How to delete downloaded Windows Update files

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 16, 2017
Updated • Feb 26, 2018
Windows, Windows Updates
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31

Windows Update works for the most part pretty reliable. It is an automated system of Microsoft's Windows operating system that handles the downloading and installing of updates for the operating system.

At best, it is a silent service that runs in the background; it may ask you to restart the PC every now and then though as that is still required for many updates, and it sometimes may do so without user interaction.

When you run into issues though with updates, you may spend hours or even days figuring out what is going wrong.

I cannot update one of my PCs to the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update for instance because of a bluescreen that I get whenever I try to do so.

One of the things that you can try when it comes to updates, is to delete downloaded Windows Update files to start over.

If you suspect that something is wrong with the files, or if you want Windows Update to run a new check for updates to download new versions of updates that were released by Microsoft, then you may find the following tip useful for that.

If you run Windows Insider builds on a PC for instance, you may skip an already downloaded update to a new build to download a newer build and avoid having to update the system multiple times.

How to delete downloaded Windows Update files

windows delete cached updates

It is thankfully pretty easy to delete all cached update files. This works on all supported versions of Windows, including Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.

  1. Open the Start Menu (tap on the Windows-key or click on it).
  2. Type services.msc.
  3. Right-click on the result, and select "run as administrator" from the context menu.
  4. Locate the Service Windows Update. The services listing is sorted alphabetically by default. Click on name to revert the order so that you don't need to scroll as much.
  5. Right-click on the service Windows Update and select Stop from the menu.
  6. Go to C:\WINDOWS\SoftwareDistribution\Download using Explorer or any third-party file browser. If you navigate to the folder manually, you may need to enable the showing of hidden files first.
    1. Do so with a click on File > Change folder and search options.
    2. Go to View, and scroll down until you find "Hidden files and folders" listed.
    3. Select "Show hidden files, folders and drives".
    4. Remove the checkmark from "Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)".
    5. Click Apply, then OK.
  7. Select all files of the folder. The easiest way to do that is to use Ctrl-A while the folder is active.
  8. Hit the Delete-key on the computer keyboard.
  9. Windows may need administrator privileges to delete certain files. Select "do this for all current items" and click continue to grant the permissions.
  10. Go back to the Services window.
  11. Right-click on the Windows Update service, and select Start from the list of options.

you'll need to provide administrator permission

You can re-run a check for updates once all files have been deleted. Please note that Windows Update will download all updates anew when you clear the update cache. This can lead to Gigabyte large downloads.

Clear the Windows Update cache from the command line

delete windows update cache

You may purge the Windows Update cache from the command line as well. While you can type the following commands on an elevated command prompt manually, you may create a small batch file as well toautomate the process.

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Tap on the Windows-key to bring up the Start Menu.
  2. Type cmd.exe.
  3. Hold down the Shift-key and the Ctrl-Key before you select the cmd.exe result. This opens an elevated command prompt.
  4. Accept the UAC prompt that Windows displays.
  5. Run the following commands and hit enter after each line:
    1. net stop wuauserv
    2. cd %Windir%\SoftwareDistribution
    3. del /f /s /q Download
    4. net start wuauserv

The commands explained:

  • net stop wuauserv -- This stops the Windows Update service.
  • cd %Windir%\SoftwareDistribution -- Switches to the SoftwareDistribution directory of the Windows installation.
  • del /f /s /q Download -- Deletes the Download folder of the SoftwareDistribution directory with
    • /f -- force the removal of read-only files.
    • /s -- include files in subdirectories.
    • /q -- in quiet mode to surpress prompts.
  • net start wuauserv -- Starts the Windows Update service.

We have uploaded a batch file to our own server which you may run to execute the commands automatically. You need to right-click on the file and select "run as administrator" as it requires administrative privileges.

You can download the file with a click on the following link: clear-windows-update-cache.zip

Note that it is supplied as an archive that you do need to extract before you may run it.

Tip: Check out these Windows Update related articles and guides

Summary
How to delete downloaded Windows Update files
Article Name
How to delete downloaded Windows Update files
Description
Find out how to delete downloaded (cached) Windows Update files on all supported versions of the Microsoft Windows operating system.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am
    Reply

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am
    Reply

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm
      Reply

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm
    Reply

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am
      Reply

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am
    Reply

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am
    Reply

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm
      Reply

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm
    Reply

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm
      Reply

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm
    Reply

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm
    Reply

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm
      Reply

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm
    Reply

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:
    https://www.msi.com/news/detail/MSI-On–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–Error-Message-of-Windows-11-Update-KB5029351-Preview-142215

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm
    Reply

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:
    https://www.neowin.net/news/microsoft-puts-little-blame-on-its-windows-update-after-unsupported-processor-bsod-bug/

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:
    https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/microsoft/microsoft-blames-unsupported-processor-blue-screens-on-oem-vendors/

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm
    Reply

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm
    Reply

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am
    Reply

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):

    https://www.msi.com/news/detail/Updated-BIOS-fixes-Error-Message–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–caused-BSOD-on-MSI-s-Intel-700-and-600-Series-Motherboards-142277

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