Windows 8.1: The Windows.old Folder


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What is the Windows.old Folder and How Do I get One?

The Windows folder appears only if you perform a "dirty" installation and do not perform any drive cleanup. This is not the way I recommend to install Windows as it usually leads to severe performance losses.

You can select Upgrade: Install Windows and keep files, settings and applications which leads to the worst system performance as Windows tries to upgrade all the Windows installation files to a new version of Windows whilst maintaining registry entries and programs from the older version of Windows.


Alternatively you may select Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)


If you do not select any of the drive options and simply highlight the largest partition and select next:


Windows will dump all the old installation files in the Windows.old folder


Retrieving user files from the Windows.Old Folder

Open a Windows Explorer pane by pressing [Windows] and [e] and aerosnap to the left by pressing [Windows] and [←], navigate to C:\Windows.old\Users

In this folder select the user name you are interested copying files over from, usually the same user name in this case Philip

Open a Windows Explorer pane by pressing [Windows] and [e] and aerosnap to the right by pressing [Windows] and [→], navigate to C:\Users

In this folder select the user name you are logged in as, usually the same user name in this case Philip


Open desktop, documents, downloads, favourites, music, video in each folder and drag all the documents across from Windows.old.

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Repeat the process for any other users by logging into as other users.

Note you may need to copy the files opposed to dragging them across for a user without admin rights.

Deleting the Windows.Old Folder

The Windows.old folder can be quite sizeable. This is a Windows.old folder from an install with no updates applied, almost no drivers installed, no programs installed and no data added. Your Windows.old folder will be significantly larger:



To delete the Windows.old folder after retrieving any files wanted, right click the start button and left click control panel:


Left click system and security:


Scroll down and select Free-Up Disk Space:


The Disc Clean-Up will launch:


Scroll down and search for previous Window installations:


Check the box and then select OK:


Select Delete Files


Disk Clean-Up will perform the operations:

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The Windows.old folder should now be deleted.


Deleting the Windows.Old Folder (Advanced)

Sometimes you might get permission errors when attempting to delete this folder depending what was in your old Windows installation.

To overcome this I recommend using the Unlocker Program.

Warning this program if used incorrectly can cause significant damage to your Windows Installation.

Unlocker is a utility that can move or delete files under an elevated command prompt. It can hence delete files that aren't meant to be deleted causing great damage to a Windows installation. In this guide its used only to delete the Windows.old folder which will not affect the new Windows installation.

Unlocker can be downloaded from its official website here:

It is present as a installer or as a portable version. I recommend using the portable version and ignoring he links under "Recommended Before Download".

Open the Unlocker folder and select the x64 folder (for 64 Bit Windows) or x86 folder (for 32 Bit Windows).

Launch the Unlocker application.


Select yes at the user account control prompt


Left click to expand this PC or Computer and then left click to expand the C: drive and select the Windows.old folder. Select ok

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Select Delete and then select ok.


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