Analyze and clean the WinSXS folder
Windows Explorer and third-party programs report a size of several Gigabyte at the very least, but the count can go up to ten and more Gigabytes depending on the system it is analyzed on.
WinSXS, the full path is c:\Windows\WinSXS\ if Windows is installed on the c: drive, contains files that are required for servicing operations such as the installation of updates, service packs or hotfixes.
According to Microsoft, the component store contains "all the files that are required for a Windows installation", and since it also holds files added by updates, it grows over time on all systems.
The size of the folder is not reported correctly however if you use Windows Explorer or third-party tools like WizTree to analyze its size.
The reason for that is that it contains hardlinks which Explorer and third-party tools don't take into consideration when calculating the WinSXS folder's size (they count the hardlinked files even though they don't reside in the WinSXS folder).
These hardlinks point to files in other Windows directories, for instance c:\Windows\system32.
Analyzing the WinSXS Folder
A proper way to analyze the Window WinSXS component store directory is to use dism.exe.
Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) was introduced by Microsoft in Windows Vista and has been part of new versions of Windows ever since.
Update: Please note that the commands will only work on Windows 8 or newer machines.
Here is what you need to do to analyze the WinSXS Folder:
- Tap on the Windows-key, type cmd.exe, hold down Shift and Ctrl, and hit the enter key on the keyboard. This opens an elevated command prompt on the system. If you have troubles getting this to work, right-click on the cmd.exe result instead and select "run as administrator".
- Run the command dism.exe /Online /Cleanup-Image /AnalyzeComponentStore
The parameter /Online refers to the current installation, and /Cleanup-Image /AnalyzeComponentStore is the command to analyze the current component store of that installation (the WinSXS folder).
You can list all available commands using dism.exe /?, and subsequently dism.exe /Online /? and dism.exe /Online /Cleanup-Image /?.
The command runs a scan that takes a moment to complete. It echoes the Windows Explorer size and actual size to the command prompt window, and gives recommendations whether it makes sense to run a cleanup operation. If you proceed with the cleanup, see below for instructions, it is advised to run the analysis again after the cleanup operation completes to find out how much smaller the folder has become.
The command echoes the actual size of the folder as well which may be very useful as it highlights usually that the component store is not as large as third-party programs or Explorer make it appear to be.
Windows runs a cleanup regularly using the Task Scheduler. You can check if that is the case on your machine in the following way:
- Tap on the Windows-key, type Task Scheduler and hit enter.
- Navigate to Task Scheduler (local) > Task Scheduler Library > Microsoft > Windows > Servicing > StartComponentCleanup
You can run the cleanup operation manually at any time using the following command using an elevated command prompt:
dism.exe /Online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup
It is usually not necessary to run a cleanup unless the AnalyzeComponentStore analysis recommends it.
You can however use Disk Cleanup to free up disk space, and run an analysis afterwards to remove files from the WinSXS folder that are no longer required.
Basically, if you remove previous versions of Windows then you may end up with components in the WinSXS folder that are no longer required because they were valid only for the previous version of Windows.
Frequently asked questions
Why is the WinSXS folder so big?
Most programs report an incorrect size for the WinSXS folder because of hardlinks. Hardlinks point to other locations on the device.
Should I clean up of the WinSXS folder?
It is usually not necessary to clean up the folder manually as Windows does so automatically on schedule.
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