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Windows duplicates (and keeps) your installers (and NVIDIA does it too)

Today, I decided to do some computer cleaning, and I thought I’d search and destroy some large-ish duplicate files. Since I had forgotten what was my usual duplicate finding software, I found that old one called simply “Duplicate Files Finder“, which is open source and still working nicely and at least doesn’t weigh a ton like most modern software does.

Windows hoards your installers

I found no less than 28 GB of duplicate files. Notably, I had a whole Windows partition backup, from when I had a disaster and made a full partition dump before reinstalling, which caused the duplicate finder to search through what would have normally been hidden/system folders (by default, the software doesn’t look into those). And it found a bunch of duplicated installers in 2 Windows folders:
C:\Program Files (x86)\InstallShield Installation Information

Apparently, Windows keeps installers (or a portion of them) there for uninstallation purposes. I guess that would be okay if all developers prepared just a small uninstaller for that purpose, but sadly quite a few of them are lazy and will just dump the whole freaking installer in there. Way to optimize space use… 😡
You can delete those if you want to reclaim the space, however you’ll then need the installer whenever you want to uninstall the concerned programs. So I’d recommend only deleting the really big ones, if any and if you think you won’t miss the easy uninstall option: in my case, the total contents of both folders were around 2.5 GB, with one installer taking up about 1 GB, so I only deleted that one.

Comodo and NVIDIA do a similar mess too

Comodo Firewall keeps its installer in C:\ProgramData\Comodo\Installer. But the very same installer is also kept in C:\Windows\Installer. Not sure how safe it is to delete one or the other (vis-à-vis the updates), so I kept both because it’s not too huge. At least, unlike NVIDIA, they don’t keep the whole freaking history!

You read right, I also found that NVIDIA keeps all its drivers installers (not just the last one) in C:\Program Files\NVIDIA Corporation\Installer2. And at the same time, Windows keeps them in C:\Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository (folders named nvcvi.inf*). And this time it’s pretty huge: 2.5 GB in each folder. Yet, luckily, I skipped many driver updates: I assume someone who updates every time will get at least 10 wasted GB per year (probably a bunch more), unless maybe older versions start getting discarded after a certain quantity is reached.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe it makes sense to keep the previous installer, in case an update goes South (although it’s very easy to either keep the installer yourself, or just get it back from NVIDIA’s website). However, I see no point in keeping a lengthy history. So hurray, about 4 GB reclaimed, and on my system partition, too (which happens to be my smallest).
The ones in C:\Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository can be a bit tricky to delete, but DriverStore Explorer, ran as administrator, should do the trick.

More to be found?

I only mentioned my main findings here, because the detailed list isn’t that relevant: it will depend on your setup, so my advice would be to run Duplicate Files Finder (or a similar program) yourself, making sure you configure it to search through all folders (meaning hidden and system folders too).

Of course, the usual common sense applies: investigate and think before you delete stuff. That means don’t delete stuff directly from the software, but do go have a look in the detected files’ folders first. And don’t delete stuff you’re not sure you can delete.
Also a tip: set a minimal file size to at least a few bytes: you most likely don’t want to bother with the super tiny files, and it will make the scan faster. From my first scan, I feel 50KB sounds a nice limit (NB: Duplicate Files Finder takes an input in bytes, so 50000)

Other various things I found this way (non-exhaustive list, just the biggest ones):

  • Kaspersky does the same thing as Comodo (keeps its installer in C:\ProgramData\Kaspersky Lab Setup Files but it’s also in C:\Windows\Installer
  • Intel Thunderbolt drivers: C:\Program Files (x86)\Intel\Thunderbolt Software\Drivers and C:\Windows\Installer
  • VeraCrypt: just keeps its whole installer in C:\Program Files\VeraCrypt (it’s not duplicated in C:\Windows\Installer but it’s still ridiculous)
  • Some utility specific to my laptop brand kept a copy of the .NET Framework installer for himself in C:\Program Files (x86)\Hotkey
  • Comodo again: it seems that I was wrong, they keep some kind of history, only in one place. It also has an alias, which is why my duplicate finder picked it up: C:\ProgramData\Comodo\CisDumps and C:\Users\All Users\Comodo\CisDumps

All in all, NVIDIA takes the cake by far though. If you want to play it lazy, that would be your one thing to clean.

Posted in nVidia, Windows, Windows 10.

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