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A C++ redistributable is a run time that is used by other programs. Deleting them could easily break a program.

My PC runs Windows 7 (64), IE9. Recently, I went into my Control Panel, checked Programs and Features, and found 11 Microsoft visual C++ redistributables. Some 2005, most 2008. Asking around, some advice was to delete them. Others said C++ files do many things other than creating programs. Do I need them or can I dump them?

In this excerpt from Answercast #29, I look at whether or not it's a good idea to delete redistributable files from a computer.

Deleting redistributables

In short, I couldn't tell you if you need them or if you can dump them.

  • My recommendation though is that you leave them alone.

With eleven entries in Programs and Features, my guess is that what you are seeing is a combination of not only the visual C++ redistributable, but also some updates to those redistributables; updates that might be fixes or vulnerability patches.

The redistributable is the run time that is used by other programs. So, it's possible, that at some point in the past, you installed a program. As part of its installation, it installed the visual C++ redistributable so that it could use features of the C++ language that it was (presumably) written in.

There are different versions of C++ redistributable. You see both 2005 and 2008. My guess is you installed at least two different programs. One of which uses the 2005 redistributable; one of which uses the 2008 redistributable.

Deleting a redistributable

If you delete the redistributable that a program requires, that program will stop working. This is why I suggest you leave them alone... because things aren't broken. You run the risk of breaking things if you delete them.

Now, I don't know of an easy way to reverse engineer who put them there: who's using them, who's relying on them. Because of that... that's another reason for just leaving well enough alone.

They don't take up a tremendous amount of space and they really don't cause you a lot of trouble by being there – even if there is no program that uses them.

  • So ultimately, my strong recommendation is that you leave them alone.

Backup before deleting

If you feel that you have to disregard my advice, then I strongly suggest you back up first.

Do a system backup before you do anything. And think twice about deleting anything that might be an update... because those updates are there for a reason. Most often, in recent years, they are there to protect you from vulnerabilities that could lead to malware infections. This is definitely one of the pieces of software that could be targeted.

Article C5507 - June 24, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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2 Comments
Mark Magill
June 26, 2012 8:53 AM

Thanks for the timely answer on this subject, as I have had people ask me about them as well, since I do IT work. You're spot on, the amount of pain and headaches that can be caused by removing them --far-- outweigh the relatively small amount of disk space you might reclaim by deleting them.

Even if one did do a backup first, then go delete one or more of them, it might be days or even weeks of using your computer before you discovered the "one" seldom-used but favorite program of yours that needed it. By that time, your backup could be out of date and you're back to re-installing the application again. It's just not worth it. If you're so close to being out of drive space that you need these removed, you need a bigger hard drive.

Michael Horowitz
June 26, 2012 4:37 PM

I have made the mistake of deleting these and as Mark warned, it did indeed take a few days before I realized that I had a problem. In my case, it affected three applications and neither one produced a useful error message.

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