Symptoms: C Drive Full – system running slow – unable to work on the server – unable to delete files or do a disk cleanup.

Operating System: Server 2008 R2

Culprit: Out of control Windows updates

Have you ever wondered why your server hard drive fills up so fast? I have. In fact, I was just working with a client that had this exact issue. So what can you do to fix this issue? What files can you clean up?

Today we are going to look at 3 methods you can utilize to clean up your Windows Server 2008 R2 Environment.

Your Options

Option #1: CleanMGR.exe

Attacking your drive space issue needs to start with utilizing Disk Cleanup. This can be found in the %systemroot%\System32 or by clicking Start -> Run then typing in cleanmgr.exe. This will bring up the Disk Clean up: Drive selection interface. Here, you are going to want to choose your Operating System Drive (usually C:\). 

Once you are in the interface you can choose what files you want to clean up. This includes the following:

  • Downloaded Program Files
  • Temporary Internet Files
  • Recycle Bin Files
  • Service Pack Backup Files
  • Setup Log Files
  • System Error Memory Dump Files
  • Temporary Files
  • Thumbnails
  • Per User Archived/Queued Windows Error Reporting Files
  • System Archived/Queued Windows Error Reporting Files
  • Catalog Files for the Content Indexer

When choosing the Service Pack Backup Files, be aware that these are saved versions of files that have been updated by a service pack. If you delete these files you will not be able to uninstall the service pack later. You are going to be able to free up the most disk space by deleting these files, so take that into account and do what is best for your environment.

Option #2: Server without CleanMGR.exe

What happens if your server does not have CleanMgr.exe on it?

In order for you to use CleanMgr.exe (Disk Cleanup) you need to have 2 files (cleanmgr.exe and cleanmgr.exe.mui) on your computer in 2 specific locations. You can use the table below to locate the files needed for the operating system that you are using:

(Disk Cleanup, 2010)

(Disk Cleanup, 2010)

Once you've located the files move them to the following locations:

1.   Cleanmgr.exe should go in %systemroot%\System32.

2.   Cleanmgr.exe.mui should in %systemroot%\System32\en-US.

Disk Cleanup can now be run by entering Cleanmgr.exe into a command prompt, or by clicking Start and typing Cleanmgr into the Search bar.

“But I need more space!”

So, you have done this but you still need to free up more space. What can you do now?

You can further reduce the size of the windows update component storage location by utilizing the DISM tool.

According to Microsoft Support, “To reduce the size of the component store directory on a Windows installation, you can decide to make the service pack installation permanent and reclaim used space from the service pack files. However, if you make the service pack installation permanent, the service pack is not removable. “

For Windows Server 2008 R2 with Service Pack 1 installed you will want to run the following command in Powershell or the command prompt:

  • DISM /online /Cleanup-Image /SpSuperseded;
  • Wait for this process to complete and see if you have cleaned up any more drive space.

If all Else Fails… 

Option #3: Delete Files from Windows Directory

So what happens if you have done all of this and you still have not cleaned up enough disk space?

Before I go into this I need you to understand that deleting files from the Windows directory is not advised, and not supported by Microsoft, so please proceed at your own risk. Also, any registry changes you make need to be done with the understanding that it could potentially harm your system. Please make sure that you have a full back up of your system and registry before making these changes.

There are a few locations that you can delete files/folders from:

1.   Old profiles

  • Delete any old profiles from C:\Users
  • Delete the registry entry from HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList

This will require a reboot.

2.   Windows Update files

  • Open and delete all files in the following location:
  • %windir%\SoftwareDistribution\Download

With these 3 actions I hope that you have been able to clean up that filled up Windows Server 2008 R2 C:\ Drive.

Do you have any other tricks or tips to free up space on your servers? If so, I would like to hear about it. Comment below with your tricks and tips!

John Léger

IT Consultant | Afidence


Disk Cleanup Option. (2010, April 13). Retrieved from

Where are the patches stored in the windows 2008 hierarchy? (2010, December 14). Retrieved from

How to address disk space issues. (2015, March 23). Retrieved from