How To: Remove $NtUninstall folders

Applies to: Windows XP

Symptoms

Your Windows folder is full of folders with names like $NtUninstallKBxxxxxx or $NtServicePackUninstall shown in blue. You have run a disk space check and it tells you that a lot of disk space is being occupied by these folders. How can you remove them and regain the use of that disk space?

These blue folders are Windows Update uninstall folders

Cause

When you run a Windows update or install a Windows XP Service Pack, many system files are replaced by newer versions. To make it possible to uninstall or roll back an update (in case it is found to be the cause of problems) Windows must preserve copies of all the files replaced in the update. These files are stored in the blue $NtUninstall... folders in the Windows folder.

Links to these $NtUninstall folders are placed in the Registry entries for each update, so that Windows knows where to find the uninstall files for each update. Simply deleting the folders would cause these Registry entries to become invalid. In the majority of cases, Windows updates are never uninstalled. If an update does need to be removed, the necessity for this will usually become apparent very quickly. So it is perfectly safe to remove the uninstall folders for updates that are more than a couple of weeks old. But how to remove them cleanly?

Solution

You can either remove the folders and their corresponding Registry entries manually, or use a removal utility. The manual method is tedious, but described so that you can understand what the automated utility is doing.

Note that once the $NtUninstall backup folders have been removed, by either method, it will not be possible to uninstall that Windows update. Therefore it is recommended that you only remove uninstall folders relating to updates that have been present for some time, when you can be sure that they are causing no problems.

Manual removal

Perform the following steps:

For each of the blue $NtUninstall folders that you wish to remove:

Automated removal

Download and run Windows XP Update Remover.

Note that Windows XP Update Remover can both remove (uninstall) Windows updates as well as delete the unwanted $NtUninstall folders. Be sure to choose the correct option.