Spring Cleaning Your Windows System? Don’t Delete These Files!

Spring cleaning is a great way to clean the system, free up some space and hopefully, also speed up the computer. While it isn’t hard to find redundant and duplicate files, there are a few things you should never delete from your running Windows system. Deleting critical files may hinder the system’s functioning, whereas some files, if deleted, won’t cause any issues, but may still cause some inconvenience.

From system files to your browser’s data, there are some files that are better left untouched. Below is a list of files that you should skip when you’re on your next cleaning spree.

Don’t delete system files

system files

This is pretty obvious, if the file is inside any of the system folders such as System32, Windows etc, do not delete them.

In the operating system drive (usually C), there will be pagefiles and hibernation files. Don’t delete them as they are there for some reason, and the system needs those files for proper functioning.

Selectively clean the browser cache

browsing cookies

It’s true that if you clean the web-browser’s cache, cookies and other session information, the browser will run faster. However, if you decide to wipe the cache files, you will probably have to log in to all the accounts, as all the session information is likely gone. A better way is to selectively clean the browser cache – removing only the tmp files, history etc, but keeping the browsing session intact.

Not all programs are to be removed

Removing unused applications is another great idea to free up some space from your computer. But are you sure about the software you are about to remove? Some of the software listed in the “Programs and Features” are driver modules, and in one way or the other help some other program. If you’re not sure about the file, it is advised you leave it untouched. There is a handy freeware tool, Should I remove it, that will tell you whether or not it is okay to remove a particular application.

Don’t delete all the system restore points

system restore

Deleting some of the old system restore files make sense. Your computer already has a new system restore point which will be sufficient to get your computer running again if something goes wrong. But not all system restore points should be removed. It is advised to not delete the last two system restore files. You can also check System Restore Explorer, a freeware tool which helps to get detailed file information about your system’s restore points.

Don’t delete the prefetch folder

prefetch folder

Much like a browser, the system collects information which it stores in a folder by the name “Prefetch.” This folder is located inside the Windows folder, and it stores several dozens of files. This existence of this folder has been the root cause of several debates. The truth is, the “Prefetch” folder contains information about boot files and the order of program execution. While its deletion won’t crash your computer, every time you will turn it on, it will first spend some time sorting those files again, resulting in slowing down the system’s boot speed.

Noteworthy mention

If you’re using any system cleaning app such as Ccleaner, always see the files it is about to delete. You can uncheck the cache and other settings files to save the trouble.


    1. One should not remove any system files. Vast majority of files inside the ‘Windows’ folder are important.

  1. An advantage of Ubuntu Linux. It comes with Autoremove, which removes all files NOT USED by the system, except your data files. No need to guess.

    1. Autoremove will not delete unneeded language packs and device drivers. Those amount to 200-300 megabytes, if not more

      1. 300 Megs is much far away from what you can find in \windows\winsxs.
        My win7 system has now 15GB in there I cannot touch.

  2. don’t clean anything yourself. Surf the internet for tools to do it for you like ccleaner and winoptimizer among others. The know what files can be deleted and what files should be left alone.
    Both mentioned tools can also remove old restore files and block you from deleting the latest one

    A point I missed is that you may want to take a backup on en external drive first before removing anything. With that in place you should be able to get your system up and running again without losing any of your personal data

  3. FWI,
    I’m a non technical user so I saw the suggestion for downloading “Should I Remove it”.
    I just spent the last half hour removing all the crap ware it installed on my system.
    Do you check these sites for their validity before you make a recommendation?

    1. Hi Leslie, sorry for your bad experience. We do check the validity of every site and app we recommend here. I’ve been using “Should I Remove It” for a long time now, never faced any problem. It’s ironical, since the experience you had with this particular tool defeats the actual purpose of it. It is supposed to remove bloatware from your system. Could you send us some screenshots? I’ll look into it and try to fix your problem.


      1. It also depends on the website you download it… for example, Softonic installs a crapload amount of adware and stupid toolbars and so… when downloading software, try to do it from the author’s webpage

  4. I wouldn’t install anything from your website. You want us to download a bunch of crappy spammy s*** and then try to get us to install your crappy pC Pitstop stuff to correct the problem that we never had to begin with until we installed crap from your website.

  5. By all means get “Should I Remove It” It’s simple and very,very helpful. It helps you all the way. It’s Perfect!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. As I read the description on the Should I Remove It website, it does not tell you if it is OK to uninstall a program: it merely tells you the percentage of users that have uninstalled it. They call this “leveraging the wisdom of the crowd (and of course our technical experts) to determine what should not be installed.

    1. @Sheri, I played around with it when I downloaded it to get the feel for it. When you click on a program it sends to to the page that describes what it does and if you really need it or not. I went with the percentage of users who uninstalled it vs. those who kept it, I went with the crowd on making a decision on what to do. Also I noticed that that I had 2 programs with orange bars and looking into them I found out that they were very bad and the 99% of the advice and the page that described it said get rid of it now. So look for those first. I really found this program quite useful and helpful but remember if you don’t know for sure don’t uninstall until you get more info about it. I used it already and had no problems with it at all.

  7. What about the index.dat files? I’ve been using Index.dat Suite for a long time.

  8. I have also to echo the Sentiments given by Leslie Komaromi in a previous post.

    I downloaded “Should I remove it” and immediately was infected with two Trojans which it took me over an hour to get rid of .

    This begs the question do you check these sites for Malware/Spyware/Virus when you recommend these sites to users?

  9. McAfee Siteadvisor warns that the ‘Should I remove it’ download you recommend; contains VIRUSES & SPYWARE… StaySafeOnline be careful what you download

  10. Memories, of some of the stupidest things I have ever done, with a PC!!! When, I got my first PC, back in Sept. 1996 … I was learning how to just use it, yet alone, mess with it. However, I got stuck with a component, vital to using my computer … Called the IBM Mwave!!! A combination Sound and Modem card, the horror of the century, in computers!!! Anyone out there, remember this sucker??? It was pure hell, trying to get this sucker to work right. But, it did start me on the path of learning how to repair, my own computer, as to spending $$$ for someone else, to crash it completely and burn out a new motherboard, in the process!!!

    Sorry, back to the topic … In my “messing” around with the Windows files … I deleted the Explorer.exe file … Thinking it was about Internet Explorer. Okay, I said I did some really, really stupid things, when I first got my computer and was learning. What it taught me though, was to start using the Internet … To find answers, to my questions on how a computer works and what to do to maintain it. Up until then, I was “afraid” of the Internet and how to use it. Another thing, that was invaluable to my learning … Was getting rid of AOL and starting to use a real ISP service, like BellSouth, which is now, AT&T. Listen, you’ve just got to go with what is available, in your area, to get to the Internet. I did have Bell South, until AT&T took it over.

    I have also, managed to “delete” more important files, during my training period. Thank goodness, computers are more residual, than most think they are. I have also, been known to “delete” some important .dll files, as well. What are the results of doing all of these stupid things??? Having to re-format the Hard Drive and completely re-install Windows, plus all of your software programs and games. Not a pleasant thing, to do … So, you learn and learn well. :)

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