What is the Software Distribution folder?

The SoftwareDistribution folder usually located in C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution is used by Windows Update to preload downloaded updates and hotfixes before installing them. On Windows 10 you usually find the following folder-structure but there might exist other sub-folders as well:

  • C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution
  • C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Datastore
  • C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download
  • C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\EventCachte.v2
  • C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\PostRebootEventCache.V2
  • C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\SLS

While the SoftwareDistribution folder is managed completely by the Windows Update Agent (WUAgent) problems might occur that require a manual cleanup of its contents.

Automatically delete win download files in Windows 10

If you are facing issues with Windows Update you might try to use Windows Disk Cleanup in extended mode before moving forward with our tutorial. This might already fix incomplete or corrupted Windows Update files in the SoftwareDistribution folder by deleting them.

Is it safe to delete Windows\SoftwareDistribution-subfolders?

The method shown below to delete the SoftwareDistribution folder manually is generally safe as Windows Update will download all update files again when needed. To be sure that the issue you try to fix is related to the Windows SoftwareDistribution folder, you might want to temporarily rename it beforehand as shown below. This will preserve the files inside.

If you decide deleting the SoftwareDistribution folder, you will lose the Windows Update history which might be usuful to trace down problematic updates. Also Windows Update will need a bit longer afterwards until available updates are shown and downloaded because the WUAgent must check and re-create the Datastore information.

How to Cleanup the SoftwareDistribution folder?

Before you can clear the SoftwareDistribution folder, you will have to stop both the Windows Update Service (wuauserv) and the Background Intelligent Transfer Service (bits).

  1. Open an elevated Command Prompt


  2. Use the net stop command to terminate services


    Run the command  net stop wuauserv to stop the Windows Update Service and  net stop bits for the Background Intelligent Transfer Service.

  3. Open file Explorer


  4. Delete contents/subfolders of C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution


  5. Use the net stop command to restart services


    Run the command  net start wuauserv to re-launch the Windows Update Service and  net start bits for the Background Intelligent Transfer Service.

How to Rename the SoftwareDistribution folder

Renaming the SoftwareDistribution folder allows to quickly check if Windows Update files there are really causing the issue you are trying to resolve.

  1. Open Command Prompt


  2. Use the net stop command to terminate services


    Run the command  net stop wuauserv to stop the Windows Update Service and  net stop bits for the Background Intelligent Transfer Service.

  3. Rename the SoftwareDistribution folder with one command


    Run the following command to rename SoftwareDistribution folder into SoftwareDistribution.bat:

    rename %windir%\SoftwareDistribution SoftwareDistribution.bak


    To revert this, you can apply the same procedure afterwards using this command:

    rename %windir%\SoftwareDistribution.bak SoftwareDistribution


  4. Use the net stop command to restart services


    Run the command  net start wuauserv to re-launch the Windows Update Service and  net start bits for the Background Intelligent Transfer Service.

If you deleted the SoftwareDistribution Folder´s contents to free up space you might also want to delete the $SysReset folder to gain even more. If necessary you can also tell Windows Update to Pause, Defer, or Delay Quality and Feature Updates if you don´t want to download new Windows Updates immediately again after clearing SoftwareDistribution.