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Why does the /winsxs folder grow so large, and can it be made smaller?

This folder has grown to over 12GB and continues growing in size. Is there any way to clean it up without damaging the installed programs or Vista?

  • But either way, there is no easy way to tell which version of DLLs and executables are and are not in use. The WinSXS stores different versions of the same DLL to maintain compatibility. Read this Jul 22 '12 at 14:34
  • @FrankComputer: would have been best if you had posted it there to begin with - this isn't programming-related in any way.
    – Mat
    Jul 22 '12 at 14:35
  • Perhaps a program may be needed in order to determine which dll's are not in use?
    – Frank R.
    Jul 22 '12 at 14:36
  • Quoting from the link: see answer Jul 22 '12 at 14:36

This folder is essential for all the programs that you have installed. To prevent the "DLL hell", Windows copies required DLLs for every single installed program here. This way, installed programs do not influence each other. It is very common for this folder to grow over 10 GB and beyond.

Try uninstalling some unneeded programs, see if that helps. If you want to keep the folder small, reinstall your Windows and install as few additional programs as possible. But that maybe defies the purpose of having a personal computer at all.

So in short: it is a necessary evil to live with. It is a price we pay for compatibility.

  • If this problem has existed for some time now and has no real solution, I'm wondering why Microsoft has not addressed it a while ago? Win 7 has inherited the same problem and wondering if Win 8 has the same. I've been using a tool called Revo Uninstaller to uninstall programs and their leftover files, but it doesn't seems to remove the associated dll files from winsxs. I also don't understand why many software publishers don't make sure there are no leftovers when uninstalling their software!
    – Frank R.
    Jul 22 '12 at 16:08
  • Microsoft has been obsessed with backwards compatibility for a long time, and that's why Win 7 are kind-of plagued by dozens of obsolete technologies. And SW manufacturers are a chapter of their own. Jul 23 '12 at 14:21
  • 1
    They aren't copies: they are low-level hard links. They look like the full file, but really it's just a shortcut. For this reason, the folder isn't taking up as much space as Windows Explorer says it is, because it's double counting that data. Aug 1 '12 at 2:57

Quoting from this link:

There have been several blogs and even some “underground” tools that tell you it’s ok to delete the WinSxS directory, and it’s certainly true that after installation, you can remove it from the system and it will appear that the system boots and runs fine. But as described above, this is a very bad practice, as you’re removing the ability to reliably service, all operating system components and the ability to update or configure optional components on your system. Windows Vista only supports the WinSxS directory on the physical drive in its originally installed location. The risks far outweigh the gains removing it or relocating it from the system, given the data described above.

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