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When “Keep Nothing” doesn’t mean “Keep Nothing”

Being a frequent user of beta software, I often have to stumble through discovering things the hard way. Last fall when I moved from the Release Preview of Windows 8 to the final product on my Samsung Series 7 slate, I selected the “Keep Nothing” option during the install and was surprised to find when the installation completed that my 32GB hard drive was nearly full. A quick investigation revealed a folder named Windows.old into which my previous windows installation was copied – not quite “Keep Nothing”. I promptly issued the delete command and was returned a permission denied error because the folder and its files were marked as system files. After quite a bit of hassle including the removal of inherited file permissions and taking ownership of the folder and its files I was finally able to delete the files.
A few weeks ago we decided that it was finally time to clean up my wife’s computer after 4 years of use (it’s amazingly difficult to remember to uncheck “install other junk you don’t want” every time you install a new application) and my wife opted to take on the learning curve of moving to Windows 8. We inventoried the software she actually wanted on the machine, made sure all of her documents were backed up, and this weekend I ran the Windows 8 installer – again selecting “Keep Nothing”. When the install completed and I saw the 500GB Windows.old folder, I decided to see if there was an easier way to clean it up. What I found was that Disk Cleanup will remove the folder, but only if you specifically select the “Clean up system files” option. The procedure is documented in the Window 8 support article “How to remove the Windows.old folder“.
Microsoft didn’t choose to maintain these files without good reason (there’s only so much “Microsoft made me lose my files” that one company can take), but it would have been nice to see some notification even it was something like “Keep Nothing (old files will remain available)”. The good news is that they made it much easier to clean up than the way I found myself the first time through and that my wife is now another happy Windows 8 user.

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