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Windows 7: WinSXS Folder not actually consuming lots of space

13 Aug 2011   #11

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Alright, I'm not sure why this topic is so hard for people to wrap their heads around, but let me try a different approach.

I'm going to start out with my own personal laptop. Here is what my C drive looks like as I start my exercise. My 80GB Intel SSD has about 44GB free space.

Here is what TreeSize Free shows, and the relative size of my WinSXS folder;

And finally a command line view of how much hard drive space I have;

So, I'm going to create a new folder. It's called C:\windows\ATestFolder and it contains a 569MB .PST file

And sure enough, looking at a command line shows that my C drive has about 569MB less space available.

So, everybody with me thus far. I have a folder, with 1 real 569MB file. This reduced my hard drive by 569MB. No shocks whatsoever.

Ok, so now lets go in and create 6 hard links to this same file; Notice how the folder now has over 4GB of stuff, my free size really hasn't really dropped.

So, later I run TreeSize Free and now try to figure out why my hard drive is so full and I find C:\Windows\ATestFolder is sucking up a whopping 4GB of disk space. (but take a quick look at the Free space at the bottom and compare to the free space in the Treesize Free image's about 569MB different...and that's because of my 1 real file. But it didn't drop my usable hard drive space by 4GB like the folder would "seem" to indicate)

So, I'm going to simply delete everything in C:\windows\ATestFolder and get my 4GB of free space back. But notice what happens as I delete the files in the folder

So, as you can hopefully see and understand...even though Windows explorer and TreeSizeFree seems to indicate that I have a whopping 4GB folder called C:\windows\ATestFolder...if my hard drive were ACTUALLY full...deleting this folder would NOT get me 4GB of free space back... I would have gotten back 569MB of free space back as I had 1 real file and 6 symlinks. So, while it appeared to suck up nearly 4GB of data to most tools.....if you look at my command prompts and the bottoms of my TreeSizeFree printouts that even with the addition of this whopping 4GB folder, my actual disk space didn't go down.

If you hard drive is full, it's stuff in places other than directly in C:\windows\winSXS. Most of the stuff in here, probably 60% or more are simply hard links..and are misrepresented in most tools. Deleting that folder would not get you back the amount of disk space that the folder seems to consume.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Aug 2011   #12

Windows 7 Professional x64 sp1

Fine explanation, but repeat things that are already up in the thread. You see, I`m not some maniac wanting to shrink his windows for the sport.
I just happen to see this info and got me thrilled if its really like that.
So, I don`t care to delete files but for possible real use of these masked megabytes. In other words following your very explanation in first post I should be able to copy that file which was only 600mb over declared from windows explorer free space. Which itself should be much larger because of these false files /just hardlinks/
Lets do the math. Here are all my files without folder windows WinSXS Folder not actually consuming lots of space-win.jpg
10.9Gb + 9,87Gb /files from windows which aren`t hardlinks/ = 20,77GB
My "C" is 29,9GB - 20,77Gb = 9,13Gb which should be real for use. And I tried to copy a file - 8.2GB - if you are right it should can be done. But as you can see from my screenshot in my ргevious post - its not possible.

So, whats now? :)

My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Aug 2011   #13

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Right click on the file in question and see how many bytes it is.
Then, go to a command prompt and run, dir. See how many bytes free you have.

If you have enough bytes free, you can copy the file. If you don't, you won't be able to copy the file. No amount of hard links will change the above.

The amount of "actual" free space is shown properly with Windows Explorer and with the command prompt. However, if you go on a witchhunt looking for where space is consumed, you run into this C:\windows\winsxs folder, windows explorer and TreeSize free will show it being XX in size...but that may or may not be true. This is where most people make the mistake. They run out of space, and want to free stuff up and are appauled that C:\windows\winsxs looks to be huge.

You are reading into this, assuming that since these are hardlinked should have this "extra" amount of disk space on top of what Windows explorer and what the command prompt says. But these tools are taking them into account when it shows you free space...they just aren't able to show you how much "true" space they are really consuming when you look directly at the properties of C:\windows\winsxs.

And in your screenshots above, you were only short by 500MB or very very close. It could simply be some rounding mistakes, or considering 1MB to be 1,000,000 bytes versus 1,048,576 bytes.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

14 Aug 2011   #14

Windows 7 Professional x64 sp1

Lets make it simple. So that space exist but is not usable in normal everyday way. That I wanted to know :)
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Aug 2011   #15

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Belgarionbg View Post
Lets make it simple. So that space exist but is not usable in normal everyday way. That I wanted to know :)
You aren't making it simple, you are not understanding it completely.

1). Some of the files, are real files. They really take up some space on your hard drive. These reduce the amount of space available to store files and install applications.
2). The other items are hardlinks to files that exist someplace else on the hard drive. Now, the real true physical file exists and WILL decrease the amount of space that is really on your hard drive. The hardlinks are NOT real physical files and DO NOT consume disk space on your hard drive.

Go back to my example recently.
  • I started with 44.9GB of free disk space.
  • I copied in a "REAL" file that was about 650MB in size
  • My hard drive space dropped to 44.2GB of free disk space. This is what applications have access to and represents how much stuff I can copy onto my hard drive before it's full.
  • I then created numerous hardlinks and made it appear that my C:\Windows\aTestFolder had almost 4GB of stuff in it.
  • I demonstrated that TreeSize free would report an increased size of my C:\windows folder and would report that C:\windows\aTestFolder was 4GB in size.
  • But looking at my command prompt showed that my free drive space stayed consistent at 44.2GB of free space. it's the same amount of space that I had above, applications still have access to the exact same amount of free space. (even though I magically created what appears to be 4GB folder called C:\windows\aTestFolder)
  • I could have made 500 hard links to that same file and made it appears that my C:\windows\aTestFolder was (500 x 650MB) was 325GB in size. Treesize free would show a 325GB folder, and Explorer would show a 325GB folder if I looked at properties. All miraculously on my 80GB hard drive.
  • Even with 500 hard links to the file, my command prompt would continue to show 44.2GB of space free. (Because none of these hardlinks actually decrease the amount of free space on your hard drive.

So,'s not like the space exists and you cannot use it in everyday use. The space that is free can be demonstrated with a command prompt or looking at Windows Explorer...or the bottom of the TreeSizeFree window. The hardlinks DO NOT, and HAVE NOT reduced the amount of free space on your hard drive. The amount of hardlinks have never counted against you.

the 4.2GB worth of hardlinks you discovered have NOT reduced your available free space by 4.2GB. In fact, if they did actually count against you, instead of having 8GB of free space on your hard drive, it would actually drop to 4.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Aug 2011   #16

Vista 32

It appears Windows (Vista in my case but I suspect 7 is similar) makes some use of hard links but not as much as it might.

In my case, sizes for complete c:\Windows reported by CTTS or WinDirStat are 20GB; with CTTS reporting hard links saving 2.65GB; to give a real 17.4GB.

Using Duplicate Cleaner (Duplicate Cleaner - Reviews and free Duplicate Cleaner downloads at CNET indicates that there is a further 1.8GB that could be saved by extra hard links.

I have not yet bitten the bullet and done the hard linking. It might well not be safe; depending how Windows went about later updates it could implicitly change something in winsxs without realizing; whereas once something is in winsxs it should be immutable.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Oct 2011   #17

Windows 7 x64

This is all very nice, but Windows7 keeps reporting to me (popup from systray) "you are running out of disk space"...

... any clues about how to tell _it_ that I'm "not really"?


My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Oct 2011   #18

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by GreenAsJade View Post
This is all very nice, but Windows7 keeps reporting to me (popup from systray) "you are running out of disk space"...

... any clues about how to tell _it_ that I'm "not really"?


Ugh..if you are getting prompted that you are running out of space...You ARE running out of space. Whatever you see "free" from a command prompt or from My Computer is what you have free.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Nov 2011   #19

Windows 7 Home Premium

I don't really think the problem is your explanation of hard links. Obviously there are more real files in winsxs than hard links. Remember, Windows is reporting real space. And we are finding the winsxs to be quite large, and we need to know what can be done to alleviate real disk usage in the winsxs folder since it seems to be pretty redundant.

Honestly, I don't want windows to "archive" ANY manifests, assemblies, libs, or have restore points.. all I do is play 2 or 3 games on it, and that's it. If something happens, it's easier to re-install. Still, I think we would all like to keep our systems clean and trim.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
03 Dec 2011   #20


i had this problem today and thought i'd help out with an explanation, some of these are way too complicated haha

first to find out how much windows adds the files up to. go in C: drive and select everything (make sure you've unhid all files if you don't run with this normally) right click > properties:
116gb (124,992mb) total

then to find out the true overall usage on the drive, unselect all files and right click in C: > properties (or do it in my computer whatever floats your boat)
111gb (119,672mb) used

so if file properties is reporting 124,992mb but drive properties says only 119,672mb being used then of (in my case) winsxs' 7102mb reported in properties, 5320mb is hardlinks

well, that is assuming winsxs is the only place with these hardlinks, but i assume so
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 WinSXS Folder not actually consuming lots of space

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