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Safely Remove Windows XP Update Backup Files to Free Up Hard Disk Space

19 May 2009 No Comment

Microsoft regularly makes available critical Windows XP and Windows 2000 security patches (or hotfixes as they are also called) which ensure that your operating system keeps up to date. These patches/hotfixes are obtained in a variety of ways such as visiting the Windows Update or Microsoft Update website (accessible from your START button), through the Automatic Update service which runs in the background on your PC and weekly checks for recently issued updates/patches/hotfixes or by System Administrators downloading and applying patches and hotfixes to your PC.

Regardless of how the patch/hotfix is obtained one thing you should be aware of: All of the files that will be replaced are backed up on your hard drive just in case the update goes bad and you need to return your PC to its prior state. These older files that are replaced are stored in hidden folders in your Windows system folder.

Over time these backup folders accumulate and can occupy a significant amount of disk space.

For example my Windows XP PC with service pack 3 and all latest hotfixes installed created thousands of files and could easily takes up 600+ megabytes of my hard disk space. Are these backed up files useful to retain, or can they be deleted and disk space freed up? Ever since I started using Windows XP, I never had any problems after installing Windows Update patches/hotfixes. Instead of immediately cleaning up the old backed up files, it’d be better to monitor your PC for a few days to see if everything is working properly, and that nothing “broke” during the update. Sometimes an update can go awry for a multitude of reasons, and if so, you can uninstall the recent patch/hotfix through the “Settings > Control Panel” where you will find an Add/Remove Programs applet (tool). All of the updates will be listed there by date.

However, if days and weeks pass and your computer is running perfectly, then there is no need to keep those backed up old files on your hard drive. But since these files are stored in hidden folders, it may not be obvious to the average user how to delete the folders and files.

Here are two tools that you can use to EASILY delete backup files that were created when installing a Windows hotfix or service pack update.

Windows XP Update Remover is a freeware lets you easily remove the $NtUninstall backup folders and associated uninstall information from your computer to save disk space. It can also be used to uninstall Windows updates. Removing the backup folders makes it impossible to uninstall the Windows updates. However, it’s unusual to have to uninstall an update unless it causes problems, and that will usually become apparent soon after receiving the update. So you can safely remove the backup folders for updates that are more than a few weeks old, and recover the lost disk space.
Download Windows XP Update Remover

For advance computer users, manually deleting the hidden $NtUninstallKBXXXXXX$ folders from Windows folder will work too but it is not complete. On my Windows XP computer, there were a total of 43 $NtUninstallKBXXXXXX$ folders in Windows directory but in Update Cleanup, it shows a total of 50 entries. The remaining 7 entries of backed up windows files are located in Windows\ie7updates\ folder.

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