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After watching almost 2 gigabytes of updates being applied to a new system, I'm curious..

Does Windows Update remove or delete the updates it has successfully downloaded and installed, or is that something I need to do manually in order to reclaim some disk space?

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It would certainly be nice if we could get/make some sort of roll-up to store offline to re-apply updates without having to waste a ton of bandwidth re-downloading them all. There are times when you might have to re-install Windows a few times while trying to get a system running, and wasting bandwidth like that is a pain. Unfortunately Microsoft does not consider or care about consumers’ needs or limitations. They only provide an option to re-use downloaded updates for businesses through WSUS. – Synetech Feb 19 at 15:19
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Interesting question.

In first place, update packages are stored in c:\windows\softwaredistribution.

Windows updates are installed using Windows Installer. Some are uninstallable and some are not.

For the first case, windows installer keep tracks of changes so they can be undone. This include files backup.

For the second case, no backup will be made.

When running out of disk space, just let Windows Cleanup Utility decide which updates to delete.

Is it ok and how do I remove Windows Update installation files?

Safe to delete "C:\WINDOWS\SoftwareDistribution\Download"

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On the network I manage, I've taken to doing a semi-annual diskscan and defrag on the workstations. This includes deleting anything left in "C:\WINDOWS\SoftwareDistribution\Download" because Windows update tends to randomly leave behind files and the deletion saves anywhere from 5-250MB per machine from failed housekeeping. – Fiasco Labs Jan 21 '12 at 19:35
@FiascoLabs, it seems that deletion of softwaredistribution manually can disrupt windows updates uninstallation. – motobói Jan 21 '12 at 20:00
Yes, you only want to delete the files in the Software Distribution download directory, never anything in SoftwareDistribution itself. I only do this after a period of time that the latest patches have proven to be stable. In the old days having to do unstallation was a worry. I haven't had to uninstall any updates in more than 5 years now. – Fiasco Labs Jan 21 '12 at 20:14

Well, actually this might be a mystery, Windows mostly fails to unload any files being in use so it creates a second version and applies this after its reboot.

Personally I found out that after searching for the physical update process .exe file (wuauclt.exe or something). There were about 3 versions of it left behind (this was on XP though).

My suspicion is that it never throws away these old things because Windows makes a nice restore point (that you should want to keep), and that restore point obviously needs the old files to work again.

You could go out and find every thing the computer updated, but that would require digging trough piles of update history, system logs and microsoft knowledge bases.

Personally I wouldnt go hunt for these 2 gigs of updates, when windows updates succesfully, and it has actually fixed it, do not mess with anything it has done. You might just upset it.

And with hard drives costing less then a dollar per gigabyte, you probably get paid more per hour then you can retrieve per hour

I'm not a Microsoft specialist, I'm just assuming this based on my experience and logic.

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I haven't checked VISTA/Win7 but XP seems to put 'em in the Windows directory in compressed subdirs with names like: $NtUninstallKB932823-v3$ I've blitzed bunches of these any number of times with no ill effects. YMMV. – Steve Rindsberg Jan 21 '12 at 18:12

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