Unusually large WINDOWS folder?

December 6, 2010 at 11:59:41
Specs: Windows XP

So, lately, my computer has been giving me a lot of Low Disk space warnings. It says that I have less than 1 GB of memory left. I've been slowly moving anything extraneous to my external hard drive like video games and music but it seems to be filling back up. I constantly clear my cache and my temporary files. I was looking at all of the main folders on my hard drive to see what was taking up so much space, and when I checked the size of the "WINDOWS" folder, it said it was 22 GB. So I looked inside of the folder, but when I checked to see how large the contents of the folder were, it came back as only 6 GB. (I'm sorry. I'm not sure of a better way to describe this.) Is there some way I can fix this?

Keep in mind my laptop is pretty old. I only have a 47 GB hard drive so 16 imaginary GB of space is kind of a lot.

See More: Unusually large WINDOWS folder?

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December 6, 2010 at 12:54:31

I don't know about the windows folder but you can gain some space by:

Right click the Recycle Bin and select Properties and on the Global Tab move the slider to 1% from the default 10% click Apply then OK.

intel P4 3.0ghz HTT
ATI 9800 Pro AGP 8x
2 x 1gb Corsair DDR400
2 x 250gb HDD
Windoze XP SP3

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December 6, 2010 at 21:40:01

Hmmm. As far as I can tell, the size of the folder keeps increasing. I'm not sure if giving my recycle bin less space would necessarily solve my space problem.

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December 7, 2010 at 13:14:16

That was a weird suggestion about reducing the bin size. It won't make a scrap of difference if your bin is empty.

When you looked through your Windows folder did you go to Control Panel > Folder Opions > View and tick "Show hidden files and folders" and untick "Hide protected operating system files"? If not that would account for the discrepancy. Note that it is not a good idea to leave protected operating system files visible in the long term.

You ought to check to see how much space is reserved for System Restore. If you are showing over a months worth of restores it is not really necessary IMO. See if the slider is up at 12% (max), in which case you can safely put it down to 10% as a start point for monitoring it.

How to know you are getting old 5:
A lamp post backs into you

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December 7, 2010 at 15:33:28

If the Recycle Bin isn't empty, the drive space taken up by whatever is listed in the Recycle Bin can't be used by any other data. The data's space isn't flagged as available for new data until it's been been deleted in the Recycle Bin. When the items in the Recycle Bin have been deleted, it's only then that you'll see that the freed up space from you doing that has been added to the free space on the drive partition in Windows.

A friend of mine had an odd problem. His Windows Temp folder and the files in it in XP was taking up more drive space than anything else in the Windows folder or elsewhere on the C partition, for whatever reason.
RIGHT click on the temp folder in the Windows folder, select Properties - how much drive space is it using ?

If your Windows installation is working okay otherwise, you can do this to delete all the System Restore restore points except the last one.
Start - All Programs - Accessories - Disk Tools - Disk Cleanup.
Run it.
After it has finished, you can have it delete what it found, then click on the More Options tab.
You can check out all 3 options there.
The last one - you can have it delete all restore points except the last (newest) one

The best solution to your problem is for you to install a larger capacity hard drive.
If your laptop was made in about 2003 or later, you can probably install any size of hard drive that is the same type as yours - yours is more likely to need to be IDE than SATA .
You can use a free program available on the hard drive manufacturer's web site of the larger drive to copy the entire contents of your drive to a larger one - you would also need a USB connected external drive enclosure ($25 or less and up) , or some other adapter, to connect the larger drive to your laptop.

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December 7, 2010 at 15:56:19

Have you cleared your temporary internet files in IE lately? You may have them set to a high value. You should be fine with about 50M reserved, or even less. They are not in the Windows folder but every little helps.

Consider installing CCleaner Lite - it's only 3 or 4 MB and keeps things cleared.

How to know you are getting old 5:
A lamp post backs into you

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December 7, 2010 at 16:06:00

I always make sure that it shows hidden files, but I unchecked the box for protected operating system files and it came up to 22 GB.
But that's still an awful lot of space for the Windows XP OS isn't it?

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December 7, 2010 at 16:18:29

Okay, so I've pinpointed what's taking up so much space. It's the folder called "Installer." By itself, it's approximately 16 GB large.
Is there anything I can do with this folder or it's contents or should I just leave it alone?

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December 7, 2010 at 16:55:00

Excuse the sermon but the road to wrecked computers is littered with file and folder removers, so in general one should use a proper uninstall. However that won't help in this case and you do seem to have a lot in there (mine is only about half a Gig).

There are quite a few hits in Google. Here's two that might help and on the face of it might avoid the dangers (mentioned) of just manually deleting the files:

First MS link now says that use of their MSICUU2.exe file can cause issues and has now been withdrawn. This is also referred to in the second link. It seems therefore that although it has worked out for some there are risks.

How to know you are getting old 6:
You can't remember what it is that you have forgotten.

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December 7, 2010 at 20:55:54

What files and/or folders are in the Installer folder ? Give us some examples.

Was that folder there before you unchecked the box for protected operating system files ?

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December 8, 2010 at 06:37:39

Just for info, that folder is only visible when you uncheck the box for protected operating systems. You will find it on all XP machines in c:\windows although the posters folder size seems much larger than most.

On mine it has a number of sub-folders with CLSID names, each one having an exe file inside. The file ARPPRODUCTICON.exe appears in many of them. There are also some msi and msp files (not in the sub-folders).

Please see the EDIT to my post #8. I would therefore suggest that the safest bet is to properly uninstall any programs that are unneccessary rather than taking a chance and messing with that folder. Alternatively get a larger HD and ghost the contents of your present one onto it.

How to know you are getting old 6:
You can't remember what it is that you have forgotten.

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December 8, 2010 at 07:32:28

Ah ! - that one. I've always got the box for protected operating system files unchecked on my own computers. My XP MCE 2005 C:\Windows\Installer folder is presently using 1.53gb

"First MS link now says that use of their MSICUU2.exe file can cause issues "

I have in the past and still use that Windows Installer Cleanup Utility, mostly on other people's computers.
If you don't have Office 2007 on the computer, or any of it's components, or possibly a newer version of those, it's unlikely you'll have problems when you use it.
My XP MCE 2005 and Vista Home Premium installations both have Office 2007, but I've never used that Windows Installer Cleanup Utility to remove it or any of it's components.

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December 8, 2010 at 08:15:12

If the poster is interested, the MSICUU2.exe file can be downloaded here:
See the last para of response #11 above.

I think you are right not to permanently show system protected files on any OS (it's useful for diagnostic purposes tho). If you do, system files start appearing in working errors, which should obviously not be deleted.

Showing hidden files and all file extensions is a different ball game and I advocate both on XP. Sure, the golden rule is never to delete what you don't understand but otherwise those settings are useful, and the latter helps promote an understanding of file extensions. Vista and Win 7 are rather different and for similar reasons to those already given I do not even show hidden files on those OS's.

How to know you are getting old 6:
You can't remember what it is that you have forgotten.

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December 8, 2010 at 11:02:49

The Windows Installer Cleanup Utility is good at removing Registry entries and *.inf files for the program, and using it will stop a malfunctioning program from running, or it will remove Registry stuff and the *.infs when the Un-install won't work properly for a program, but it doesn't necessarily remove all the files that were installed by the program. However, after it has been used, you can delete any files still there for the program safely - e.g. at least in C:\Program Files\(name of program) all sub folders and files.
It can't find programs a Windows Installer was NOT used for, and it can't find programs or things left behind for a program a Windows Installer WAS used for after the program's Un-install program has been used. For the latter, if you can figure out which program was installed, e.g. you found the *.msi file for it - if you install the program again, the cleanup utility often does a better job of getting rid of a program's remnants that the program's own Un-installer does.

The *.msi files shown below the others in C:\Windows\Installer are "master" Windows Installer installation files - sometimes they're "standalone", sometimes other files must be installed along with them - if you want to find out what they're for, you can search the web with the full file name. They are usually NOT deleted from the C:\Windows\Installer folder when you un-install the program they are for the normal way, by Un-installing the program in Add or Remove Programs.

"not to permanently show system protected files on any OS"

I try to remember to do that on other peoples systems I work on but I usually leave them showing on my own computers. I know which files I shouldn't mess with, at least for XP and below - I'm still learning regarding that in Vista - I haven't installed Windows 7 yet.
Doing that can certainly cause confusion to the user in Vista, I found out (virtual My Computer etc.) , and the same probably applies to Windows 7.

The other two things I usually enable on other peoples computers I work on, and always on my own computers.

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December 8, 2010 at 11:33:05

On XP I have some folders on my desktop that open windows containing groups of shortcut icons to programs. Grayed out desktop.ini files appear in these folders when I am set to show protected system files. I understand their purpose but they were a bit undesireable from a users perspective.

On Vista I had the same sort of thing when showing hidden files and folders but I am no longer able to reproduce it (just tried). Maybe it is something that was fixed in a service pack.

How to know you are getting old 6:
You can't remember what it is that you have forgotten.

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December 8, 2010 at 11:47:18

Yes, I've learned you don't copy the desktop.ini file(s) when you have that enabled when you copy or move files to another location - Windows will automatically make a new desktop.ini file to suit.If you forget to de-select the desktop.ini files, you just answer no when you are asked by Windows if you want to replace the desktop.ini file at the destination location.

Did you enable the hidden Administrator user in Vista ? You may see things when you use that user that you don't see when you use other users.

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December 8, 2010 at 12:02:37

Nope, didn't even realise there was a feature to enable a hidden Admin user. I'll poke around sometime, thx for info.

I think we've frightened the OP away LOL.

How to know you are getting old 6:
You can't remember what it is that you have forgotten.

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December 8, 2010 at 12:26:32

My Notes...

In the default Standard account mode, you ALSO often have to RIGHT click on a program or selection and choose Run as Administrator, otherwise you get a "Access Denied" or similar message when you try to run the program or selection.
When you Enable the built in Administrator account, the vast majority of the time if not all the time, in your own user account, you will NOT have to RIGHT click on a program or selection and choose Run as Administrator, but you will still get the User Account Control window pop up to ask for your permission when you do many things.

When you have Enabled the built in Administrator account
- when you are booting into Vista you will see an icon for your own user account, and one for Administrator. You can choose either one.
- once either user account has loaded to the desktop screen, you can switch to the other user - at the same place where you can select Shut Down, Restart etc. - the > at the far right beside the Search box after clicking on the Vista Start icon.

- if you choose the Administrator user, Vista behaves pretty much the same as XP does when an XP user has full Administrator rights, which is the default situation in XP. You DO NOT have to RIGHT click on any program or selection and choose Run as Administrator, AND you DO NOT get the User Account Control window popping up to ask for your permission when you do anything.

- once they have seen the difference between their own user account and the Administrator account, after the built on Administrator account was enabled, some people have only used the Administrator account from then on, and some have done that and have deleted their own user account.

See this article.

How to Enable or Disable the Real Built-in Administrator Account in Vista

The article mentions Elevated Command Prompt mode.
How to enable that.
Before you have enabled the Real Built-in Administrator, you must click on Start - All Programs - Accessories, RIGHT click on Command Prompt, choose Run as Administrator.

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December 8, 2010 at 12:34:19

Thx, will take a look.

How to know you are getting old 6:
You can't remember what it is that you have forgotten.

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December 8, 2010 at 17:31:12

Thanks a lot, guys. So I downloaded the Windows Installer Clean Up Wizard. I've rid myself of a few extraneous programs but I was snooping around in the Installer folder again and I noticed that all of the files that are taking up a bunch of space are .msp files. The ones that are taking up the most space are 130 files that are all conspicuously 114 MB. All of the other .msp and .msi files are less than 36 MB.
These 130 .msp files take up 14 GB.
There don't appear to be any other files created on the same day or anything. For all 130 of them, the information says:
Type: Windows Installer Patch
Title: Office 2003 Patch;MAINSP3.accwiz.Analys32_ENG.eurotool.xl.Excel.fm20.fpcutl.fpdbrgn.fpeditax.fp.
olkintl_ENG.o (all of that was also part of the title)
Date Modified: 7/27/2007 9:03 AM (or 8:03 AM)
Size: 114 MB

Kind of interesting and bizarre.
So apparently, I've had this space problem for a few years and totally not noticed it.

I have been wanting a new computer for a long time though. I kind of want one for Christmas...

Okay, so I looked it up and I guess it's part of (or it claims to be a part of) the Mainsp3 update for Microsoft Office 2003 but for some reasons, there's just hundreds of this thing. I also looked at the page for the Mainsp3 update on Microsoft's website. None of these 130 files are supposed to be included in the service pack and I can't find any of the .msp files that were supposed to be included with the service pack.

I'm trying really hard to find a reason why I shouldn't just delete them all right now.... But if they really are part of the service pack, I probably won't be able to use my Microsoft Office anymore... But I could just reinstall it, I guess.
But if they aren't part of the service pack, then what are they for? I'm so torn.
Maybe I'll do it when I get a new computer....
Okay, okay, okay. Soooooo, I've been searching for different parts of the title and apparently, some other people have had this problem too. From most of what I've read, the patch had failed to do it's thing or whatever and it installed like a bunch of them on my computer.
I think I might just try uninstalling the Microsoft Office and then reinstalling it and see of all of these things disappear.

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December 8, 2010 at 19:09:10

OK, well, I suppose temporarily binning stuff bit at a time should be OK because you can always restore back from the bin if something stops working (as long as Windows keeps working). However I really didn't ought to be encouraging you LOL.

Good luck with it anyhow.

How to know you are getting old 6:
You can't remember what it is that you have forgotten.

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December 9, 2010 at 11:33:15

I'm assuming you're talking of *.msp files, not *.msi files, although similar to the following applies to multiple copies of any file.

NOTE that if you move your mouse cursor AT ALL while clicking on a file, Windows will automatically make a copy of the file in the same folder that is named "Copy of (the file name)"
If you do that more than once for the same file, it will automatically make "Copy of (the file name)(n).(the extension)", the number (n) being unique - (2),(3), etc. Those can definitely be deleted with no dire consequences.
They are listed at the BOTTOM of the folder list when you first make them, so people often don't know they're there at first - when you have exited the folder then go back into the same folder, then they are listed alphabetically under C.
You could search your computer's C drive for all such "Copy of....." files and delete them all, and then delete them in the Recycle Bin, with no dire consequences.

You may have multiple copies of the same 114mb file, if the installation of it failed over and over again.
If so,
- there would be a record in your Windows Update Update history info that the installation of it had failed over and over again. If so, there is probably an error code mentioned there you can investigate regarding a possible cause of why it did not install.
(Go to the Microsoft web site - Windows Update - if you don't see a link to your Update history, Express search for updates, then that link should be there.)

NOTE that a more complicated update may fail to install because an anti-malware program or third party software firewall you have installed has a resident module running - a part that is running all the time looking for suspicious activity - that is interfering with the updates installing properly.
It is a very good idea to DISABLE that / those resident module(s) from running when you install software, particularly if it is a complicated software installation, or "drivers" software for a device which often actually include more files than just the actual drivers.
If you don't know how to do that, tell us what anti-malware and third party software firewalls you have installed.

The files would have......
- the identical number of bytes when you RIGHT click on the file and choose Properties
- exactly the same full file name, except that the ones after the first one have (2) or similar at the end of the file name before .msp.
- the file date may be identical, or it may have the date of when the installation was attempted - in the latter case, the oldest dated one is the first one.

- the internal contents of the files would be identical. I know of nothing in XP in Windows itself that can compare the internal data, but XP has the legacy FC (File Compare) program built into it that you can use in cmd mode to do that.

Start - Run - type: cmd , click OK or press Enter
Type: FC (location and name of first file) (location and name of second file) , press Enter
FC C:\Windows\Installer\file_name.msp C:\Windows\Installer\same_name(2).msp

(If the folder name or file name has one or more spaces in it, you must use the 8 character Dos equivalent folder name, or the 8.3 character Dos equivalent file name with FC - e.g. for the My Documents folder - MyDocu~1. Type: dir |more (press Enter) at the cmd prompt on the black screen to see the Dos equivalent names. The bar beside more is "pipe" - the uppercase of \ ; more will show the results one page at a time if there are more lines than will fit on one screen. Lines with <DIR> on them - that's a folder name = the older name, Directory .)

If they are identical internally, you can delete all copies of the original file, or it might be better to delete all of them except the last copy. If you do that, delete them from the Recycle Bin too, once you have rebooted the computer and find Windows is still working okay.

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December 9, 2010 at 11:42:39

For info, mine has both msp and msi files in that folder (see my #10).

How to know you are getting old 6:
You can't remember what it is that you have forgotten.

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December 9, 2010 at 12:07:09

"For info, mine has both msp and msi files in that folder "

Same for my XP MCE 2005 - same large icon.

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December 9, 2010 at 12:17:10

As regards binning, make sure that you do a very thorough check before deleting them completely. Windows still being able to boot is only the start of it. In particular check anything that appears to be implicated in the presence of these files, such as Microsoft Office 2003.

How to know you are getting old 6:
You can't remember what it is that you have forgotten.

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December 9, 2010 at 13:04:51

I've added more to response 21

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December 9, 2010 at 17:53:54

I think at the time, I had McAfee and Spybot - S&D. I may have also had Hijackthis. But I'm pretty sure that wasn't the problem either.
I'm pretty sure that I didn't copy one file 130 times.
They were all differently named and scattered through out the folder.
From the dates and times, it looked like 65 files were created at 8:03 and 65 at 9:03. They all had different file names that didn't seem to be in any sort of descending or ascending order.
Most of the names were like, 1cb345hs92, 2badk9akso, etc.
I can't give you any actual examples because I kind of deleted them all.
but luckily it was without consequence. I think. They referenced the Microsoft office in their title's and nothing bad has happened while trying to run any of the office programs.
Unless that's not actually what they were for and I just haven't encountered any negative effects of deleting them all.

But I have freed up 15 GB of space! Yay me. I won't have to buy a new computer for... a few more months now.

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December 10, 2010 at 02:36:36

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/274533 explains how to determine which .msp files are safe to delete. Caution: it requires use of the registry (don't delete any registry entries).

Please let us know if you found someone's advice to be helpful.

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December 10, 2010 at 14:54:37

We're glad to hear you have freed up more free space !

"I think at the time, I had McAfee and Spybot - S&D."

I recommend you DO NOT install Spybot - S&D ! It has been known to make mistakes when you have it un-install stuff many times in the past that can result in you having to re-install the operating system, or at least run a Repair installation of Windows procedure, in order to fix the damage done !
(The same applies to AdAware to a lesser degree !)
If you DO use it, then DO NOT disable System Restore to delete existing restore points before you run it ! You may NEED to load a previous uncontaminated restore point to fix problems it causes - if you have no restore points, then you may need to re-install the operating system, or at least run a Repair installation of Windows procedure, in order to fix the damage done !

For that matter, according to Microsoft experts, you should NOT disable System Restore to delete existing restore points before you run ANY anti-malware software, and after you have run it and have removed things found until you make sure Windows is working fine! According to them, the system cannot be contaminated by malware found in previous restore points unless you load the contaminated restore point yourself ! You can use Disk Cleanup in Windows to remove all but the last restore point without disabling System Restore.

Another thing you should NOT do is to have more than one anti-malware program installed that has one or more resident modules - a part that runs all the time looking for suspicious activity - running at the same time, otherwise the resident modules are likely to clash with each other and cause you problems. If you DO have more than one of those installed, you should DISABLE the resident module(s) from running in all but one anti-malware program at a time.

The McAfee software and Spybot both have one or more resident modules each.

If you don't know how to disable the resident module(s) in the anti-malware software you have installed, tell us which ones you have installed.

HighJackThis! has no resident module.

I think it's logs produce too much useless information, and often ALL of it is useless.

DO NOT post HighJackThis! logs on this web site !
There are some web sites that specialize in analyzing them, but not this one !

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December 10, 2010 at 15:39:34

Interesting point from MS about viruses and not emptying restore points. I've always been sceptical of folk keep trotting out that you should do this. Losing your lifeline by killing off restore points should not be taken too lightly. In a nutshell, like most things, I think common sense should apply rather than some dubious and unsubstantiated golden rule.

We all live on a ball.

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December 10, 2010 at 19:31:03

That info didn't come from Microsoft itself, officially - but I found info posted by Microsoft certified pros, some of which may work for Microsoft, that said that, and it certainly makes sense to me. System Restore may not be perfect but it's something everyone has if they have 2000 and above. They also said if the system is found to be working fine for a while after using anti-malware software to remove stuff, then if they want to get rid of malware found in previous restore pints, then go ahead and disable System Restore to delete all restore points, then enable System Restore again.
Or - they could use Disk Cleanup to get rid of all but the last restore point.

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December 11, 2010 at 08:24:38

Well, I don't have Spybot or McAfee anymore. At the moment, I have Kapersky.
But I never had any problems with Spybot while I had it.

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