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Windows Updates saves uninstall information into hidden folders that, with a little planning, can be deleted to free up disk space.

In my Windows folder I have 294 folders named $NtUnstallKB******$. Each folder has 4 to 6 files. The names of the folders and files are all blue. There is a txt file in each folder but when I open it with notepad it is blank.

What are these and can I safely delete them? They are taking up 1.2 Gb of disk space. My guess is they are to uninstall windows updates, to delete them would mean I could not remove the update.

Your guess is exactly right.

Let's look at what you're looking at, and I'll describe the safe approach to dealing with this.

If you open Windows Explorer on your Windows Directory (typically C:\Windows), you may see the folders mentioned in our question:

$NTUninstall folders

(You will need to have "View hidden files and folders" enabled in Windows Explorer's options to be able to see these folders.)

"The names indicate what they are: uninstall information for various patches and updates."

They're colored in Blue because the files within the folders are compressed to save space.

The names indicate what they are: uninstall information for various patches and updates. Most are named including a "KB number" which is the Microsoft Knowledgebase number that describes the patch that they are related to.

Yes, except for $hf_mig$, you can delete them. ($hf_mig$ is apparently used for coordination by future patches.) As you mention, the "cost" is that you will no longer be able to uninstall the corresponding patch. For most of us that's not really a big deal. In fact, just quite coincidently, I did exactly this earlier today on one of my machines that was running low on disk space on it's C: drive.

However, as you might expect, sometimes just blindly deleting things doesn't always end up with what you might expect. Sometimes we make mistakes, and sometimes down the road we might wish we hadn't deleted them.

Two suggestions for you:

  • Take a full system backup that you plan to keep prior to deleting the folders. In particular, this can save your bacon should you happen to accidentally delete something you didn't intend to. Keep the backup image so that should you ever need these folders and files again you can recover them from the backup.

  • Copy these folders to somewhere else manually first. Perhaps copy them to another system, or another disk with more room, or burn them to a CD or DVD. Once again the goal here is to feel confident that should you need to replace the folders and files, you can because you kept a copy.

In general, I actually advise that you leave these folders alone unless you have a reason to remove them. They don't impact system performance, and the ability to uninstall a patch has come in handy for some folks from time to time. If you find that you're running low on disk space on the drive housing Windows, then yes, these are on the list of things to consider removing.

Removing safely by copying them elsewhere first, that is.

Article C3458 - July 26, 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.

Not what you needed?

6 Comments
vincent
July 26, 2008 9:05 AM

yes, leave them!
A while ago I installed windows desktop search on my pc, which slowed it down to a crawl.
I then used ccleaner to clean up my system and had it remove these folders.
I wish I hadn't...cos I couldn't remove wds anymore.
I finally got the folder from someone, but omg...
So, leave those folders, or as Leo says, at least burn them onto a dvd before deleting them!!!!

Ziggie
July 26, 2008 9:43 AM

well, the Windows Desktop Search has more to do with Microsoft ignoring their API's for their software and less to do with those folders.

Yet another gripe about Microsoft though...

peter
July 28, 2008 2:14 AM

I tried before to delete these folders , but every time give me an error message and can't delete them , anyway it's better to not delete , even these folders didn't take so much space to delete it. thanks Leo...
http://www.fosdir.com

Ryan
July 30, 2008 4:17 PM

My computer has always been slow. Deleting the $NtUnstallKB* files may help. No?

Probably not.

-Leo

Wes
July 31, 2008 2:37 PM

Do not delete them,,save them like Leo said.
If you need to reinstall Windows XP for some reason, and reinstall SP 2 you will find it will not install without them.
Also SP 2 will not uninstall without them.

Mike Noonan
August 11, 2009 12:56 PM

I've read in an MS KB that if you re-install a patch, then the uninstall info is recreated and you can back out a patch.

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