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Screen savers are easy to locate and delete, unless they're one of the default set included in Windows. Then extra steps are needed.

I have Windows XP Professional. How do I delete screensavers? When I click on my desktop and properties and I go to my Wallpapers and Screensavers, there are a lot that I downloaded and would now like to delete, can I do that?

Yes you can. It's just a matter of knowing where Windows stores them.

Oh, and then perhaps beating Windows over the head a little as it tries to restore these "critical system files".

Screen savers are easy to locate. Windows keeps them in the SYSTEM32 folder within the Windows folder. The file extension is ".scr" for "screen saver".

Here's a list of the default screen savers that came with my new machine located in the c:\Windows\system32 folder:

Screen Savers in the c:\windows\system32 folder

One would think that deleting them would be a simple as ... well, as simple as deleting them.

"The default Windows screen savers are apparently protected by 'Windows File Protection'."

If you're deleting a Windows default screen saver, there is no such luck.

The default Windows screen savers are apparently protected by "Windows File Protection". This service of Windows monitors for files which are changed or removed without Windows knowledge. The idea is that by making sure only "official" copies of important system files are present, any attempt to replace them with broken or malicious copies would be detected and reverted.

And by reverted, I mean that the original copy of the file would be replaced.

So, yes, go ahead and delete one of the default screen savers. And then watch it quietly and magically reappear a few minutes later as Windows File Protection performs its magic.

In an ideal world one would go to Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs, and then Add/Remove Windows Components where you'd find something relating to the screen savers.

This is not an ideal world. There's actually no option to remove the screen savers.

So this is where we get tricky.

When Windows restores a protected system file it does so from a backup copy. If we delete both the original and the backup, then Windows would have no way to restore it. As it turns out, the backups for the screen savers are kept in c:\windows\system32 are kept in c:\windows\system32\dllcache. Delete the same file in both locations, and the screen saver is gone.

But it's still not quite that easy. Once you delete them both you'll get this warning:

Windows File Protection Warning

Why Windows screen savers are "required for Windows to run properly" is beyond me, Windows runs just fine without them. So, click Cancel, and you'll get yet another dire warning:

Windows File Protection Warning Confirmation

Note that the error message is actually incorrect: we don't have the "wrong" version, we have no version at all. Particularly when it comes to screen savers it's fine to say Yes, and keep these nonexistent "unrecognized versions".

By and large it's safe to delete screen savers, though if you're at all nervous then by all means copy them off to another location, back them up or burn them to CD to save them "just in case".

Article C3359 - April 24, 2008 « »

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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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11 Comments
Albert Taal
April 25, 2008 8:25 PM

Why go to all this trouble to delete a few screen savers they only take a tiny bit of disk space the average disk is measured is 40 GB up to 1 TB the default screen savers take less the 10 MB. Sounds like more trouble than it's worth.

Geoff Walker
April 27, 2008 9:41 AM

It's not always about disk space. I work in a large corporation where IT automatically runs a daily job on my PC that (among many other things) enables a screensaver. They do this as part of a security policy which requires re-signing on after an inactivity timeout. But I want to control this myself. When I'm in the office, I want my PC (a laptop) to remain on with the screen going dark after 10 minutes of inactivity without the need to re-sign on again. When I'm on the road, I always turn on the "Prompt for password when the computer resumes from standby" option. So in my case, I want to delete the screensavers as one means of trying to circumvent the action of the daily IT job. Also, running a screensaver is definitely not very green, since it uses more power than simply using the Power Options to make the screen go dark after a timeout.

Daniel
May 15, 2008 7:46 PM

Dude! Thanks so much. I was wondering how to do this. I clicked a bad .exe i downloaded and it installed spyware on my computer. I deleted the spyware part, but all these beetles would appear and gnaw away at my screen saying: "your computer might have spyware" (this was an effect of the spyware). Now both the spyware and the nasty effect is gone. Thanks so much!

greg
September 4, 2008 7:20 PM

I did the delete trick in both locations, but the name of the screensaver still remains in the list of screensavers. I can click on the name of the screensaver and it says it has been removed. Just reboot for total removal. This did not remove it either.

TC Blake
September 24, 2008 8:22 AM

My complete screensaver option is gone from my XP Pro!!?? Also, when I put a photo on desktop, the tab to tile,center,spread is gone?? Where can I get these back??

arjun
October 15, 2008 1:08 AM

whats the use of deleting any application or file for that matter that originally ( by default ) windows has provided with its operating system. it is really stupid to play with system32 folder for a petty thing like deleting a few screensavers thats not even gonna occupy 0.1 percent of ur harddisk space.

Mike Romete
October 23, 2008 6:32 PM

Thanks! My reason for getting rid of them (actually, moving them to another folder) is that I have software that will cycle through all the screensavers, making each the default in turn. I don't want the "standard" screensavers included in the list to cycle. Anybody who doesn't understand or approve, well... who cares? :)

Larry " Packfanok"
February 10, 2009 11:39 AM

I added some screen savers and could not figure out how to delete them. Did a search on Google, and found this web page. Glad I did. Answered my question 100%. I had to change my view folder option to list from icon. Made it a whole lot easier to find the .scr files I was looking for. I subscribed to the ask-leo newsletter pronto, that's for sure. Looking for more tips in the newsletters. Thanks a bunch for the help with my question.

Some Random Computer Hacker Trying to Delete the Internet
February 12, 2009 3:56 PM

This page helped a lot! I wasn't actually trying to delete the screensavers, just put a shortcut on the start menu to my favorite, so I needed to know where they were stored. Thanks!

Selva Iris
April 12, 2009 12:45 PM

Thank you very much!! You help me to delete xp default screensavers. I tried many times before but never I can do it. Have this screensavers in my list was very irritant for me. Sorry for my english.

Love Fabillar
May 4, 2010 4:20 AM

Very clear explanation, thanks for that! Aside from getting it done, I actually understood what I was doing. :)

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