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Deleting "Systemic" Files in Windows

Posted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 8:52 pm
by azurekep
A while back, I converted a Windows Vista computer into a Linux one.

Now, as Vista creeps towards end of support, I'd like to make another Vista PC into a dual-boot. Vista OS takes up a huge amount of space and I'd like to pare it down to a smaller size so I have a large enough partition for Linux.

One issue is the so-called systemic files on Vista that seem unable to be deleted (see list below). Most don't have an uninstaller, and when they do, the uninstallers don't work. Simply deleting the programs won't work...something about Permissions, which I've been unable to figure out on the fly. Unclicking registry entries (in Autoruns) related to these programs doesn't help any. None of the programs are listed as Windows "Features" and so are not removable from that part of the Add/Remove control panel:

The machine is not mine and it's not in front of me so I don't know all the names of the programs that won't budge, but here are some I remember:
  • Internet Explorer
  • Calendar
  • Windows Journal
  • Microsoft Net Framework 2 (or maybe it was 3)
  • Windows Movie-Maker
  • Windows Media Player
and so on...

None of these would be used on the Windows partition of the dual-boot machine.

Any idea how to get rid of these programs? And is it safe to get rid of Net Framework? The only programs used (potentially) on the Vista partition will be small programs that didn't come with Vista.

Re: Deleting "Systemic" Files in Windows

Posted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 8:58 pm
by PFInterest
Why don't you get a larger drive... If you are nit picking a few programs this seems the easiest solution.

Re: Deleting "Systemic" Files in Windows

Posted: Wed Apr 05, 2017 12:16 pm
by sfchris
I assume you are keeping Vista around for a good reason?

What many technologists do when they need an old operating system around for occasional use is they create a virtual machine using Virtual Box. Then it is just a set of files that you can store on a spare hard drive and only pull it out when you need it. It doesn't take up space on your main machine.

Re: Deleting "Systemic" Files in Windows

Posted: Wed Apr 05, 2017 7:04 pm
by azurekep
sfchris wrote:I assume you are keeping Vista around for a good reason?
If the machine were converted to Linux-only, the PC owner wouldn't have any Windows access at all. So the dual-boot solution keeps Vista as backup. The network adapter will be turned off, so there won't be a concern with hacking. The machine would be used only for offline programs.
What many technologists do when they need an old operating system around for occasional use is they create a virtual machine using Virtual Box. Then it is just a set of files that you can store on a spare hard drive and only pull it out when you need it. It doesn't take up space on your main machine.
I myself love VMs and use them a lot. The Vista machine, however, is a bit old and I'm not sure it would work well with a Windows 10 VM, which is the only one I know how to get for free. I created a Windows 10 VM for myself and it works fine on a newer system, but I think it would be a little sluggish on a Vista-era computer.

As for the earlier comment re: getting a new drive, the point here is not to spend any money on this. :) Plan B is making the computer 100% Linux and seeing what happens, perhaps getting a cheap Win10 system for those occasional Windows needs. For now, cheap beats pay. :)

There will be enough room for a Linux/Vista dual-boot despite Vista being a size hog. It would be nice, however, to remove bloated Microsoft programs that won't be used, but that may be a case of perfection is the enemy of good.

Re: Deleting "Systemic" Files in Windows

Posted: Wed Apr 05, 2017 8:55 pm
by MindBogler
Even if you could remove these programs, they aren't really removed. Windows uses something called the side-by-side folder where all of the binaries reside. And note, most common programs require some version of the .NET framework. The amount of space you're going to save even if you could remove these things is miniscule in comparison to the total size of the OS. The entire OS including a large page file is under 20GB. When drives are sold in multiples hundreds of times that, I can't imagine why you'd bother.

Re: Deleting "Systemic" Files in Windows

Posted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:44 am
by jharkin
I know you dont want to spend money, but storage is so stupid cheap now. $50 will get you a 128GB SSD that would be more than enough to hold a windows partition and some software. If you dont care about application loading speed when running the windows side you can get a used spinning drive in this size range for the price of a coffee.

And I would dump vista and just install a Win7 or Win10 partition if possible. Vista was one of the most hated windows versions for good reason...

Re: Deleting "Systemic" Files in Windows

Posted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 11:17 am
by azurekep
MindBogler wrote:Even if you could remove these programs, they aren't really removed. Windows uses something called the side-by-side folder where all of the binaries reside. And note, most common programs require some version of the .NET framework. The amount of space you're going to save even if you could remove these things is miniscule in comparison to the total size of the OS. The entire OS including a large page file is under 20GB. When drives are sold in multiples hundreds of times that, I can't imagine why you'd bother.
Vista right now, after major deletions and unistalls, is about 40 GB. That leaves about 70 GB for Linux, which is more than adequate. So space is a non-issue at this point.

I think I ran into the side-by-side program (called sys-something or rather). It is the single biggest entity on the disk. It's unfortunate it can't be removed, but the 70 GB now freed up for Linux is more than enough, so no worries.

Re: Deleting "Systemic" Files in Windows

Posted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 11:25 am
by azurekep
jharkin wrote:I know you dont want to spend money, but storage is so stupid cheap now. $50 will get you a 128GB SSD that would be more than enough to hold a windows partition and some software. If you dont care about application loading speed when running the windows side you can get a used spinning drive in this size range for the price of a coffee.

And I would dump vista and just install a Win7 or Win10 partition if possible. Vista was one of the most hated windows versions for good reason...
The person involved likes Vista, so that's not a problem. One of the reasons not to throw money at this is that the only actual issue with the PC is the keyboard. Some of the letters are rubbing off. If enough letters disappear, it would be time to just dump the whole thing and get a new PC. Until then, it's about making the most of an otherwise nice computer that the user is happy with. Whatever floats one's boat. ;)

Re: Deleting "Systemic" Files in Windows

Posted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 12:01 pm
by oldcomputerguy
When DW asked me to set up Linux on her home computer ( :D :!: ), rather than trying to delete anything, I just went to the local electronics retailer, bought an additional 40 Gb internal drive (was about $50), and installed it in her machine for Linux. Easy.

Re: Deleting "Systemic" Files in Windows

Posted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 2:17 pm
by flamesabers
azurekep wrote:
jharkin wrote:I know you dont want to spend money, but storage is so stupid cheap now. $50 will get you a 128GB SSD that would be more than enough to hold a windows partition and some software. If you dont care about application loading speed when running the windows side you can get a used spinning drive in this size range for the price of a coffee.

And I would dump vista and just install a Win7 or Win10 partition if possible. Vista was one of the most hated windows versions for good reason...
The person involved likes Vista, so that's not a problem. One of the reasons not to throw money at this is that the only actual issue with the PC is the keyboard. Some of the letters are rubbing off. If enough letters disappear, it would be time to just dump the whole thing and get a new PC. Until then, it's about making the most of an otherwise nice computer that the user is happy with. Whatever floats one's boat. ;)
Vista's extended support will be ending next Tuesday on April 11.

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/hel ... fact-sheet

Unless the PC has strong security software or the PC isn't connected to the internet, I think upgrading to a newer OS is imperative to keeping one's PC secure. I upgraded my laptop recently from Vista to Windows 7. The total cost was about $30 for a product key for Windows 7.

Re: Deleting "Systemic" Files in Windows

Posted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:28 pm
by azurekep
flamesabers wrote: Vista's extended support will be ending next Tuesday on April 11.

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/hel ... fact-sheet

Unless the PC has strong security software or the PC isn't connected to the internet, I think upgrading to a newer OS is imperative to keeping one's PC secure. I upgraded my laptop recently from Vista to Windows 7. The total cost was about $30 for a product key for Windows 7.
Windows won't be connected to the internet.

I'm curious though, I didn't know Vista could be upgraded to Win7. The owner of the computer would rather go with Linux, but it's nice to know there are other options. (I personally wouldn't pay for Windows but others might.)

Re: Deleting "Systemic" Files in Windows

Posted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:07 pm
by flamesabers
azurekep wrote:
flamesabers wrote: Vista's extended support will be ending next Tuesday on April 11.

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/hel ... fact-sheet

Unless the PC has strong security software or the PC isn't connected to the internet, I think upgrading to a newer OS is imperative to keeping one's PC secure. I upgraded my laptop recently from Vista to Windows 7. The total cost was about $30 for a product key for Windows 7.
Windows won't be connected to the internet.

I'm curious though, I didn't know Vista could be upgraded to Win7. The owner of the computer would rather go with Linux, but it's nice to know there are other options. (I personally wouldn't pay for Windows but others might.)
I downloaded an upgrade adviser program from Microsoft's website to determine if my laptop could handle Windows 7.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/downloa ... aspx?id=20
Download and run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to see if your PC is ready for Windows 7. It scans your hardware, devices, and installed programs for known compatibility issues, gives you guidance on how to resolve potential issues found, and recommends what to do before you upgrade.
I then bought a product key for Windows 7 and the upgrade has been working for me since.

Re: Deleting "Systemic" Files in Windows

Posted: Sat Apr 08, 2017 9:52 pm
by azurekep
UPDATE:

Dual-boot is done. In the process, I managed to pare Vista down to 31GB. I then shrank the actual partition and created unallocated space. Initially, I couldn't shrink the partition, which it turns out is a known problem as per HowToGeek:

How to Get Around Windows’ “Shrink Volume” Inadequacy Problems

That article led me to another HowToGeek article which addressed how to delete system files. :)

How to Delete a System File in Windows 7 or Vista

Using their instrucions, I deleted c:\pagefile.sys file, which was 3GB+.

Here is the procedure for deleting a system file.
You need to take ownership of the files, and then assign yourself rights to delete or modify the file. For this, we’ll use the command line.

Open an administrator command prompt by typing cmd into the start menu search box, and hit the Ctrl+Shift+Enter key combination.

To take ownership of the file, you’ll need to use the takeown command. Here’s an example:

takeown /f C:\Windows\System32\en-US\winload.exe.mui

That will give you ownership of the file, but you still have no rights to delete it. Now you can run the cacls command to give yourself full control rights to the file:

cacls C:\Windows\System32\en-US\winload.exe.mui /G geek:F

Note that my username is geek, so you will substitute your username there.
Worked like a charm. At this point, it was too late in the game to try deleting any other system files, but it's good to know there is an actual procedure for this.

Re: Deleting "Systemic" Files in Windows

Posted: Sat Apr 08, 2017 10:06 pm
by random_walker_77
I went through something similar when I added an SSD. The SSD took a cloned image of the HD, but I wanted to keep the files on the HD and simply wipe out the OS stuff.

Here're my notes from deleting the "program files" folder in win 10:

taking ownership of files in order to delete them

>takeown /f "Program Files" /R /a /D y
Then in explorer, right click folder -> properties -> security->advanced, add permissions, including child objects
>icacls "Program Files" /reset /T
(optional) >attrib -S "Program Files" /S /D
>rmdir /s /q "Program Files"