When your system is running low on disk space, third-party utilities will help you see large files and smaller file collections at a glance. This is where you can come across the WinSxS folder. It is almost 5-10 GB in size and for many users it is like a black box in the Windows world.
Naturally, it raises the question of what exactly these files are in WinSxS and why are they so big. Web searches and forums are full of questions about this folder. Let’s clarify the secrets of WinSxS and the correct way to manage it.
The description of WinSxS
WinSxS (Side by Side) was created to solve the ” DLL Hell ” problem in Windows operating system . In simple terms, it includes examples where any program modifies the dynamic link library (DLL) file to affect the critical functionality of other applications that need to use the same DLL.
For example, suppose an application requires a DLL with version 1.0.2. If another application changes the source to a different version (1.0.3 for example), the previous application based on version 1.0.2 will crash, causing compatibility issues or worse with the Blue Screen of Death.
Launch of WinSxS
Windows XP saw that the component store started correctly. Here, each component (DLL, OCX, EXE) is located in a directory called WinSxS. It stores all the different DLL versions loaded by software and hardware packages and loads the correct version on demand.
So how does an application know which version of a DLL to load? The ” manifest file ” plays an important role here. It contains settings that tell the operating system how to use a program when it starts and the correct version of the DLL.
Each component has an ID with a unique name that can include processor architecture, language, version, and ID. The specific versions of these components are then bundled together in bundles. They are used by Windows Update and DISM to keep your system up to date.
This timeline shows a gradual development of WinSxS with every major OS upgrade.
WinSxS Folder And Role Of Hard Links
Hard links are used throughout the Windows operating system. In terms of WinSxS, it is the only location where components live in the system. All other instances of files outside of the component store are hard-linked to the WinSxS folder. So what is a fixed link?
According to Microsoft Docs , a hard link is a file system object that allows two files to reference the same location on disk. This means that Windows can store multiple copies of the same file without taking up extra space.
Each time you update Windows, a completely new version of the component is released and reflected in the system via hard links. Older ones remain in the component store for reliability, but there are no hard links.
With the help of fsutil command, you can check the hard links of any system file. Press Win + X and select Command Prompt (Admin) , then type
fsutil hardlink list [system file path]
For example, if you want to check the hard links of a system file named “audiosrv.dll”, type:
fsutil hardlink list "C:\Windows\System32\audiosrv.dll"
The Importance of WinSxS
Component repository plays a vital role in supporting the functionality required to customize and update Windows. These are as follows:
- Recover your system from boot failure or corruption
- Optionally enable or disable Windows features
- Move systems between different versions of Windows
- Uninstall problematic updates
- To install new component versions using Windows Update
WinSxS Folder Size
WinSxS contains all the necessary files to maintain compatibility with hardware and software on your computer. One of Windows’ greatest strengths is its capacity to run legacy hardware and applications. But this legacy compatibility comes at the cost of disk space and errors.
Older PC games and software can have a hard time on Windows 10. Try these tips to run your old Windows games and programs on Windows 10.
Navigate to C: \ Windows \ WinSxS , right click and choose Properties’ . This folder consumes approximately 7.3 GB of disk space. But the thing is, this is not the real size. This is because of “hard links” that File Explorer and other third-party tools don’t consider.
Counts each reference to a hard link as a single instance of the file for each location. So if a system file is located in both the WinSxS and System32 directory, File Explorer incorrectly doubles the folder size.
Check Actual Size of WinSxS
To check the actual size of the Windows component store, open an elevated command prompt window and type:
Dism.exe /Online /Cleanup-Image /AnalyzeComponentStore
Note: The / AnalyzeComponentStore option is not recognized in Windows 8 and earlier versions.
After analysis, the actual size of the component storage drops to 5.37 GB. This value affects hard links in the WinSxS folder. Gives you the size of hard-linked files shared with Windows . The Last Cleanup Date is the date of the recently completed ingredient tank cleaning.
Methods to Reduce the Size of the WinSxS Folder
Most users ask if it is possible to delete files manually from the WinSxS folder. Answer a big no .
It most likely harms Windows and critical Windows Update might not install properly. Even if you succeed in removing the files from the WinSxS folder, you never know which application will stop working.
Though you can reduce the size of the folder between WinSxS with several built-in tools. We will use tools like Disk Cleanup, DISM commands to trim the WinSxS folder and remove Optional Features.
Disk Cleanup Tool
Type disk cleanup in the search box and select Disk Cleanup . From this window, click the Clean up system file button. This restarts the utility and unlocks access to all cleaning options. You can remove installation files, previous versions of Windows and more. The Disk Cleanup tool is the starting point for cleaning Windows 10.
Remove Optional Features
Windows allows you to optionally enable or disable the default Windows features. You can add some useful features – Hyper V, Print to PDF, Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) and more.
Features that you uncheck remain in the WinSxS folder and take up disk space. Users with a low amount of storage may want to reduce their Windows installation as much as possible. Open an elevated command prompt window and type
DISM.exe /Online /English /Get-Features /Format:Table
You will see a list of feature names and states
To remove a feature from your system, type:
DISM.exe /Online /Disable-Feature /featurename:NAME /Remove
(Replace “NAME” with the name of the feature specified in the list)
/ Get-Features If you run the command again, only the state ” Disable ” instead of ” When the load is removed Disabled Released ” You’ll see. Later, if you choose to install the removed components, Windows will prompt you to download the component files again.
DISM Component Cleaning
Windows 8 / 8.1 includes a built-in feature to automatically clean up component storage when the system is not in use. Open Task Scheduler and go to Microsoft> Windows> Service . Right-click on the item and Run click .
The task will wait at least 30 days after an updated component is installed before uninstalling the previous version of the component. The task also has a one-hour timeout and may not clear all files.
With the DISM / Cleanup-Image parameter, you can immediately remove the previous version of the component (with no 30-day grace period) and you have no one-hour timeout limit. Open Command Prompt (Admin) and type in
DISM.exe /online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup
If you add the ResetBase key, you can remove the complete replacement version of each component. However, keep in mind that you cannot uninstall existing updates (even if they are buggy).
DISM.exe /online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup /ResetBase
The following command will remove all replacement components required for uninstalling service packs. It is a collection of cumulative updates for a specific Windows version.
DISM.exe /online /Cleanup-Image /SPSuperseded
Delete Windows Files to Free Up Disk Space
The WinSxS component store has an important role to play in the daily running of Windows. Therefore, you should not delete files or move the WinSxS folder as a solution to your space issues.