Windows 11 creates lots of empty folders in a System32 directory

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 1, 2021
Windows 11 News

Microsoft's Windows 11 operating system creates lots of empty folders in a System32 directory, just like the Windows 10 operating system. When you check the folder, you may notice empty tmp folders in the directory.

A Windows 11 test system had 100 empty temp folders in the directory, but some users reported that they had thousands of empty directories in the folder.

windows 11 empty tmp folders bug

Here is how you check if the folders exist on your Windows 11 and Windows 10 devices:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Navigate to C:\Windows\System32\config\systemprofile\AppData\Local. Note that Windows may display a warning prompt when you attempt to open system directories, but you should be able to proceed.

Some of the folders may be hidden, and you may need to enable the display of hidden operating system files.

On Windows 10, you select View > Options in File Explorer, switch to View, and make sure that "show hidden files, folders, and drives" is selected, and "hide protected operating system files (recommended)" is unchecked.

On Windows 11, you select Menu (three dots) > Options, and follow the instructions for Windows 10.

The folders start with tw and end with .tmp. When you open them, you will notice that they contain no files. The problem has been known since at least 2019 according to a report on Ask Woody, but it may date back even further than that.

Günter Born suggests that the temporary folders are created by the Provisioning Package Runtime Processing tool, filename ProvTool.exe. The tmp folders can be deleted and deletion appears to have no negative impact on the system.

Closing words

The bug is not critical in most cases. Empty folders don't take up much disk space and they don't interfere with the operation of the system. Still, it appears to be leftovers and some users may want to delete these temporary folders, especially if the count crossed the ten-thousand mark on their devices.

The bug shows again that Windows 11 is very similar to Windows 10, and that bugs that affected Windows 10 are likely also affecting Windows 11.

Windows 11 creates lots of empty folders in a System32 directory
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Windows 11 creates lots of empty folders in a System32 directory
Microsoft's Windows 11 operating system creates lots of empty folders in a System32 directory, just like the Windows 10 operating system.
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  1. notanon said on November 3, 2021 at 3:47 am

    @Martin, thanks for posting this article, I was unaware of the empty folders.

    That being said, you should revise your article title to mention a “subfolder within system32”, because when I first read it, I checked my system32 folder and found no empty folders. It was not until I saw the image in the article that showed the empty folders were actually located in [drive letter]:\windows/system32/config/systemprofile/appdata/local that I found the empty folders.

    Unfortunately, ALOT of people only read the title of the article and the first paragraph, so it’s important the title of the article is accurate to do justice to the hard work put into writing the rest of the article.

    End of rant.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Huffhhuurrr said on November 3, 2021 at 12:41 am

    I noticed in the event logs that at the same time new .tmp folders were created there was an event that history in blaa blaaa was cleared in the file Program Data/Microsoft/Provisioning/Microsoft-Desktop-Provisioning-Sequence.dat
    Well.. in that directory there’s no such file, instead that file can be found in Windows/Provisioning
    Now I’m no expert but I would assume invoking an action in a non-existent file could easily cause weird behavior..
    Clearly it’s the provisioning task that people have mentioned which is causing this, and to me that task is messed up by some Redmond superprogrammer with very poor eyesight/programming skills. The same guy probably thinks the mile-wide extra empty space in the startmeny to the right of all listed programs in the list looks really SNAZZY as well..

  3. John G. said on November 2, 2021 at 2:35 pm

    I have 841 tw*.tmp empty folders! Amazing discovery! :[

  4. Cigologic said on November 2, 2021 at 12:21 pm

    > From post: “the temporary folders are created by the Provisioning Package Runtime Processing tool, filename ProvTool.exe.”

    The ‘Microsoft > Windows > Management > Provisioning’ tasks (Logon, Cellular) are enabled by default. However …

    ? There are zero tw-*-*-*.TMP folders anywhere on my Win 10 r1809 PC.

    ? C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Provisioning\ folder is empty.

    ? C:\Windows\Provisioning\ folder does have some contents owned by TrustedInstaller, but the files are created & modified in Oct 2019. They appear to come out-of-box with the r1809 OS installation.

    Likewise for this user:

    As such, there has to be some other condition(s) that create these empty tw-*-*-*.TMP folders at C:\Windows\System32\config\systemprofile\AppData\Local\.

  5. Bill Doors said on November 2, 2021 at 9:32 am

    Strange… A lot of noobs and amatures here… My windows has been running from windows vista upgraded all the way to Windows 11 literally moving the hard drive to new systems…. Its the same install.

    However I am tech savvy and never have had a problem…

    I really feel for noobs which panic and moan about Windows lol… Its an incredible system and that’s why there’s no competition. The worlds financial system runs of Windows. I don’t think they care about spotty ugly Jim’s print issue lol… Linux makes you feel good and clever and macs are a complete waste of time and can’t even play games yet, like large children’s computers .. Lol… You won’t catch Lloyd’s bank using macs trust me..

    Windows is the best so face it kids. There’s nothing you can do. Microsoft is the largest company in the world now and for a reason.

    Learn tech don’t be scared of it lol.

  6. Ben said on November 2, 2021 at 6:56 am

    I tried the beta version last month, and I had issues with office 2021/2019/2016 (word and excel) it stops working, and doesn’t respond i had to end the programs and restart it again. I wiped all the disk and reinstalled win10 to fixe thé problem

  7. Richard Steven Hack said on November 2, 2021 at 2:31 am

    “The problem has been known since at least 2019 according to a report on Ask Woody, but it may date back even further than that….The bug shows again that Windows 11 is very similar to Windows 10, and that bugs that affected Windows 10 are likely also affecting Windows 11.”

    Seriously? Microsoft is so incompetent at software management that they can’t even detect a significant and visible bug like this for *three years*? We’re not talking about a bug that only shows up once in a while here depending on what the user does and how the system is configured.

    This is another demonstration that the software industry – and I don’t exclude open source in this – the notion of “release early and often” is one of the dumbest concepts I ever heard – is composed of people who don’t have any real notion of what they’re doing. There is NO “engineering” involved in this industry. Programmers and (so-called) “system designers” have zero knowledge of actual design and engineering and should be automated out of the profession and replaced by system engineers with proper training using AI-based expert systems to design software which is then generated by AI-aided automation systems.

    The primary components of any engineering process should be prioritized as functional, effective, usable, and secure. Instead we have a system that produces software which is barely able to achieve the first component and falls over if breathed on. The result is hundreds of billions (if not trillions) of dollars in lost productivity.

  8. Coriy said on November 2, 2021 at 12:12 am

    I had 1,348 of these folders. The most recent dating from Friday, October 28th of this year. I went through and closed of the provisioning logon in Scheduled Tasks. I hope it works.

  9. MelindaBezos said on November 1, 2021 at 11:47 pm

    About 6 thousand in my folder.

  10. Beta said on November 1, 2021 at 8:47 pm

    I had 12,516 empty folders on my old desktop.

  11. Toyota said on November 1, 2021 at 4:46 pm

    If you collect the whole series you win a PRIZE!

  12. Ayy said on November 1, 2021 at 3:48 pm

    In regard to these specific folders/files, I must’ve seen them in July of 2020 as that’s when I disabled the task (I make notes in a text file about what changes I make to help keep track of things) because they were wasting disk space and making my OS partition backup images bloated for no reason.
    Microsoft > Windows > Management > Provisioning > Logon (Enabled > Disabled)

    1. Robert G. said on November 7, 2021 at 4:03 pm

      Thanks Ayy and also thanks to Martin for the news.

  13. Dave said on November 1, 2021 at 2:10 pm

    3133 folders dating back to oct 2020 here on the latest win 10.

  14. Anonymous said on November 1, 2021 at 12:41 pm

    In Windows 10 I frequently have in User/Name/Appdata/Local/Temp/ a number of folders with long numerical names. All those folders contain the same bunch of files of which the main is DISMHOST.exe.

    When looking for the phenomenon this is a very long running complaint, some people have hundreds or even thousands of those folders, filling their HDD or SSD.

    I suspect that running SilentCleanUp is the culprit, at my PC this task is often interrupted (according to the TaskScheduler).

    Then the temporally folder with DISMHOST+files is not automatically deleted as at normally ending SilentCleanUp.
    If you are not aware of this, and when SilentCleanUp is often interrupted (because of me unknown couse), the folder-filling of your HDD or SSD continues.

    If you regularly run a CleanUp utility (e.g. Eusing Cleaner) then the amount of those folders stays limited (be very carefull which items to check).

    I have now stopped the task of SilentCleanUp, and keeping an eye if this solution works.
    On internet I found only 1 working solution to stop this numerical-folder filling of the HDD or SSD, use the MediaCreationTool-program to upgrade/update your Windows-OS (despite that your OS is fully actual).

    I wonder if stopping the SilentCleanUp-task has other/negative consequences ?

  15. Thorky said on November 1, 2021 at 11:25 am

    More than 17.000 0Byte-Directories since 2016. ?

  16. Alexander Scharmer said on November 1, 2021 at 10:45 am

    SCHTASKS /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Management\Provisioning\Logon” /DISABLE >NUL 2>&1

  17. Sojiro84 said on November 1, 2021 at 10:20 am

    Man, this is really amateur hour.

    You would think that a multi-billion dollar company can make a proper OS, but nope. Bugs all around, performance issue if you have AMD, programs not cleaning up after themselves and still, after all these years, a inconsistent UI and multiple places to adjust settings.

    Ohh, and still not a proper dark mode UI that effects all apps/windows.

    Man, I am so glad I moved over to KDE Plasma, its light-years ahead of Windows.

    1. Utopia Banisher said on November 1, 2021 at 4:44 pm

      Agreed. This would be somewhat acceptable, heck even all the bugs in Windows 11 would be acceptable IF this was a new OS by a new company. This company has developed this OS since FOREVER (in computer time) and what they show is nothing short of embarrassing. It’s like the only guy left at Redmond who knows how to code, actually died 20 years ago and everything since then is just scraped together from post-it notes they found on his computer screen. No wonder they luuuuv linux now, since lim´nux people know how to write code AND you can freely STEAL everything from them and call it “collaborating”. Nothing will change the fact that right now Windows 11 is a sh*t OS, and so is Windows 10 there will not be any change in that department for many many maaaaaaany years. KDE Plasma developers create, fix and tweak more things in a week than Microsoft do in 25 years. FACT. The development in Microsoft goes like this: empty drawingboard. HOW can we make more money from this? How can we change every little thing in the source code so it can generate ad revenue? NOTHING that could benefit the user or the user experience without generating ad revenue gets in Windows 11. Nothing. And we just keep bending over, year after year after receive more and more ruthless pounding. We truly are sheep. There is NO value in using Windows in 2021, only negatives and pitfalls and potential dangers everywhere you turn.. It’s all force of habit or nostalgia. It’s harmful. It’s dangerous. It’s stupid.

      1. Richard Steven Hack said on November 2, 2021 at 2:38 am

        “And we just keep bending over, year after year after receive more and more ruthless pounding.”

        Precisely. This is because corporations are run by morons. The entire software industry is driven by what corporations need. Consumers aren’t a factor – they take what is left over and what is produced specifically for them in areas the corporations don’t need. The net result is corporations spend hundreds of billions for crap software.

        As I’ve said before, Linux is not much better than Windows, even with paid support contracts. But if you’re going to have to use crap software – because the entire industry isn’t capable of producing anything better – why pay billions for proprietary software on top of that? This is proof that corporations are run by morons.

      2. Dumbledalf said on November 3, 2021 at 7:35 am

        @Richard Steven Hack

        You don’t have to pay for proprietary software, there are ways to get it for free…

    2. Dumbledalf said on November 1, 2021 at 10:24 am

      They have no competition, why should they even bother? Linux or Mac will never replace Windows the way things are going.

      If Valve can pull off Steam Deck and make running games on Linux super easy and eventually get 100% of all games to run on Linux flawlessly with just a click or two as in Windows, it can create a precedent for wider Linux adoption and more official support, but otherwise Windows will remain the sole ruler of desktop PCs and laptops.

      1. Mortov Molotov said on November 1, 2021 at 7:01 pm

        Not to forget that Libreoffice is, sadly enough, not a real competitor to Ms Office

      2. semce said on November 8, 2021 at 1:15 am

        I agree, LibreOffice sucks in comparrison to MS Office. Writing macros in LO is like learning Chinese.

  18. No Name said on November 1, 2021 at 9:34 am

    I had ~500 .tmp files in that folder on Windows 10 – 64 bit.
    Deleted them all.

    Thank you

    1. hhgygy said on November 3, 2021 at 5:29 pm

      Wow, I had over 11.000 folders of this type.

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