How to remove hotfix backup files

Hotfix backup files can grow into the dozens. Here's a free tool to remove hotfix uninstall directories.

Whenever a hotfix is installed in Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, a copy of all the files replaced by the hotfix is placed in a hidden directory in the %SystemRoot% folder (usually C:\Windows). This hidden directory is named after the Knowledge Base article for the relevant hotfix, such as $NtUninstallKB867282$, and contains an uninstallation utility.

If the hotfix doesn't work -- or breaks more than it fixes -- you can remove the hotfix using the executable in the hotfix's spuninst directory. However, the hotfix almost always works fine.

The problem is that the number of installed hotfixes on a system can get pretty high, especially if there's a long period between service packs. When a service pack is installed, all the hotfix directories are removed since the service pack contains all of those hotfixes anyway -- and since they've been thoroughly regression-tested by that point, the uninstaller really isn't needed. But between service packs, the number of uninstallation directories for a given system can be in the dozens, wasting space.

Programmer Doug Knox has written a tool called XP Remove Hotfix Backup that cleans out the hotfix uninstall directories.The tool not only removes the directories, but also the relevant Add/Remove Programs entry for each hotfix. (Though hidden by default, these entries are still there; you'll see them if you check the "Show Updates" box at the top of the Add/Remove Programs window.)

Note: XP Remove Hotfix Backup does not remove hotfixes for native Windows applications, such as Outlook Express, Internet Explorer or Windows Media Player, but only for the operating system itself. Note also that the deleted files are removed permanently; the program has no "undelete" option.

The free version of the tool deletes all the hotfix backups it can find. The licensed version can selectively delete hotfixes.

The program will run under Windows 2000 as well as XP, but it has not been tested to do so, so it is not recommended that you use it for that.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of Windows Insight (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of experience working with Windows, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and other TechTarget sites.

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This was first published in November 2005

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