Reducing size of WinSxS directory on Windows Server 2008 R2

UPDATE FOR 2012 R2: The Desktop Experience feature is still required to be installed for Disk Cleanup to be available.  The Desktop Experience feature is listed under “User Interfaces and Infrastructure” when installing the feature – see Microsoft TechNet link here:      http://blogs.technet.com/b/rmilne/archive/2013/07/11/install-desktop-experience-on-windows-server-2012.aspx    Disk Cleanup can then be found on the Tools menu in Server Manager.

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As noted on the Microsoft technet link below, a Disk Cleanup option on Windows Server 2008 R2 is available to clean up the WinSxS directory which will reduce its size by cleaning up previous versions of Windows Update files.

 http://blogs.technet.com/b/askpfeplat/archive/2014/05/13/how-to-clean-up-the-winsxs-directory-and-free-up-disk-space-on-windows-server-2008-r2-with-new-update.aspx

Disk Cleanup is a component of the Desktop Experience feature which is not installed by default on Windows Server 2008 R2 so if you haven’t installed it already, you are generally required to do so (see alternative below although MS recommends installing Desktop Experience).

Here is a link to an overview of Desktop Experience on Windows Server 2008 R2 https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd759187.aspx

(Note:  You can run cleanmgr.exe by following the steps in this article without installing Desktop Experience. https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff630161%28v=ws.10%29.aspx?f=255&MSPPError=-2147217396
SEE LINK – Cleanmgr.exe should go in c:WindowsSystem32.
SEE LINK – Cleanmgr.exe.mui should go in c:WindowsSystem32en-US.
After copying files, you can run cleanmgr.exe by typing it into the start box. This may be a good option to get Disk Cleanup without all the other components of Desktop Experience.)

To Cleanup WinSxS directory:
Run Disk Cleanup
Select c: and click on Clean Up System Files
You should see a row labeled “Windows Update Cleanup” with potential space savings of X GB.
Run – takes several minutes to clean up files.
Then on reboot (which was not forced immediately), it reboots to a Windows screen message “cleaning up” for several minutes

From our experience,

  • We have seen it reboot twice on occasion during the process.
  • This often reduces the WinSxS folder by 3 GB to 5GB.
  • For us, the reboot process at “cleaning up” screen has taken anywhere from 5-15+ minutes
  • One time while performing this, we noticed that the DNS fields on the network connection were changed back to default and internet access didn’t work properly until it was updated.