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Windows 7: Win 7 Install Size DOUBLES after SP1 & Sec. Updates?! Winsxs!!!!

05 Feb 2013   #1
Citizen One

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Win 7 Install Size DOUBLES after SP1 & Sec. Updates?! Winsxs!!!!


I'm new here AND new to Windows 7. (I've been one of those XP hold-outs.) Here's an as-brief-as-possible description of my dilemma:

I've just installed Windows 7 Ultimate Retail. The initial install size came in around 7.50 gb or so of data. (That's cool. Bigger than what I'm used to with XP, but no problem.) Given that I manage multiple PCs, I download Microsoft's montly security update releases in ISO format, so that I can easily deploy them to multiple computers, saving time and bandwidth. So, since I had them already, I thought I'd just install SP1 and all subsequent security updates from those source files instead of going through Windows Update. I did so. After, the total install size jumped from less than 8 gb to more than 16 gb!!! "Hmm," I thought. "Must be a bunch of temp files than can be deleted, right?" Well, I've done some research, learned about how and where Win 7 stores temp files, and used its built in clean up utility to delete as much as possible. Yet, my total installed data STILL comes in at over 13 gb, and that's even AFTER I've disabled (and deleted associated files) both Hibernation and System Restore. Further, that's even after I've disabled the page file! So, more research led me to learn about Win 7's hard-linking and Winsxs folder. And with that, I'll segway into a new paragraph...

...So, I understand what, why, and how of Win Vista/Seven's hard-linking. I know that a hard-link, though reported to consume a certain amount of data, correlated to the REAL file to which it links, doesn't REALLY consume that much space on a hard drive. In other words, I know that a real file and a hard-link file don't (or shouldn't?) really take up twice the size on the hard drive as the real file alone, even though it can be reported that way in Windows Explorer. So, before anyone starts making assumptions as to where I'm going in this thread and starts posting links to other discussions concerning the Winsxs folder, please understand that I GET IT. Nevertheless, I do find frustration and confusion with the total data size of which my Windows 7 install consists, and the following paragraph will explain why!...

...After freshly installing any OS, I always do a disc/partition image of that install, simply to make it much easier and quicker to restore that system should a future software/hardware failure make the system inoperable. So, having not noticed that the install size had doubled after the intallation of SP1 and the security updates, I proceeded to run my trusty old disc imaging software (Norton Ghost 2003) and backup the drive. Well, I let it do its thing (simple sector-by-sector imaging, no compression) and came back later to discover the image size was a WHOPPING 16 gb!!! "What?!" 16 gb for a simple Windows install with ABSOLUTELY no other installed programs, drivers, page files, hibernation stores, or anything?!!! "You've got to be kidding me," I said! Nope! Rebooted Windows, checked the C: drive and sure enough, there was the 16 gb of used space reported. So, as stated previously, I did all the obvious things to clean up the drive, and here's what I'm left with as shown in my "Local Disk (C:) Properties" window:

Used Space: 13,720,485,888 bytes 12.7 GB

So, as also previously stated, further research led to the revelation of hard-linking and the Winsxs folder, but I'm still baffled and frustrated. No matter what Microsoft may report, the contents of the Winsxs folder certainly do NOT contain mostly hard-linked files (that don't really take up the space that is reported). Here's what I find as reported in Windows Explorer:

The total combined data size of ALL files & folders on C: drive, EXCLUDING the Winsxs folder and files is:

8,749,218,173 bytes.

The total data size of ONLY the Winsxs folder and files is:

8,612,009,170 bytes.

Hmm! Notice that combining those two totals equates to 17,361,227,343 bytes total.

That's 3,640,741,455 bytes MORE than the total used space reported in the "Local Disk (C:) Properties" window!

(So, does that mean that the roughly 3.5 gb of data-discrepency is due to hard-link files causing redundancy in the check? If so, why isn't my image file merely 12 or 13 gb in size instead of 16 gb? Weird!)

Yet, the combination of those totals roughly equals the data size of the total sector-for-sector disc image I created using a DOS based imaging software that is totally unaware of and couldn't care less about hard-link file types. It only copies actual, non free-space, stored data. Conclusion: If the Winsxs folder contained mostly hard-link files that don't actually take up free space, my image file should only be around 8.5 gb at most (or would it be 13 gb?), and certainly not the ridiculously huge 16 gb file that it is! And, segway to a new paragraph...

...O.k. I admit that I'm ranting a bit more than my "as-brief-as-possible" introduction would indicate if taken literally. So, I'll (almost directly) get to my point and request for help. No matter what Steven Sinofsky claims on Microsoft's MSDN blog (see link below), obviously, my Winsxs folder does contain mostly REAL files that take up REAL space. I've already deleted every temp file that the system will allow to be discarded, including cleaning up the SP1 install files (which as I understand it can be done either via the Disk Cleanup program or by DISM via command prompt). What I'm left with is an installation of Windows 7 SP1 (and subsequent security updates) that is well MORE THAN DOUBLE the data size of the original, fresh, pre-SP1 Windows 7 installation. Further, nearly all of the additional data size can be traced to the Winsxs folder. Again, I understand the whole winsxs/hard-links thing. I've read about how Windows 7 stores sequential versions of installation/system/library/configuration files within the Winsxs folder in order to help assure compatibility with older programs, etc. But how in the world can it be "necessary" to retain over 8 gb of more-or-less redundant files on a system that's been installed for only 2 days and has had absolutely ZERO additional programs or drivers installed that weren't already part of the default Windows installation and/or security updates? This seems to me to be an absolutely ridiculous way of designing an OS! I've read Microsoft's point of view for desiging Vista, 7, and 8 in this way, declaring that its a much better way to assure program compatibility and ease of maintenance (ie detecting current versions and updating) as compared to older methods of querying the registry, dll, and/or inf files but those old methods sure as heck didn't take double the data space to do so! I've been maintaining Windows based systems since the early 90's, and I can count on one hand (and wouldn't need to use all 5 fingers) the number of times I've had system stability compromised or the inability to update/upgrade software because the registry got corrupted or a dll or inf file went missing!!! But, apparently Microsoft's desire to "modularize" Windows in the name of "reliability" caused them to become completely oblivious to the benefits of efficiency. Like everything else, efforts to make things idiot-proof seemingly serve more to frustrate those who are not idiots to begin with than to help those whom they're intended to serve. But, alas, I'm ranting again. Sigh. So, can anyone out there help me to reduce the size of Windows 7's Winsxs folder's footprint, without messing up Window's functionality? (I just can't accept that is must be this way!!!)

Thanks in advance,

Citizen One

P.S. To those who are put-off by my long-winded request (and rant), I ask your tolerance and appreciate your patience.

Link to MSDN blog explaining hard links and the winsxs folder: Disk Space - Engineering Windows 7 - Site Home - MSDN Blogs

My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Feb 2013   #2
Layback Bear

Windows 10 Pro. 64/ version 1709 Windows 7 Pro/64

I have read your complete post. I must say very well done. I don't think I can solve your dilemma. Your correct Windows 7 was made for the masses which come with different levels of expertise of the workings of a operating system. I'm on the lower level of that scale. I have read much about winsxs and still don't understand it except it's put there in that fashion to make the system work smoothly. So they say. Your post is so long I might of missed something but I do have a idea.

After you do all the things you do have you tried wiping the free space and then make a backup and checking the results? When I wipe the free space it does clean out $Recycle Bin where a lot of leftovers are kept.
Just my 3 little brain cells at work.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Feb 2013   #3

Windows 10 Pro (x64)

You can delete the Backup files if you do not intend to uninstall SP1. (There is also System Restore)
Windows 7 SP1 Disk Cleanup Tool

But in truth. Just leave it alone. HDD space is cheap these days. Using less HDD space is not going to make any performance difference.

Now if you really want a leaner install with SP1, get a disc that already has SP1 integrated on it.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

05 Feb 2013   #4
Citizen One

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Thanks for the replies so far. In answer to the suggestions:

I've already purged the Recycle Bin, used the Cleanup Tool, etc. I'll look into wiping the free space, but I don't think that'll do it. My disk image software doesn't copy any files marked as deleted or allocated to free space. Ultimately, the biggest issue I have is not that it takes so much space up on my PC's hard drive, but rather that the backup disk images that I do initially and periodically after will necessarily take up so much space all because of the Winsxs business. Twice as long to do an image backup. Twice as long to restore from an image. Twice as much space for each image file on my RAID 10 archive. Twice as many DVD disks to store the image files for redundancy. Simply too much! Thinking of dumping Win 7 and I've barely even started with it. Sigh...
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Feb 2013   #5
Layback Bear

Windows 10 Pro. 64/ version 1709 Windows 7 Pro/64

I don't know how much hard drive space you got used but a redundancy back up to DVD must take for ever and a lot of DVD's.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Feb 2013   #6
Citizen One

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Not really. After a sort-of-unpublished update to Norton Ghost 2003, support was added to allow full write support to DVD-R backup and full read/write ability with NTFS volumes. And its really fast considering that its running from a 16 bit DOS application. Further, using 4.7 gb DVDs and the "Fast" compression setting, my Win XP backups only took about 2 discs at most and usually only took about an hour or hour-and-a-half to complete. Lately, I've been backing up directly to an external hardware RAID system via SATA which greatly reduced write and restore times. But this latest backup of Win 7 took almost 5 hours! 16 gb for a basic Windows install? No reason for it. The security updates are considered critical, which means they're essentially necessary, which in turn means there's no reason to keep the old versions of files that are replaced with the security updates. In fact, couldn't it be argued that doing so would compromise the system in the very way that Microsoft says is the reason they've designed the hard-link/winsxs debacle in the first place? Seems so to me. So, there's NO reason to keep redundant, yet out-dated/superseded files on the computer! Yet, Windows 7 does so! Again; very frustrating!!!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Feb 2013   #7
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8

There is a complete misconception about winsxs. It is not a file by itself but a 'directory' (for the lack of any better word) of system files - mostly .dlls. If you touch it, your system will go on the blink - guarenteed.

winsxs can grow to quite a size. On one of my systems it is over 15GBs. The reason is soimple - if you install a lot of programs, you get a lot of .dlls (which are subroutines that can be used by any program) that come with the programs. If you uninstall programs, the .dlls are left behind because the uninstaller does not know whether there is no another program that has made use of that .dll in the meantime. They are not earmarked to belong to any particular program although they did originally come in with some program.

Lesson learned: go easy with installing programs that you do not absolutely need if you want to tame your winsxs. But expect appr. 5GBs at least - even if you do nothing.

PS: If you want a lean system that fits into 6 GBs, get Zorin: Having fun with Zorin
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Feb 2013   #8
Layback Bear

Windows 10 Pro. 64/ version 1709 Windows 7 Pro/64

That's what the heck I was trying to think of DLL. Yes their are lots of them. Handy little things. Thanks whs.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Feb 2013   #9
Citizen One

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Well, I've given up trying to shrink the Win 7 install (for now, at least). But I've found some satisfaction with this problem in another way. Given that the first image backup I made took over 5 hours, twice as long as I was used to with my XP backups, I thought I'd try tweaking Norton Ghost in an attempt to increase the imaging speed. Previously, I'd always simply used the default settings to make backup images, whether I was backing up to DVD or to another hard drive. (Had it set to load ASPI/SCSI drivers for the DVD-R drive and never changed the default when backing up to hard drive.) Well, to my great surprise and pleasure, I found some settings that allowed full-speed, presumably BIOS controlled (since I loaded no additional drivers), SATA transfer from the C: drive to my external RAID archive. Backed up the full 13 gig Win 7 partition (along with boot sectors) to an image file in a mere 5 min and 20 secs!!! Ya Hoo!!! I still think the data size of Win 7 SP1 is ridiculous, but as of now I can live with it. On a related note, I'd like to praise Norton Ghost 2003 version as came with Norton Systemworks 2003. That program has been bullet-proof for me. After the final update, available only via Symatec's Live Update, I've found it to work without flaw on every system I've worked with for nearly 10 years now. It'll work from within Windows. It'll work from within DOS (includes a utility to create a PC DOS boot disc). Currently, I've turned a USB jump drive into a bootable floppy drive emulator (Google HP's USB floppy drive utility - its free, if still available). So, I can load DOS and ghost at USB speeds, and create a byte for byte image of IDE or SATA drives at break-neck speeds. No activation or online connections needed like most of the new imaging programs I've looked into. And its a much simpler interface than a couple of the free imaging programs I've considered. Yeah, I know I'm going off-topic, but there's just so few programs I encounter these days that don't come with major hassles or force you to jump through hoops to use what you've paid good money for. So, maybe I'm just old school, but man I miss the way things were done and designed in the good 'ole days.

Back to my original topic, I ran a utility (Duplicate Cleaner, I think its callled) to analyze duplicated files on my hard drive. That program has the ability to detect and exclude hard linked files from its search results. It revealed that out of the 8.6 gb shown by Windows Explorer to be in the Winsxs folder, 6.1 gb of that are hard links to real files stored elsewhere on the drive. However, there's 2.5 gb of data that REALLY resides in my Winsxs folder. Further, 3.7 gb of the 6.1 gb of the hard link files point to DUPLICATED files somewhere on the drive. And that doesn't merely consist of files that share names alone with other files. That's 3.7 gb of data files that are EXACT byte-for-byte duplicates of files already there, as verified by MD5 checksum analysis!!! So, I maintain, such duplication is ridiculously inefficient.

In any case, thanks for all the comments. Maybe someone much more industrious than me will find a way to conquer the bloat of Windows 7!

P.S. I can't recommend any later versions of Norton Ghost. The reason being is that after 2003, they changed Ghost's complete code-base after acquiring Power Quest, dropping real, independent DOS functionality and requiring super-hyper sensitive activation/reactivation. So, after having too many hassles after Ghost 9.0 and Systemworks 2005, I reverted by to the 2003 version and haven't used any other Symantec products since! When software developers start spending more time writing the code that double checks, over and over again, whether I'm a "legitimate" user, instead of making and keeping the core program versatile and intuitive, that's when they lose my business. (Example: used to be something of a PC gamer, but have skipped MANY a new title in the last few years if they included the ridiculous limited installs or always-online requirements. Sigh...)
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Win 7 Install Size DOUBLES after SP1 & Sec. Updates?! Winsxs!!!!

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