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ServicePackFiles contains the files updated by the Service Packs issues since your install. It can be deleted if you have the files elsewhere.

I just installed service pack 2 for my Windows XP Home Edition. Can I remove the service pack files folder in my windows folder?

Yes, but you probably don't really want to.

Let me explain why.

The short answer is that if you remove it, you may at some future date be asked to insert the Windows installation CD if Windows believes it needs to install or repair an operating system file. The problem is that your CD probably only has SP1 on it, if that. Windows will insist on your inserting the SP2 disk - which you likely don't have.

If you leave the folder, usually C:\WINDOWS\ServicePackFiles, and its contents in place, then Windows can simply pick up what it needs, when it needs it from there without ever bothering you.

It's very much like the I386 folder that I've discussed before. In fact, on my machine at least, there's an I386 folder within C:\WINDOWS\ServicePackFiles that actually contains all the files updated by service pack 2. So the best way to think of that ServicePackFiles is as an SP2 update to the I386 folder that may be elsewhere on your machine.

"You can delete it, just be prepared to need to insert your original installation CD if Windows ever needs it, as well as an SP2 CD if you have one."

In a sense the I386 folder (and the ServicePackFiles\I386 folder) are conveniences. They're really just there because the disk space to hold them is small these days compare to drive sizes, and they allow Windows to silently and quickly grab files it needs. The best example is when you install a new device. Normally Windows would ask you for the installation CD in order to get the drivers needed for that device. With the I386 folders already on your machine, Windows can simply get what it needs from there. Presumably it first checks the ServicePackFiles\I386 folder for updated files and if none are found it looks in the original I386 folder.

You can delete it, just be prepared to need to insert your original installation CD if Windows ever needs it, as well as an SP2 CD if you have one.

The good news is that like the I386 folder, you can move your ServicePackFiles instead of deleting it. You just need to change a registry setting to do so.

Using Registry Editor, locate the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup\SourcePath. Here's mine right now:

SourcePath registry setting

Here you can see that I've altered the SourcePath setting to control where my I386 folder lives (I've placed it on a server named "freenas" on my network in a shared "notenmax", and in a folder "\machine_specific\leo\i386" - note that the i386 portion isn't specified in the registry).

We can make a similar change for the ServicePackFiles by changing the ServicePackCachePath and ServicePackSourcePath entries. Here's mine after making that change:

ServicePack registry settings

Here you can see that I've told Windows to find the service pack files out on that other server on my network. After copying the contents of the folder to that location on that server, I can now safely delete ServicePackFiles on my machine.

Article C3192 - October 25, 2007 « »

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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.

Not what you needed?

bittal Joshi
October 26, 2007 8:03 PM

Thanks the inform yr new post.

It's good answar for every question.

Thanks agan.

November 21, 2007 7:26 AM

I noticed in your registry path to source the folder called machine_specific does this mean that I need a seprate folder for each of my Windows 2003 servers or can I create one and point all of my servers to the the same source path?

Leo A. Notenboom
November 24, 2007 8:35 AM

Hash: SHA1

I happen to have various versions of things, so I definitely need
machine-specific instances.

If the contents of the I386 directories on your various machines are identical,
then yes, you can point them all to the same location. My guess, though, is
that they may often be slightly different, in which case to be safe I'd keep
separate copies.


Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


February 2, 2008 9:38 PM

Well, I've removed my service pack files from WINDOWS folder 3 months ago and it never bothered me

February 26, 2008 2:22 PM

Hey. The "ServicePackCachePath" has "/ServicePackCache" on it's tail before you made the change, but not afterward! Shouldn't that stay on there, making it's value "\\freenas\notenmax\machine_specific\leo\ServicePackFiles\ServicePackCache"?

July 13, 2008 9:14 AM

I have a windows\i386 file and not a c:\i386 file. Is this the same? Can I move it save to the D drive and change the registry??

Kent Burel
October 27, 2008 7:19 AM

I don't mind the ServicePackFiles being on the disk but I want to exclude them from my weekly antivirus scan. How can I exclude files from anti-virus? My virus scan is running too long.

How, or even if, you can exclude folders or file from a scan will depend on the specific scanner you use.
- Leo

Jeff Hil
November 7, 2008 5:31 PM


Are there other folders that can also be relocated, like the Fonts folder?

Also, the shortage of space on the boot drive can be a real a problem on upgraded machines. My wife's computer was upgraded from Win98 to XP years ago, and I suspect there are other files and folders that could simply be deleted. Have you considered an article covering this aspect of the space problem?

February 2, 2009 12:29 PM

Thanks Leo. I have a win32 partition that's dead out of space and I can't specify directory for a particular setup.exe. Now I can have both ServicePackFiles on an external and this gynormous phone application coexisting. Woohoo!

February 8, 2009 4:20 AM

The files cannot be copied as they are in use.

February 17, 2009 4:30 AM

Its always preferable to compress the folder servicepackfiles\I386 rather than deleting.

Jason Raymond
January 28, 2010 8:32 AM

Just FYI, If you make this registry change, you may need to point the location in all the Windows Side-By-Side Assemblies to the same location. Once an assembly is installed, it retains the full path to the old service pack files folder. Notice about 80 entries of the following under codebases... so be preparred to actually edit each assembly's location in the registry, because you still may wind up with the insert cd issue otherwise.

"Prompt"="Windows Server 2003 KB924667 Source Files"

Ian Timms
February 21, 2010 1:01 AM

To Leo & Jason Raymond

Thankyou both very much for this tip, you've just allowed me to resurrect my EeePC which was struggling badly with 10MB of free disk.

BTW I've also relocated the contents of "C:\WINDOWS\SoftwareDistribution\Download" (some 750MB) and am looking into the Fonts issue.

Q: What about "C:\WINDOWS\Installer" (700MB) any ideas on moving that beastie??

Cheers, Ian.

Ken Browne
February 12, 2011 12:46 PM

Trying to create a recovery/install CD for Windows XP Pro w/SP3. I cannot locate i386 folder in c:\ or c:\windows but there is an i386 folder at c:\windows\spervicepackfiles\i386. Is this what I need to make my CD? I've tried several methods and keep getting error messages like, cannot find NTLDR,and others even though said file(s) exist in the directory I am trying to burn to CD.

Rogerio Dias
January 28, 2012 2:10 PM

Wonderful clue, solved my disk space problem - I have a small partition for system. Thanks a lot!

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