The $WINDOWS.~BT folder – and how to delete it

This short article deals with one possible solution to free up disk space on your Windows computer by deleting a folder that can be useful, but is mostly just annoying.

What is $WINDOWS.~BT folder?

When Windows 10 came out, there was a period when users with earlier versions could upgrade to Windows 10 for free. During this time, computers downloaded installation files and stored them in the $WINDOWS.~BT folder. This is a hidden folder in the root directory, so it is not easy to accidentally delete it.

Computers running Windows 10 today still have this folder, with earlier versions of Windows 10 stored in it. This ensures that you can roll back to a previous OS version. However, it can take up gigabytes of space, which is not necessarily something you want, especially on the drive where your OS lives.

If you want to delete the $WINDOWS.~BT folder, read on and follow the steps! Keep in mind that this means you will not be able to perform System restore, since you will not have the previous OS version saved on your computer.

Making the $WINDOWS.~BT folder visible

Since this is a hidden folder, first you have to make sure you can access it.

  1. Type “folder options” in the Search bar, and choose File explorer options.
opening file explorer options
  1. Go to the View tab. In Advanced settings, under Files and Folders, navigate to the  Hidden files and folders section and select Show hidden files, folders, and drives. Click OK.
showing hidden folders
  1. Now go check out the drive where your OS is sitting (usually C:\\). You should see the $WINDOWS.~BT folder. Go ahead and delete it by right-clicking and pressing Delete.
deleting $Windows.~BT

However, this is not your only option. If you would like the Disk Cleanup tool to do this for you, there is an easy way to do that too.

Deleting the $WINDOWS.~BT folder using Disk Cleanup

Getting rid of the $WINDOWS.~BT folder is not as easy as simply right-clicking and choosing Delete. We are going to use the Disk Cleanup tool, which is built into Windows.

  1. Type “cleanmgr” into the Search bar and open the Disk Cleanup app. This will first scan your system.
opening cleanup manager
  1. Once the app is open, click Clean up system files. Wait until the scan is done.
clean up system files
  1. A list with several options appears. Check all of the following ones you can see:
  • Previous Windows Installations
  • Temporary Windows installation files
  • Temporary files
  • Windows Update Cleanup
  • Windows upgrade log files
  1. Click OK. The tool now will delete all the setup, installation, and log files in the $WINDOWS.~BT folder.
deleting temporary files

Check if the folder has disappeared. If it is still there, you can safely right-click it and choose delete now. This manual deletion will take care of the remaining files.

It is possible that an error message pops up, telling you you don’t have permission to do this. In that case, you can delete the folder from Command Prompt with the following method:

Granting yourself access to the $WINDOWS.~BT folder

  1. Type “cmd” in the Search bar, then choose Run as administrator.
opening command prompt
  1. Should a window pop up to ask you if you allow access – click Yes.
confirming access to device in uac
  1. Type “takeown /F C:\$WINDOWS.~BT /R /A” and hit Enter.
takeown command in command prompt
  1. Type “icacls C:\$WINDOWS.~BT\*.* /T /grant administrators:F” and hit Enter.
icacls command in command prompt
  1. Type “rmdir /S /Q C:\$WINDOWS.~BT\” and hit Enter.
rmdir command in command prompt

Now the $WINDOWS.~BT folder should be completely gone from your system.

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