Reclaming (critical) hard drive space
March 23, 2012 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone help me determine what's safe to delete in the WINDOWS/Installer folder?

First of all, thank you to everyone in advance... I'm at my wit's end.

I'm working on a friend's computer, (running Windows XP SP3). She complained that it had slowed down to a crawl. Turns out that out of a 30 GB hard drive, there was only 400 MB left of free space! I ran scans (McAfee Stinger, MSE, Clamwin, S&DS, etc...), and found no issues with viruses, though there was some adware I removed, (mostly browser toolbars). After running a couple of cleanup tools (CCleaner, Revo), I managed to free a whopping 1GB of space.... (-____________-)

Using Windirstat, I found that the WINDOWS/Installer folder takes up 13 GB of space! There are over 5K .msp/.msi/.tmp files there. I thought about using the Microsoft uninstall cleanup tool, but found it had been retired...? Used their new Fix It portable tool, but only managed to remove a couple of items, (Revo did most of the job already, I suppose).

So... What can I do now? I've researched the topic, and mostly I get warnings about being careful as to what/how I delete from that folder... Going in there and nuking the whole bit seems dangerous at best, yet I can't figure out how to tell what's safe to delete and what's not... Any ideas/suggestions?

Reinstalling Windows seems to be out of the question since my friend lost the CD (of course) a while back.

Thanks again,

posted by yorkeandvedder to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The cleanup utility is still available from other software repositories. This article provides more information on removing orphaned patch files, if there are any remaining in this folder, although it doesn't make clear if you need to identify these files yourself. Your running of other cleaning utilties may have taken care of this anyway.

It is possible to delete files stored in this folder pretty much at will, but you will lose the ability to uninstall applications that are installed, which may not pose an issue if the machine is static as to its installation (i.e. used for word processing, web browsing and not much else), but can be a problem if you come to upgrade applications that require an uninstallation later.

If you have a USB stick or external disk available, or even some DVDs to burn to, it might be feasible to copy and remove these files, so if you need to uninstall/upgrade an application, you've got the ability to restore the necessary MS(I/P) files later, freeing up precious disk space in the mean time.

If you'd like to reinstall Windows, you could use a keyfinder to make a note of the product key(s) for the OS and installed software, and order a replacement disc from Microsoft, or somewhere like eBay.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 9:19 AM on March 23, 2012

Try running cleanmgr.exe (should be built in to XP). Look in the options, I think it has a box to tick for old installer files like that.
posted by gjc at 9:28 AM on March 23, 2012

You could install and use Advanced System Care Free, which will find almost everything that can be deleted safely, and fix other problems, showing what it will delete and allowing you to uncheck things which it finds to delete before you press "Fix" to perform the deletions. Be careful because it will delete browser histories--uncheck those if you want to keep them.

But later in normal use, this free version is fairly aggressive with popups to "update" and buy the pay version, so you may want to delete it itself before you finish your work so your friend won't be tempted. The free version is good and all that is needed. Revo Free can always handle uninstalls, better than programs' own uninstall routines.
posted by caclwmr4 at 9:38 AM on March 23, 2012

Ditto on running windows cleaners. This cached forum post about asus machines has some great links, and useful across the board...
posted by 0bvious at 9:48 AM on March 23, 2012

As NordyneDefenceDynamics points out, deleting things there may prevent some application for uninstalling OR UPDATING. You may not care about being unable to remove apps, but being unable to update can leave things more vulnerable to exploits.
posted by anadem at 10:18 AM on March 23, 2012

First, I want to thank you ALL for your help! And talk about fast response time! I posted this same issue in at least 5 other forums/sites, and so far I've had one view in one forum, compared to the participation here... I'm simply blown away.

NordyneDefenceDynamics/0bvious: I did end up using the cleanup utility, and it worked like a charm! (used the cached forum post's instructions).

gjc: I had run cleanmgr.exe earlier (forgot to mention that), but thank you for thinking of that.

caclwmr4: I downloaded and tried ASCF on my Win 7 pc first... Not sure if I just didn't get how it worked, but I didn't feel too safe using it on my friend's PC. Thank you for the suggestion, though.

anadem: I had a feeling that failure to update applications might be a side effect to deleting those files haphazardly... Thank you for confirming that.
posted by yorkeandvedder at 10:55 AM on March 23, 2012

Buy a new hard drive. For comparison, my phone has a 32 GB card in it. Hard drives aren't expensive and are easy to install. Figure out which connector you need, pick a price point, and pop it in.
posted by anaelith at 6:44 AM on March 24, 2012

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