HomeWinBuzzer TipsHow to Delete Windows.old and $Windows.~BT using CMD, Disk Cleanup, or Diskpart...

How to Delete Windows.old and $Windows.~BT using CMD, Disk Cleanup, or Diskpart at Boot

We show you how to delete the Windows.old and $Windows.~BT folders, via Disk Cleanup, Settings, Command Prompt, and from Advanced Startup options.

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When you upgrade or install a new version of Windows, your old installation files are not immediately discarded. Instead, they are stored in the “Windows.old” folder on your system drive, usually located at C:\Windows.old. This folder is crucial as it contains a copy of the previous Windows installation, allowing you to revert to the old version if necessary. However, this folder can take up a significant amount of space, which might be a concern, especially on devices with limited storage capacity.

The $Windows.~BT Folder

The “$Windows.~BT” folder is a hidden directory found on computers running , particularly noticeable after upgrading from one version of Windows to another, such as from Windows 8 to . This folder is part of the Windows Update process and is used primarily to store temporary files used during the installation of a new version of Windows.

When you initiate an upgrade, Windows downloads installation files to the “$Windows.~BT” folder. These files include necessary setup and installation scripts, along with various components needed for the smooth transition between . After the update is complete, the contents of this folder are mostly no longer needed, and in most cases, the folder can be safely deleted to free up disk space.

Deleting the “Windows.old” and “$Windows.~BT” folders

Deleting the “Windows.old” and “$Windows.~BT” folders is not as straightforward as deleting regular files or folders due to their protected nature. This folders are part of Windows' built-in safety mechanism, ensuring you can recover your system or revert to the previous version if the upgrade causes issues. However, if your system operates smoothly after the update and you need to free up space, removing this folder becomes an option worth considering.

This tutorial will guide you through the necessary steps to safely delete the Windows.old and “$Windows.~BT” folders using various methods like Storage settings, Temporary files settings, and the Disk Cleanup tool. By the end of this guide, you will reclaim valuable disk space while ensuring that your system remains stable and functional.

How to Delete Windows.old and $Windows.~BT Folders in Disk Cleanup

Utilizing Disk Cleanup, a built-in Windows utility, offers a straightforward method to remove unnecessary files, including the Windows.old and $Windows.~BT folders, which can free up valuable disk space.

  1. Open Disk Cleanup
     
    Press the “Start” button or use the search function, type “Disk Cleanup”, and click on the top result to launch the utility.
     
  2. Select your System Drive and Click “OK”
     
    This is only necessary if there is more than one logical drive available.
     
  3. Click “Clean up system files”
     
    After opening Disk Cleanup, click on “Clean up system files”. You might need to provide administrative approval to proceed.
     
    Windows 10 - Disk Cleanup - Clean Up System Files
  4. Choose files to delete
     
    In the Disk Cleanup window, check the box next to “Previous Windows installation(s)” to select it for deletion. Then, click “OK”. If prompted, click “Delete Files” to confirm your action. Disk Cleanup will then remove the Windows.old folder from your system, which might take a few minutes.
     
    Windows 10 - Disk Cleanup - Clean Up System Files - Check Previous Windows Installation

How to Remove Windows.old and $Windows.~BT Folders via Storage Settings in Windows 11

Here's how you can utilize features to remove the “Windows.old” and “$Windows.~BT” folders.

  1. Open Settings
     
    Click on the “Start” menu icon, select the settings gear icon, or simply press “Windows + I” to directly open the Settings application.
     
    Windows 11 - Open Settings

  2. Navigate to ‘System' and then ‘Storage'
     
    In the System menu, find and select the “Storage” option. Windows 11 has redesigned this section to offer a more intuitive understanding of how storage is used on your device.
     

  3. Access ‘Cleanup recommendations'
     
    Within the Storage settings, locate and click on “Temporary Files”.
     
    Windows 11 - Settings - System - Storage - Temporary Files

  4. Select ‘Previous Windows installation(s)' and confirm removal
     
    Scroll to find the “Previous Windows installation(s)” option. Check this option and also “Windows Update Cleanup” and “Temporary Windows installation files“. Then click on “Clean up” to initiate the removal process. Repeat this for the folders Confirm the action if prompted to ensure that the system removes these files.
     
    There are other useful removal options you might want to consider as well, such as “Delivery Optimization Files” and “Temporary Internet Files
     
    Windows 11 - Settings - System - Storage - Temporary Files - Previous Windows Installations

How to Remove Windows.old and $Windows.~BT Folders via Storage Settings in Windows 10

Windows Storage settings provide an intuitive interface for managing disk space, including the removal of the Windows.old and $Windows.~BT folders directly from the settings menu.

  1. Open Settings
     
    Press the “Start” button and click on the settings cog, located above the power button. Alternatively, press Windows + I.
     
    Windows 10 - Open Settings
  2. Navigate to “System”
     
    Windows 10 - Settings - Open System
  3. Open “Storage” settings from the sidebar, then click “Temporary files”
     
    Windows 10 - Settings - System - Storage - Open Temporary Files
  4. Tick “Previous Windows installation(s) and press “Remove files”
     
    The process to delete Windows.old will start and should be complete in a few minutes.
     
    To remove also the $Windows.~BT Folder also select “Windows Update Cleanup” and “Temporary Windows installation files“.
     
    Windows 10 - Settings - System - Storage - Temporary Files - Check Previous Windows Installation - Remove Files

How to Remove Windows.old and $Windows.~BT via Elevated Command Prompt in Windows 11 or Windows 10

For those comfortable with command-line interfaces, the Command Prompt provides a powerful method to remove the Windows.old and $Windows.~BT folders, requiring administrative privileges.

  1. Open Command Prompt as an admin
     
    Windows 11: Right-click the start button, select “Terminal (Admin)“, and then open a Command Prompt in a new tab.
     
    Windows 10: Press the Start button and type “Command Prompt”, then click “Run as administrator” on the right-hand side.
     
    Windows 11 - Open Elevated Windows Terminal
  2. Take ownership of the Windows.old folder
     
    Before you can delete Windows.old, you need to take control of it from your operating system. Run the following commands to do so:
     
    takeown /F "C:\Windows.old" /A /R /D Y

    takeown /F "C:\$Windows.~BT" /A /R /D Y

     
    Windows 10 CMD admin - takeown
  3. Wait for the completion message
     
    Once complete, you'll be able to type commands again from the C:\ drive.
     
    Windows 10 CMD admin - takeown - finished
  4. Run the delete commands
     
    Finally, use the following commands to delete the folders:
     
    icacls "C:\Windows.old" /grant *S-1-5-32-544:F /T /C /Q
    RD /S /Q "C:\Windows.old"

     
    icacls "C:\$Windows.~BT" /grant *S-1-5-32-544:F /T /C /Q
    RD /S /Q "C:\$Windows.~BT"

     
    Windows 10 CMD admin - icacls windows.old and RD windows.old

How to Delete Windows.old and $Windows.~BT via CMD at Boot in Windows 11 or Windows 10

Deleting the Windows.old folder through Command Prompt at boot is a useful alternative for users unable to take ownership of the folder within the standard operating environment.

  1. Click on “Troubleshoot”
     
    Windows 10 - Advanced Startup Options - Open Troubleshoot
  2. Select “Advanced options”
     
    Windows 10 - Advanced Startup Options - Troubleshoot - Open Advanced Options
  3. Click on “Command Prompt”
     
    Windows 10 - Advanced Startup Options - Troubleshoot - Advanced Options - Open Command Prompt
  4. Enter diskpart
     
    In your Command Prompt window, type diskpart and press Enter.
     
    Windows 10 - Advanced Startup Options - Command Prompt - Type and Enter Diskpart
  5. Rum the list volume command
     
    Run the list volume command, then look for the drive letter of your Windows 10 drive under the ltr column. For most people, this should be the C drive. Check the size to see if it matches.
     
    Windows 10 - Advanced Startup Options - Command Prompt - Diskpart - Type and Enter List Volume - Verify Drive Letter
  6. Type “exit” and press Enter
     
    Windows 10 - Advanced Startup Options - Command Prompt - Diskpart - List Volume - Drive Letter - Type Exit
  7. Run the delete commands
     
    Run the following command to remove the Windows.old folder, replacing C:\ with your drive letter if necessary:
     
    RD /S /Q "C:\Windows.old"
     
    RD /S /Q "C:\Windows.old"
     
    Windows 10 - Advanced Startup Options - Command Prompt - Diskpart - List Volume -Drive Letter - Exit - Type and Enter the Cmd

Related: How to Delete Temporary Files in Windows 11 and Windows 10

As you use your Windows 11 / Windows 10 computer, it creates temporary files to store information that helps it run more efficiently. These files can include things like browser history, cookies, and other data. Over time, these temporary files can accumulate and take up valuable storage space on your computer. In our other guide, we show you two methods on how to delete temp files in Windows 10 and Windows 11 and through File Explorer and Command-Line.
 
Featured - How to Delete Temporary Files in Windows 11 and Windows 10

Related: How to Free up Space on Windows with Disk Cleanup in Classic and Extended Mode

All too often, temporary files and deleted items can build up, getting your drive so clogged that it can affect performance. Because of this, has created the Windows disk cleanup tool, which you can utilize to free up space on your C: drive or any other drive. In our other guide, we show you how to clear disk space on Windows using Disk Cleanup in classic mode and the more unknown extended mode which can free up space even more aggressively.
 
FEATURED-How-to-Open-and-Use-Disk-Cleanup-in-Windows-10.jpg

Related: How to Delete Downloads on Your PC on Windows 11 or Windows 10

Regularly clearing out your downloads can help in maintaining an efficient and tidy file system, ensuring that your PC remains optimized for performance. In our other guide, we show you how to clear downloads on Windows 11 using File Explorer, as well as how to clear downloads from your browser cache.
 
Featured - How to Delete Downloads From Your Computer

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions About the Windows.old Folder

Can I recover files from Windows.old after deleting it?

Once deleted, files within the Windows.old folder are not easily recoverable. To avoid data loss, ensure that you manually check and back up any important files to another storage medium, such as an external hard drive or cloud storage, before proceeding with the deletion. File recovery software can sometimes recover deleted files, but success is not guaranteed and often not reliable.

How much space does deleting the Windows.old folder free up?

The space freed up by deleting the Windows.old folder can be significant, typically ranging from a few gigabytes to over 20 GB, depending on the size of the previous installation and the applications installed. Before deletion, you can check the size of the folder by right-clicking on it in File Explorer and selecting ‘Properties' to see how much space you will reclaim.

Is it safe to delete other system folders to free up space?

Deleting system folders other than Windows.old, such as System32 or WinSxS, can lead to severe system instability and potentially render your system inoperable. Always use built-in tools like Disk Cleanup, which safely identifies and removes only safe-to-delete files, or research thoroughly before attempting to delete system folders.

Why can't I find the Windows.old folder on my system?

If the Windows.old folder is not present, it could be because your system did not keep the older installation files during an upgrade, or it could have been automatically deleted by Windows after 10 days. Systems with limited storage space might not create a Windows.old folder to conserve space.

Can I delete the Windows.old folder without administrator privileges?

No, administrator privileges are necessary to delete the Windows.old folder since it contains system-level files. To delete it, you must either log in as an administrator or obtain the necessary permissions from an administrative account.

What's the difference between Disk Cleanup and Storage Settings for deleting Windows.old?

Disk Cleanup provides a detailed selection process allowing users to manually select which files to delete, including system files, temporary files, and more. In contrast, Storage Settings offers a more streamlined approach primarily targeting temporary and old files automatically without much manual input. Both are effective, but Disk Cleanup allows for more control and precision.

Do I need to delete the $Windows.~BT folder along with Windows.old?

Yes, it is advisable to delete the $Windows.~BT folder alongside Windows.old if your goal is to free up disk space. The $Windows.~BT folder typically contains temporary files related to Windows update processes and can be deleted safely using the same methods outlined for Windows.old.

Can third-party software safely delete the Windows.old folder?

While some third-party utilities offer to delete unnecessary files such as Windows.old, using them carries a risk of inadvertently affecting system stability. It is generally safer to stick with Microsoft's built-in tools such as Disk Cleanup and Storage settings, which are specifically designed to safely manage and delete Windows system files.

What should I do if I encounter errors trying to delete the Windows.old folder?

If you encounter errors while trying to delete the Windows.old folder, ensure you are logged in with an administrative account and have full permissions over the folder. Using the Command Prompt with elevated privileges or accessing Advanced Startup options for harder-to-remove situations can be more effective. In these contexts, ensure you follow detailed step-by-step guides or consult with a professional.

Is it possible to partially delete contents of Windows.old?

While technically feasible, partially deleting contents within Windows.old is risky as specific system files and configurations could depend on each other. If space is a concern but some files need to be kept, consider instead transferring those files out of Windows.old and then deleting the full folder.

How often should I clean up old system files like Windows.old?

Cleaning up old system files like those in Windows.old should be considered whenever you are certain that you won't need to revert to that installation or need to free up disk space. Typically, after confirming that your system operates smoothly post-upgrade and all essential data has been retained, you can safely delete Windows.old.

Can deleting Windows.old impact my PC's performance?

Deleting the Windows.old folder itself does not impact the performance of your current system; actually, removing it may slightly improve performance if your disk space is nearly full. The primary benefit of deletion is recovering disk space, which can help the system operate more efficiently if previously close to capacity.

What are potential risks of manually deleting system files other than Windows.old?

Manually deleting system files, other than those specifically guided by safe cleanup tools, can significantly disrupt your operating system, potentially leading to system failure or severe instability. It's critical to only delete system files with a firm understanding of their functions or use trusted system cleaning tools.

How can I ensure that all important data from Windows.old is backed up?

Before deleting the Windows.old folder, explore each sub-folder for any personal or application data that might not have been transferred to the new installation. Back up these files to external storage or cloud solutions. Consider using automated backup software for comprehensive backups, especially for business or critical personal data.

How can I access the Windows.old folder if I don't see it in my directory?

To access the Windows.old folder, first ensure that you can view hidden items in your file system. Go to the “View” tab in File Explorer and check “Hidden items.” If the folder still isn't visible, it might have been automatically deleted or not created during your system upgrade.

Markus Kasanmascheff
Markus Kasanmascheff
Markus is the founder of WinBuzzer and has been playing with Windows and technology for more than 25 years. He is holding a Master´s degree in International Economics and previously worked as Lead Windows Expert for Softonic.com.