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Should You Delete Windows 7 Service Pack Backup Files to Save Space?

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After you install the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 that we mentioned yesterday, you might be wondering how to reclaim some of the lost drive space—which we’ll show you how today—but should you actually do it?

Note: If you haven’t installed the new SP1 release yet, be sure to read our post explaining what it entails before you do. Spoiler: it’s mostly bugfixes.

Wait, What Now?

It’s simple: installing the service pack will take up a bunch of extra space, because Windows is going to create a ton of backups of the pre-service pack files in case you want to roll everything back and uninstall the service pack. This could be anywhere from a few hundred MBs all the way up to a GB or so.

You can easily clean out these backups with Disk Cleanup (see more below), but don’t rush to do that. Keep reading.

So… Should You Delete the Service Pack Backup Files?

Whenever a new service pack comes out, there’s always going to be a few bugs and problems, and some of them might not even be noticed right away. If you run through the cleanup process to get rid of the backup files, you won’t be able to uninstall the service pack if you need to, which could be a big problem.

At the very least, you should wait a while before running through the cleanup—make sure everything is working, reboot at least a few times, and go through your regular daily scenarios so you can make sure you won’t need to roll back the service pack. Sound tedious? If you just exercise a little patience before deleting the backup files, you can simply go about your day and deal with cleanup next week.

Bottom line: You should never rush to install or delete things when it comes to major system changes. As long as you use Windows Update set to Automatic for security patches, you’re safe.

How to Clean Up the Service Pack Backup Files

Open up Disk Cleanup—the easiest way is to just type it into the Start Menu search box, but you can browse through Computer –> Drive –> Properties to get there if you wanted.

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Once you’ve got the Disk Cleanup window open, you’ll need to click the “Clean up system files” button—at least if you have UAC enabled. If not, skip down.

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You’ll find the “Service Pack Backup Files” in the list, which you can select, and then click OK.

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And just like that, you’ll have some more free space to fill up with downloaded pop music that sounds exactly like the other 5000 songs on your drive.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 02/24/11

Comments (41)

  1. ZS

    Thanks!
    Very important stuff!!!

  2. dragonbite

    What about taking those files and copying them to something like a CD or elsewhere off the computer? If you need to roll-back, are you able to copy them back or rollback using the CD/USB medium as a source?

  3. Richard

    No, don’t do it! Disk space is cheap!

    First 1TB drive I found on Amazon was £45. That means that those 530MB of backup files are costing you £45 / 1000000 (as 1TB = 1000GB = 1000000MB according to hard drive manufacturers) x 530 = £0.02385.

    So those 530MB of backup files are costing you 2.4 pence (or roughly 4 cents).

    In short, unless you desperately need the space (and I mean desperately), then you should always leave the backup files. They’re costing you nothing in the grand scheme of things and may save your bacon if something goes wrong in the future.

  4. Lisa

    Thanks for this. I just installed the SP last night and was wondering about deleting the backup files.

  5. rino

    you should really use a disk imaging software to make periodic backups of your hard disk. for example, this service pack might do some unforeseen damage and even though there is a way to roll it back to the point before you install the service pack, restoring a disk image is better IMHO.

    anything that hoses a decent windows install (like a virus) even though it’s been cleaned or rollbacked, i kinda feel “dirty”.

  6. Cliff

    I was wondering if there is a program that would delete not just the service pack backup files but Windows and Office backup files also? Those backup files can accumulate over time.

  7. ANDY

    Many thanks, I love this website!!!

  8. Steve

    I usually leave these update backup files around for a long, long time. It’s a great idea to always keep your old Internet Explorer updates. That way, if you ever hose IE, you can revert back to the old version, then re-update. This can solve a ton of problems.

  9. RobM

    15 GB freed up for me after installing the pack, so I was happy. Now that everyone’s complaining about space I’m worried that this wa sa mistake and something’s gone wrong.

  10. Todd

    RobM if you freed up 15GB of space then you most likely deleted old restore points since the SP backup file is only 530MB, or you had a bunch of crap in the recycle bin.

  11. Chris Wells

    Richard some people have SSD’s, I’ve got a 60GB SSD with 40GB free but I’d still like to maintain the unneeded bloat so it doesn’t build up. Sure if I had Windows 7 installed on my 1TB drive I wouldn’t care at all- it’s not just clearing the space though it’s getting rid of any mess that isn’t needed.

  12. wtortorici

    I installed sp1 yesterday. It came as an update an took about an hour total time to download and install it.

    This morning and boot up it took half again longer, so I tried it again and all stages of booting took longer.

    It only took me 1 minute to restore my laptop to the backup created by sp1 and everything runs as it did before.

    One more bit of info, sp1 seems to have lost the Restore files and cookies. When I opened Gmail and Yahoo, both needed my password and after I removed sp1, both Gmail and Yahoo wanter my password again and my restore dates re-appeared.

    What sp1 did not do is resolve the USB problem of not recognizing some external drives that work in Vista and XP. I checked it before removing sp1.

  13. wtortorici

    What myn point was, DON’T delet sp1 backup files, you may regret it later.

  14. Ian

    Do Not remove the sp1 back up files or you will not be able to reinstall Windows from your Upgrade disk, you will have to purchase a disk with sp1 on it.

  15. JonJon

    @Ian, what the heck are you smoking man?

  16. wtortorici

    @JonJon

    He’s talking about an upgrade disk from Vista to win7. The upgrade disk only recognizes the Vista files and the sp1 overwrites those files needed to install win7.

  17. akash

    @HTG, you should consider using SpaceSniffer http://www.uderzo.it/main_products/space_sniffer/ to find which files are taking up the most space on your system

  18. edmenje

    I’m with rino, I’m going to make a new macrium backup just before installing SP1 this weekend. With some of the comments I’ve come across I think it’s a good idea to keep multiple recovery options available when making a major change to the system even if that change comes from MS itself.

  19. Nottus

    I installed SP1 yesterday, What a “Bummer”. was on the phone for 5 Hours, calling numbers, I was given by Microsoft people I would talk too.

    NO ONE had a Clue of what to do. I Totally lost my Product, It would say, “Not a good number”.

    I finally got a guy, that knew who to talk too, he got me a new product key. That cured the problem.

    But Don’t download it, WAIT!! it is Buggy for sure.

  20. Danny

    I’ve already installed SP1 and deleted the backup files. I want my smallish notebook HDD to be free from unnecessary files as much as possible, which is why I also run ccleaner every day. So far, I haven’t had a problem with the new service pack.

  21. indianacarnie

    Been running it for awhile now myself. No problems here either.

  22. beergas

    Nice tip. Prefer to other methods of going into the folder tree to do it. SP1 d/l & install fast and smooth. Be patient and wait for any disk access to finish. End result is a smoother PC for me with Win 7 32x. I’d been keeping up with Updates but this worth it for sure. i7 core and cable modem.
    The cleanup only had 530mb listed. But did some update the day before SP1 & ran cleanup then.

  23. Brian

    One thing I realized is that after installing SP1 – I stupidly deleted the Temp files and there are some things hosed up I think is related to SP1. Anyway, if you want to uninstall SP1 you need to have those backup temp files…otherwise it won’t uninstall…and you need to reinstall Windows 7 – Doh!

  24. nuel

    pls my windom 7 cannot printer wih windom xp in the network places

  25. HugoHilter

    SP1 “steal” me 3,1 GB from my System SSD on my 64-bit machine – the place is back now. I have enough (120 GB only for Win and “normal” progs without games) – but i´ts not necessary. Back before SP1? For what?

  26. CleanUP

    To remove service pack backup files

    To remove the files online, run the following command:

    DISM.exe /online /cleanup-image /spsuperseded

    (dism /online /cleanup-image /spsuperseded)

    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff817650(WS.10).aspx

  27. Richard

    @Chris Wells: Whilst I understand your point, I still wouldn’t advocate deleting the files unless you desperately need the space. You have 40GB free, it’s going to be 39.5GB free with the SP1 backup files.

    In the whole grand scheme of things, leaving them isn’t going to impact you in any way negatively unless you have some strange desire to use only 1/3 of your purchased disk space. Empty disk space is really just wasted space.

  28. Dr-Hack

    @CleanUp
    yup this is the actual method and proper way of deleting the back up files not as mentioned in the tut

  29. Jon

    Service Packs might have been questionable over a decade ago, with Windows NT for example. These days they are beta and release candidate tested by mass numbers of people. If your computer dorks up while installing a modern Service Pack, chances are that there was something already wrong to begin with.

  30. CJM

    As for me, installing SP1 was a no-brainer, however, it slowed both my PCs down tremendously and I couldn’t figure out why. But I should have known better. I ran the clean disk executable to delete every excess file it could find and now both PCs have shown significant improvement in speed. I can compute now!

  31. Richard

    I very seldom install the near daily updates and etc, etc, that Microsoft wants placing on my computer. I make the decisions and the downloads, and not to permit Microsoft doing this for me, and I have learned the majority of what they want my downloading is simply not a necessity. I read every available information about that which Microsoft wants to place on MY COMPUTER, of which, at least 80 percent I have found not to be a necessity, at least for me. Windows 7 is much better than anything else Microsoft has come up with in quite sometime, but they have forgotten how they “screwed” the people horribly with Windows Vista. I also very much believe Microsoft likes to spy on what people may or may not have on their computers, and I feel this is an absolute invasion of privacy, about which Microsoft likes to herald they love us, which is 100 percent unadulterated B.S. They could charge $25 for Windows 7 and still make billions. I’m still prone to continue using my Xandros desktop home edition premium, because it is faster and safer, and I don’t need continuous downloads and fixes. Have a nice day.

  32. Arthur Borges in Zhengzhou

    Some IT professionals have decided to “wait a few weeks” before downloading SP1 because it *will* have more bugs to iron out.

  33. Dennis F

    I didn’t even realize SP1 left a lot of files on the HD. With 9TB of storage available, I don’t think I have to worry about deleting them any time soon. Why not repost this article in a year to remind everybody that is is now safe to delete the files? Personally, I’m going to use Outlook to remind myself in 6 months. Thanks for a very good article.

  34. roger

    with the relative cheapness of storage these days I often don’t bother to empty the recycle bin for weeks at a time (~13 GB last time) I make sure I always have a recent system image (every couple of weeks, on a dedicated 1TB HDD) several available restore points as well as my normal file back-ups so I figure holding on to a few more back-up files isn’t going to bust my memory bank.
    BTW my first attempt to get SP1 cocked up, froze on 19% for a couple of hours, and cancelling it froze my computer so I ended up having to pull the plug to restart it. when something like that happens it is wonderfull how secure all the precautions make you feel. as it happened I just needed to restore it to a prior restore point, check that everything seemed okay, and had another go at downloading and installing SP1 today with, so far, no problems.

  35. Claus

    Good to read the above and I think good advice keeping the backup files from installing windows SP1.
    It took me 3 attempts for the installation as each time it came up with an error half an hour into the download. The third time I let windows do a fix on the error and from there managed to install the SP1.
    I have since had Internet explore come on with a message that it has to close the program. This has happened a number of times. I reported the error and windows said it would come back with a fix if there was one. So far no information has come back. However, not really a major problem and I can live with it.
    Anyway, keep them coming.

  36. Mick Barker Sr.

    I had Win 7 Home Premium x64Bit, and Ubuntu x64Bit, under Dual Boot. I installed the SP1, and after I did, Windows worked great UNTIL I shut down the Laptop, Next Morning went to boot up and Ubuntu Booted Great, Windows Failed To Boot, Kept throwing an error “Windows Needs to Repair the Boot Files, and kept restarting, and restating the same thing Over and Over. Long Story Short, I reinstalled Windows to regain use of PC, To Hell with SP1 and Microsoft, they should not release crap until it is ready for mass use. Learned my lesson after a Quick Reinstall of Windows… Not Again.

  37. Donna

    Here it is already March and I still haven’t installed sp1. I keep my computer updated with automatic updates so I’ll wait until Microsoft comes out with a fix for Win7 sp1!

  38. Pepe

    Mick- IME dual booting w/ Linux you always run a risk of the Windows side getting forked up when applying a big SP. FWIW I’ve had better luck when Linux is installed on it’s own HDD. Also, you should create drive images of your system instead of always having to re-install the whole shebang.

  39. GadgetGuy

    Is there a way to put the Service Pack Backup Files on an external hard drive or CD prior to deleting them?

  40. XDXD

    I have noticed that after installing SP1 when I compress the files and folders of drive (C:), windows automatically compresses the file named bootmgr located in the directory c:/windows/boot and after restarting windows cannot boot and there is a notification showing (bootmgr is compressed) during startup. This was not an issue before installing SP1. I had to reinstall windows.

    Any Comments…..

  41. e2

    I have updated security files since 2006, is it safe to delete them?

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