C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution folder about 3 gigs, How to best clean up?


  • I am interested in recovering some free space on a Windows Server 2003 R2 x64 server running Terminal Services.  I noticed that the c:\windows\softwaredistribution folder was about 3 gigs.  More exact the c:\windows\softwaredistribution\download directory takes up 2.9 gigs. 

    The server was setup to download updates and notify when ready for installation, which I have now changed to notify me when updates are available.  There were 89 updates that I went ahead and successfully installed yesterday.  I expected after installation for the folder to clear out like a temporary cache.  However, on further inspection after installation of all updates there are still files/folders in the download directory that date back almost five years.

    What is the time frame for the automatic update client to automatically purge out update downloads that were successfully installed?  I read on a couple of forums that it may take 10 days.  Has anyone else personally experienced this?

    There seems to be mixed reviews about what can and can't be removed in regards to this directory.  Some say that the whole softwaredistribution folder and its contents can be removed.  Others say only the downloads subfolder should be cleared out. 

    Would the Experts advise removing just the downloads, the whole directory, or just waiting X period for it to happen naturally.  Is it possible that I need to use windows update website to get them to purge? It would be nice if there were a Microsoft KB article on this that maybe someone else has come across.


    • Edited by Jonathan Borden Monday, February 20, 2012 9:08 PM Spelling Errors :-(
    Monday, February 20, 2012 8:56 PM


All replies

  • Go ahead and stop the BITS and Automatic Update, and delete the contents. Your computer will not know about previous updates you have installed though.

    Monday, February 20, 2012 9:33 PM
  • You can disabled Automatic Updates service and clear the folder.even if you delete the complete folder, start automatic update service.
    The basic Folder structure will be rebuilded and used again for the next updates.I would recommend for removal of any files/folders from the Download folder that are older than ten calendar days.

    and you can follow this article for Redirecting Updates and the Software Distribution Folder using Junction to another hard drive

    Here are several general steps we can do to free disk space.

    1. Run Disk cleanup to remove temp files.
    2. Disable Hibernate if it is enabled.
    3. Move Paging file to another partition.
    4. Disable system restore (not recommended as it is a server system)
    5. Remove installed programs and install them to another partition.

    Note: For all folders start with $ in c:\windows folder, they are related to updates. After deleting these folders, you will not able to remove to repair these updates.

    To do some further analysis to delete some extra files and/or folders, you can use  Disktective (download: and another utility is SpaceSniffer (download:

    Gopi Kiran |Facebook| This posting is provided AS IS with no warranties,and confers no rights.

    Monday, February 20, 2012 9:36 PM
  • The one thing that I have learned is to never mess with the OS.  When you start digging and messing with things that are designed to operate in a certain way, that is when problems crop up. 

    In your case, how much space is left on the volume where the OS is installed?  If over 25GB, then I would not worry about a paltry 3GB.  If you are looking a situation where disk space is becoming an issue, then you may want to checkout the Gopi's recommendation and do a junction (symbolic link) to another drive.  To do so will require the Server 2003 R2 Resource Kit (Vista/7/Server2008/Server2008R2 has the ability natively built in).

    Monday, February 20, 2012 10:19 PM
  • Hi Jonathan,

    It’s safe to delete all the contents in SoftwareDistibution\Download folder. Feel free to delete them to free disk space. Even the SoftwareDistribution folder can be removed (for troubleshooting purpose only), Windows Update will generate a new one the next time it runs. Per your question, the contents in Download folder will NOT be purged out automatically.


    Tuesday, February 21, 2012 7:33 AM
  • Hi

    I have been gathering information about delete C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download. I have read that there won't be any problem if I delete the content of Download Folders, also found that I won't be able any more to rollback updates, is that right?




    Saturday, April 05, 2014 2:36 PM