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I have created symbolic links using mklink /d for both C:\Windows\Installer and C:\ProgramData\Package Cache in order to save SSD space. From time to time, these folders get recreated locally (overwriting the existing link), and this results in:

  • Errors when trying to uninstall or modify programs, such as Visual Studio.
  • Distinct Package Cache folders across different drives that I then have to manually recombine.

How can I force these links to stay in place, OR otherwise tell Windows to move these kinds of directories to another disk drive (I suspect the former is easier)?

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It is not recommended to move the operating system core components and files to a drive other than the operating system drive, because that may cause instabilities in the operating system (but you already found that out).

If you do not have enough space on the C: drive, try first these suggestions:

  • Move the Download folder to another drive.
  • Empty recycle bin
  • Uninstall the applications that you don't use
  • Perform Disk Cleanup.

If your C:\Windows\Installer is still too large, try the PatchCleaner to clean it up. It is described as :

When applications are installed and updated on the Windows Operating System a hidden directory "c:\Windows\Installer" is used to store the installer (.msi) files and the patch (.msp) files.

Over time as your computer is patched and patched again, these installer files become outdated and orphaned. They are no longer required, but they can take up many gigabytes of data.

PatchCleaner identifies these redundant/orphaned files and allows you to either:

  • (Recommended) Move them to another location. If you want to play it safe, just move them to another location, and you can always copy them back.
  • Delete them.

For reclaiming the space in C:\ProgramData\Package Cache, you may move it to another disk. However, I would recommend creating a directory junction to it (mklink /J).

Junctions are recognized at a lower file-system level than symbolic links. Therefore they are more transparent to programs and Windows.

You could also try using a junction for C:\Windows\Installer, although I'm less enthusiastic about it.

I recommend taking an image backup of the system disk before starting.

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