vista/7 systems in use today. Microsoft's ingenious recommendation to this problem of ever growing disk consumption is to install fewer updates to keep the size of the servicing store under control. Of course, users cannot deny installing security updates and leave their system open to security holes. What they can do is install less optional updates, the ones that Microsoft releases on the fourth Tuesday of every month and also install less of the hotfixes that are available by request from a Knowledge Base article. In short, you have to trade the number of bugs fixed in the OS by installing hotfixes at the cost of enormous amounts of disk space. The whole servicing stack is a total downgrade to Windows XP's update.exe method. It causes heavy disk thrashing and slow logoffs/logons while Windows configures these updates at the Welcome Screen. Many systems are unable to boot because of failed updates. Another disadvantage of the "new" servicing stack (and the redesigned Setup mechanism of Windows Vista) is the inability to do a true slipstream of service packs and hotfixes.
    The time it takes to actually install these hotfixes online compared to Windows XP is also completely unacceptable. When you start installing an MSU update, it spends a lot of time determining whether the update applies to your system. Then, the update itself takes much longer to install compared to Windows XP's Update.exe (hours instead of minutes if you are installing dozens of updates through a script). Finally, that post-installation process ("Configuring updates... Do not turn off your computer") takes several minutes before shut down followed by a second post-installation process (configuration) upon restart before logon that also takes also several minutes and thrashes the disk.

    .

    I can install the entire SP3 for Windows XP in about 10 minutes after downloading the full installer. I can also install a slipstreamed-with-SP3 copy of Windows XP is about 45 minutes on a modern fast PC. In contrast, Windows Vista or Windows 7 do install relatively quickly (in just about 15-20 minutes) on a modern PC but installing the service packs and updates takes more time than anything on XP did. Not only can service packs not be slipstreamed, but Vista Service Packs are not even cumulative, which means if you clean install Windows Vista today, you have to install SP1 first which takes about 90 minutes, then SP2 which takes less time, then all the post-SP2 updates which do take hours to install. If you really HAVE to use Windows 7 or Windows Vista, you are stuck with this slow update non-sense as Microsoft does not even acknowledge that there is any slowdown or loss of functionality in the new servicing mechanism. The fact remains: MSU updates are slow as **** and take too much time and as Windows 7/Vista get older and Microsoft stops producing service packs, a clean install is going to take longer and longer to bring it up-to-date with all patches installed. Is is worth wasting your time on an OS whose servicing mechanism Microsoft completely screwed up? I once again recommend you read more about the servicing stack and how it operates at The Servicing Guy's blog: http://blogs.technet.com/b/joscon/. To fix this messed up servicing stack, Microsoft also offers a tool called CheckSUR for your system if it finds “inconsistencies in the servicing store”.

    .

    Microsoft's Windows Vista and Windows 7 products are not engineered with disk space in mind. It causes a problem, especially for SSDs which are still low capacity and very expensive. The only hope is that Microsoft again completely redesigns this servicing mechanism in a future Windows release so it would not cause this growing disk space consumption issue, speed up installation of updates by an order of magnitude, not slow down logon and logoff, not prevent systems becoming unusable because of failed updates being stuck at a particular stage and allow true slipstreaming.
    Microsoft's response to this is vague - they simply state "Windows 7's servicing is more reliable than Windows XP" but they cannot acknowledge it is a million times slower and still unreliable...slow to the point of being unusable and sometimes leaving systems in an unbootable damaged state. Of course they know all this too but can't admit it since it makes their latest OSes look poor. Moving from a very simple and fast update mechanism that worked to a complex one that requires endless “configuring” and repair through CheckSUR is a product engineering defect.

    Take a look at servicing-related complaints in Microsoft's own forums:

    1. Very slow install of updates to Windows 7
    2. Windows 7 - Updates are very slow
    3. Windows 7 Ultimate, it takes long time configuring updates
    4. "Preparing To Configure Windows. Please Do Not Turn Off Your Computer"
    5. Very slow update install at shutdown (Windows 7 Home Premium)
    6. Why does my computer run so slow when installing updates?
    7. Every time the computer is shut down, it always says installing update do not turn off your computer
    8. Computer is working slow and wants to do windows updates all the time
    9. Windows 7 Update install time taking a very long time
    10. Windows wants to install 6 updates every time I log off or put the computer in sleep mode
    11. Problem In Configuring Windows Updates at the time of Startup
    12. Computer really slow after latest updates
    13. Windows hangs up in "configuring updates"
    14. Why can't windows 7 install updates?
    15. Every time computer is shut down, receive Installing updates, do not shut off....
    16. How long does it take for the Windows 7 Home Premium updates take?
    17. Windows 7 "Installing Update 2 of 2" for 12 hours now
    18. Updates causes endless reboots
    19. Updates stuck installing for over 24 hrs. Computer does not boot
    20. Cannot load Windows 7 after installing 2 critical updates

    A proper solution to this problem would be to completely re-engineer and rewrite the servicing mechanism so it operates with the speed, reliability and pain-free operation of the XP servicing mechanism.

    I don't see this situation improving in Windows 8 either. Good luck with your Windows tablet taking hours to install service packs and updates. Now, do iPads take that long to install updates?

    • Edited by xpclient Sunday, March 04, 2012 7:25 AM
    • Proposed as answer by xpclient Sunday, March 04, 2012 7:25 AM
    Sunday, March 04, 2012 7:23 AM
  • Actually it doesnt matter JACK if these space is used up by hardlinks or physical files. What matters is that it is CONSUMED, taking away free space to use on operating system disk. For me on a exspensive SDD Raid Array with only 120gb size my windows 7  folder already uses a whooping 20 gb and over 50% of that is used up by winsxs.  Data that cannot be compressed either, violating the terms of NTFS,  MS OWN filesystem is not able to handle its OWN filesystem methods with its OWN compression system. That is blatantly HORRIBLE programming. Not being able to interpret and report hardlinks the proper size and REAL physical usage is also HORRIBLE. No option to relocate this specific folder to another disk = HORRIBLE.  Next OS will be MAC OS ..good bye and no way im going to windows 8 bullshit GUI.



    • Edited by Br33zer Sunday, March 25, 2012 12:03 PM
    Sunday, March 25, 2012 11:56 AM
  • Exactly. Truth is Microsoft understated the real system requirements to keep a Windows 7/Vista system running, they only state the requirements at installation time and don't reveal the disk space cost of keeping the system updated. System requirements at install time may be 15 GB of free disk space but over time, this number increases to alarming levels as you install more service packs and post SP-updates. You can find out the real size of the WinSxS folder using a tool like cttruesize (ctts.exe) (download it from http://www.heise.de/software/download/cttruesize/50272 and run ctts -la -a -l C:\Windows to find the correct size minus the hard links which MS says causes Explorer to misreport the WinSxS folder size but the fact remains that even with the correctly calculated size of WinSxS, the disk space requirements of Windows 7 to keep it updated are unacceptable, especially for people's SSDs which are running out of disk space and MS needs to do something about it or it will be a shame as XP was the last OS which didn't have this WinSxS disaster.

    Sunday, March 25, 2012 12:06 PM
  • A very valid point with the SSD drives!

    Does Microsoft realize, that SSD's are a way forward for so many Customers, including the future W8  mobile systems?

    What about Microsoft learning to support SSD - based systems ASAP?

    Sunday, March 25, 2012 12:59 PM
  • It causes other problems, as well.  I've been running a spybot/virus check for almost 12 hours, and of course it thinks the hard links in the winsxs folder are files that it hasn't already checked.  So as bloated as Win 7 is, scanning the drive checks the bloated OS files multiple times!

    Wednesday, July 11, 2012 9:27 AM
  • As of today this issue is still around, my Windows 7 winsxs folder is over 10GB now which is completely absurd. Worst still is Microsoft have decided no more Service Packs for Windows 7. I'm so very disappointed in this company, it's like they don't even care anymore.
    Thursday, October 10, 2013 4:26 AM
  • have you tried the Update I posted? Install it, reboot and run disk cleanup and select the Update cleanup.

    "A programmer is just a tool which converts caffeine into code"

    Thursday, October 10, 2013 5:12 AM