Is It Safe to Delete Everything in Windows’ Disk Cleanup?

The Disk Cleanup tool included with Windows can quickly erase various system files and free up disk space. But some things–like “Windows ESD Installation Files” on Windows 10–probably shouldn’t be removed.

For the most part, the items in Disk Cleanup is safe to delete. But, if your computer isn’t running properly, deleting some of these things may prevent you from uninstalling updates, rolling back your operating system, or just troubleshooting a problem, so they’re handy to keep around if you have the space.

Disk Cleanup 101

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You can launch Disk Cleanup from the Start menu–just search for “Disk Cleanup”. It will immediately scan for files it can delete and display a list to you. However, this just shows files you can delete with your current user account’s permissions.

Assuming you have administrator access to the computer, you’ll want to click “Clean Up System Files” to view a complete list of files you can delete.

To remove a group of files, check it. To keep a group of files, ensure it’s unchecked. You’ll see the maximum amount of data you can delete at the top of the window, and how much space you’ll actually save at the bottom. Click “OK” after you’re done selecting data and Disk Cleanup will delete the types of data you want to remove.

Windows ESD Installation Files Are Important

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On Windows 10, there’s now a “Windows ESD installation files” option here. Deleting it can free a few gigabytes of hard disk space. This is probably the most important option on the list, as deleting it could cause you problems.

These ESD files are used for “resetting your PC” to its factory default settings. If you delete these files, you’ll have more disk space–but you won’t have the files necessary to reset your PC. You may need to download Windows 10 installation media if you ever want to reset it.

We recommend not deleting this, unless you desperately need the few gigabytes in hard disk space. Deleting this will make your life harder if you ever want to use the “reset your PC” feature in the future.

Everything Else Disk Cleanup Can Delete

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So what do all the other options do? We went through Disk Cleanup and made a list. Note that we used Disk Cleanup on a PC running Windows 10 with the Anniversary Update installed. Older versions of Windows may have slightly fewer options. Some options may only appear if you have certain types of system files on your hard drive.

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We’ve also seen various other options here. Some only appear on previous versions of Windows, like Windows 7, and some only appear if your computer has certain types of files on its hard drive:

Overall, you can safely delete almost everything in Disk Cleanup as long as you don’t plan on rolling back a device driver, uninstalling an update, or troubleshooting a system problem. But you should probably steer clear of those “Windows ESD Installation files” unless you’re really hurting for space.