Remove the Windows.old folder manually

Windows creates the folder Windows.old on a PC running Windows when you upgrade the PC to a new version of the operating system.

The Windows.old folder contains files and folders of the old installation of Windows, and the main reason it is there is that it is used to restore the old system if the user wants to go back to it.

This folder may take up a sizeable amount of space, but will get deleted automatically usually by Windows after a set period of time.

Windows users may also use the disk cleanup tool to remove the folder as described here. Sometimes however it happens that the folder and its content is not removed, and that a manual removal does not work either.

When you try to delete the folder manually in Explorer, you get permission errors as the folder is associated with SYSTEM and not a user or administrator account.

What happens usually is that you get a permission request first to run the operation with administrative privileges, and then the Folder Access Denied error.

folder access denied

Remove the Windows.old folder manually

You need to run the following commands remove the Windows.old folder manually.

  1. Open an elevated command prompt. EAsiest way to do so is to tap on Windows, type cmd.exe, hold down the Shift-key and the Ctrl-key, and launch the elevated command prompt with a tap on the Enter-key.
  2. takeown /F c:\Windows.old\* /R /A /D Y
  3. cacls c:\Windows.old\*.* /T /grant administrators:F
  4. rmdir /S /Q c:\Windows.old

Lets take a closer look at the commands to better understand what they do:

Read also:  Block Windows Updates with Windows 10 Update Switch

takeown /f c:\Windows.old\* /r /a /d y

Takeown can be used to make the administrators group the owner of a file or directory.

  • /f c:\Windows.old\* -- This specifies the location and files that the operation will be run on.
  • -r -- performs a recursive operation on all files (means all files are included that are in the Windows.old folder).
  • -a -- gives ownership to the Administrators group.
  • -d Y -- surpresses the confirmation prompt when the current user does not have the "List Folder" permission.

cacls c:\Windows.old\*.* /t /grant administrators:f

This command displays or modifies DACL (discretionary access control list) files.

  • c:\Windows.old\*.* -- The files you want the operation to run on.
  • /t -- This changes the DACL of the files in the selected directory and all subdirectories.
  • /grant administrators:f -- This grants full access rights to the administrators group (The F stands for full)

rmdir /s /q c:\Windows.old

The command removes a directory.

  • /s -- this parameter makes the command remove the directory that is specified, and all of its subdirectories and files.
  • /q -- runs the program in quiet mode without confirmation prompts.
  • c:\Windows.old -- specifies the directory the operation should be run on.


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Remove the Windows.old folder manually
This guide provides you with detailed instructions on deleting the Windows.old folder on a Windows computer manually and forcefully.
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Responses to Remove the Windows.old folder manually

  1. dmacleo July 12, 2017 at 8:50 pm #

    if on domain may work bit different, can rt click folder properties-security-advanced-change permissions.
    then where it lists owner click change and use domain admin acct.
    click the replace all child object box.
    then apply, ec then delete.
    have had to do it to 15 or so of them lately..

  2. jasray July 12, 2017 at 9:21 pm #

    Bastante para ahora--

    takeown /F C:\Windows.old\* /R /A
    cacls C:\Windows.old\*.* /T /grant administrators:F
    rmdir /S /Q C:\Windows.old\

    Copy-paste this in Notepad and save it as a .bat file.

  3. Arie July 13, 2017 at 8:16 am #

    Boot from a Linux live cd / dvd, go te the folder where windows.old is located, delete it, done

  4. TianlanSha July 13, 2017 at 3:23 pm #

    I've seen another method where you run Disc Cleanup and it deletes it.

    • Martin Brinkmann July 13, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

      Yes, Disk Cleanup deletes it usually, but there are situations where this won't work, or where leftovers remain.

      • Mark Hazard July 13, 2017 at 8:11 pm #

        Yes, disk cleanup deleted the files but not the folder. When I tried to delete the folder manually, I got the response that the file was corrupted and unreadable. I searched the Web for an answer, which was to use Chkdsk. When I did that, I was told that the file was in use by another program(?). I was asked if I wanted to run Chkdsk on the the next restart. I answered yes, and restarted. Chkdsk worked seemingly very quickly, and when I tried to delete Windows.Old, I got the same response. I repeated the process, and this time Chkdsk worked more slowly. Then I was finally able to delete Windows.Old.

        The Chkdsk command that I used from an administration account was chkdsk C: /F. I tried another version using /B but it did not work. This was on Windows 8.1.

  5. Lo Hanisch July 15, 2017 at 9:52 pm #


    command 2 answered:"Zuordnungen von Kontennamen und Sicherheitskennungen wurden nicht durchgeführt."
    What to do?


  6. chesscanoe July 16, 2017 at 11:54 am #

    I used Google to search the German phrase and translate the result to English. Perhaps will help from Norton.

  7. Lo Ha July 16, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

    "Zuordnungen von Kontennamen und Sicherheitskennungen wurden nicht durchgeführt "
    Meaning:"Assignments of accounts and security-states are Not altered."

  8. Lo Ha July 16, 2017 at 6:49 pm #

    "Zuordnungen von Kontennamen und Sicherheitskennungen wurden nicht durchgeführt"
    Meaning: "Assignments of accounts and security-states are Not altered."

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