Creating file backups is important to safeguarding data. Some users back up files with backup tools to keep secondary copies. Windows 10 also automatically backs up data files without users realizing it. However, an excessive accumulation of superfluous backup files can waste many gigabytes of drive storage space. Therefore, some users might wonder if they can delete backup files in Windows 10 to preserve storage drive space.
Two types of backup data can waste drive storage space for Windows 10 PCs. User file backup data is for files like word-processed documents, spreadsheets, images, videos, music, and presentations. Those are file types users typically keep backup versions of with Windows 10’s built-in File History utility or third-party tools. File History automatically backs up user files to selected storage drives. Enabling that backup utility can lead to an accumulation of old user file versions dating back years, which wastes disk space.
Windows 10 keeps system file backups for system restoration, the other type of backup data. Its System Restore utility saves restore point backup data that users can select to revert their PCs to earlier dates. Windows 10 also temporarily saves a backup of the previous OS version installation after installing a new build update. System backup data can take up lots of hard drive storage space.
A combined accumulation of superfluous user and system backup files will leave your PC’s drives with less storage space for new software. So, it’s a good idea to delete less essential backup files that are wasting space. There are a few ways to delete both user and system backup files kept by Windows 10’s tools. If you’re wondering how to delete Windows 10 backup files, check out the alternative methods below for erasing user and system backup data.
Method 1: Erase old Backup Files via the Control Panel
If you utilize File History in Windows 10, your PC’s storage drive might include backup file versions dating back years. Fortunately, there are three ways you can erase backup data kept with File History. This is how to delete backup files in Windows 10 within the Control Panel.
Step 1: First, click the search box or magnifying glass icon by the “Start” button on Windows 10’s taskbar.
Step 2: Enter Control Panel within the search tool’s text box.
Step 3: Click “Large Icons” on the “View by” drop-down menu.
Step 4: Select “File History” in Control Panel to open the applet shown directly below.
Step 5: Click “Advanced settings” on the left side of the File History applet.
Step 6: Select the “Clean up versions” option to open the window in the snapshot directly below.
Step 7: Click the “Delete files” drop-down menu to select an appropriate erasure option. The “Older than 1 year” option is selected by default.
Step 8: Press the “Clean up” button.
Method 2: Delete old Backup File Versions via the Command Prompt
Step 1: Alternatively, delete old user file backup versions preserved by File History with the Command Prompt utility. To do so, bring up the search tool in Windows 10.
Step 2: Input the keyword cmd within the search box to find the Command Prompt.
Step 3: Next, right-click Command Prompt within the search results to select a “Run as administrator” option for it.
Step 4: Now input the command fhmanagew.exe -cleanup 0 and press Enter to delete all but the latest file backup versions.
If you don’t want to delete all but the latest file backups, you’ll need to modify the above command by changing its cleanup value. These are some of the alternative cleanup values you could enter for the fhmanagew.exe command:
- fhmanagew.exe -cleanup 30 – Delete file backups older than a month
- fhmanagew.exe -cleanup 90 – Delete file backups older than three months
- fhmanagew.exe -cleanup 180 – Delete file backups older than six months
- fhmanagew.exe -cleanup 270 – Delete file backups older than nine months
- fhmanagew.exe -cleanup 360 – Delete file backups older than a year
- fhmanagew.exe -cleanup 720 – Delete file backups older than two years
Method 3: Configure File History to Automatically Delete Old Backup Files
Instead of manually deleting Windows 10 backup files with the methods above, you can configure File History to automatically erase old backup data. By default, File History is configured to permanently keep its backups. This is how you can configure File History to erase backup files after specified periods.
Step 1: Click “Start” and the “Settings” button on the menu.
Step 2: Next, select “Update & Security” to open the Settings window, as shown directly below.
Step 3: Click the “Backup” tab there.
Step 4: Click “More options” to open the settings in the screenshot directly below.
Step 5: Click the “Keep my backups” drop-down menu to select a period for File History to retain its backup versions. File History will automatically delete backup files older than the selected time period.
Method 4: Delete System Restore Point Backup Files
A restore point is a backup of Windows files for a specific date. Although System Restore is a handy troubleshooting tool, most users probably don’t utilize it that much. If you don’t need saved restore point backups, you can erase all current ones and minimize that utility’s disk space usage.
Step 1: Press the Windows key + X simultaneously to bring up a Win + X menu.
Step 2: Click Run on the menu to open that accessory.
Step 3: Next, input SystemPropertiesProtection in the Run’s Open box.
Step 4: Press the “OK” button to bring up the tab in the snapshot directly below.
Step 5: Click the “Configure” button on that tab to open the window shown directly below.
Step 6: Now press the “Delete” button to erase all current system restore points.
Step 7: Drag the “Max usage” bar left to reduce the maximum storage space allocated to restore point backups. Windows 10 will then automatically delete older restore points with greater regularity.
Step 8: Click “Apply” to save the new settings.
Step 9: Then click the “OK” button to exit System Protection.
Method 5: How to Delete Windows 10 Backup Files With Disk Cleanup
Windows.old is a backup folder for your PC’s previous Windows 10 build installation that’s kept for a month after you’ve upgraded the platform to a new version. That folder hogs a lot of hard drive storage space. Although Windows.old gets automatically deleted, you can erase it sooner with the built-in Disk Cleanup utility. This is how to delete Windows 10’s backup folder with that tool.
Step 1: Click “Start” on the taskbar to open the menu.
Step 2: Next, click the Windows Administrative Tools folder on the Start menu.
Step 3: Select Disk Cleanup to open that utility’s window.
Step 4: Press the “Clean up system files” button in Disk Cleanup to open the options shown directly below.
Step 5: When there’s a Windows.old folder saved on your PC, you’ll see a “Previous Windows Installation” checkbox there. Select the “Previous Windows Installation” checkbox.
Step 6: Press the “OK” button and click “Delete files” to confirm.
Aside from the “Previous Windows Installation” checkbox, there are a few other system file deletion options worth noting in Disk Cleanup. Selecting the “Device driver packages” option will erase backup copies of previously installed device driver packages. The “Windows Update Cleanup” option erases copies of older Windows update files that are no longer needed. So, consider selecting these additional checkboxes to free up even more storage space.
Method 6: How to Delete Windows 10 Backup Files With CCleaner
CCleaner is one of the foremost third-party disk cleaner utilities for Windows 10 that’s freely available. It packs in a plethora of advanced options and features for deleting files. You can also utilize CCleaner to erase restore points and the Windows.old folder’s backup files.
To install the freeware CCleaner, click the “Free Download” button on that system maintenance utility’s download page. After that, open the setup wizard for CCleaner from the folder you saved it in to install the software. Then follow the guide on how to delete Windows backup files Windows 10.
Step 1: Launch the CCleaner software.
Step 2: Click “Tools” on the left of the CCleaner.
Step 3: Then click “System Restore” to open a list of your PC’s restore points.
Step 4: Select a restore point to remove.
Step 5: Press the “Remove” button to erase the restore point.
Step 6: To remove the Windows.old folder, click “Options” > “Include” in CCleaner.
Step 7: Click “Add” to open an Include window.
Step 8: Select the “Drive or Folder” radio button.
Step 9: Click “Browse” to select the Windows.old folder. This is the path for that folder: C:\Windows.old.
Step 10: Next, click “OK” on the Browse for Folder window.
Step 11: Select “Include files, subfolders, and the folder itself” on the “Options” drop-down menu.
Step 12: Press the “OK” button on the Include window.
Step 13: Click “Yes” to confirm.
Step 14: Select “Custom Clean” in CCleaner.
Step 15: Click the “Custom Files and Folders” checkbox to select it.
Step 16: Press the “Analyze” button.
Step 17: Thereafter, select the “Run Cleaner” option to erase the selected folder.
You can also utilize CCleaner to delete user backup files from any folder you’ve selected to save copies in. To do so, select a backup folder with CCleaner’s Include utility. Then you can select the “Include files only” and “only delete files and folders older than” settings to erase older backup files. Or you can select “File types” to choose a specific backup file format to erase. So, CCleaner can be very useful for erasing user and system backup files in Windows 10.
1. Are the above methods for deleting backup files only applicable to Windows 10?
The fifth method for deleting the Windows.old folder applies to Windows 10 only. Methods one, two, and three are relevant to Windows 10, 8.1, and 8, which are the platforms that include the File History utility. Methods four and six apply to Windows platforms dating back to XP.
2. Can I erase backup files in Windows 10 with PowerShell?
Yes, you can erase backup files by entering the same fhmanagew.exe commands for method two in PowerShell.
3. Are temporary files backup files?
Not exactly, but some temporary files are saved by applications for backup purposes. Some office suite software packages have autosave features that save temporary copies of user files. That backup data enables users to restore unsaved documents after applications crash and unexpectedly close. You can delete temporary file data with CCleaner, Disk Cleanup, and other system maintenance software.
4. Can I manually delete File History backups within File Explorer?
Yes, you can access a File History folder on your chosen storage device so long as the “Hidden Items” option is enabled on File Explorer’s View tab. Then you can open the Data subfolder within that folder to erase backup files with Explorer’s “Delete” button.
Don’t let unneeded backup files hog too much space on your Windows 10 PC’s internal or external storage drives. By deleting user and system backup data with the methods outlined above, you can reclaim gigabytes of drive storage space. If you don’t want to erase many user backup files, make sure you at least erase Windows 10’s backup data with the Disk Cleanup or CCleaner utilities.