Windows 8

Windows 8: land of the timed deletion

One of the "features" of Windows 8's set-up process is the timed removal of old Windows installs after a month of usage.

Someone needs to tell the Windows 8 installation/upgrade team that they have a camel on their hands.

What is a camel? According to the old maxim, a camel is a horse designed by committee. And one of the new features of Windows 8's set-up stinks of compromise and committee.

The feature in question is the timed deletion of previous Windows installation on a hard drive -- typically stored in a folder called Windows.old.

In Microsoft's own words:

This means that during the "apply" phase of [the] upgrade (once we are running in Windows 8), everything we need to preserve can be extracted from the Windows.old folder (as we touch no other folders during the upgrade), eliminating the need for a gather phase. Speaking of the Windows.old folder, we have also added a new feature that automatically deletes that folder four weeks after a successful install, so you don’t have to worry about removing it. Of course, you can still use the Disk Cleanup tool to remove it immediately, if you prefer.

Isn't that nice of Microsoft? Rather than asking the user to remove files immediately after install, because it would be annoying for users to scour the web looking for device drivers, Windows 8 will give four weeks of leeway before "automatic deletion". I figure that four weeks is more than enough time for the user to make a mental note of checking that directory and turning around five weeks later to yell at the screen when the folder has disappeared.

I do hope that the above scenario is a large exaggeration, and that the user will be prompted numerous times to check the folder. Surely the best and easiest way to let the user delete the folder is to prompt them regularly to start up the Disk Cleanup tool and press the delete button themselves, instead of having the operating system delete a folder simply because a timer has expired.

With the improved set-up/upgrade process described in the blog post, having to fish into the remnants of a previous Windows installation should make a rare occurrence even rarer -- the process is intended to be good enough to save all the personal files and programs that the user wants without going into the Windows.old folder.

Microsoft should either back itself and stand behind its new installation process, or, if a back-up of an old install is truly needed, let it be deleted with a user's authority.

This halfway house of deletion after a month is a bad compromise for all sides of this argument.

Bonus points for comments if you can tell me about how Microsoft's set-up telemetry works, or how hard linking of a partition's files to a transport location will work with formatting said partition.

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Some would say that it is a long way from software engineering to journalism, others would correctly argue that it is a mere 10 metres according to the floor plan.During his first five years with CBS Interactive, Chris started his journalistic advent...

11 comments
gavin.burgess
gavin.burgess

Yes, it's a non-issue and the folder can easily be deleted/renamed/whatevered, but this kind of thing is annoyingly typical of Micro$oft, the company that brought us "are you sure?" as their stock response to every action and renamed the trash can to the "Recycle Bin", like deleting a bunch of 1s and 0s can be done in an environmentally friendly way. "Yes, Nana, I'm sure. Please send the file to the recycle bin. Thank you, Nana." Hey, my real Nana passed away forty years ago. I don't need Micro$oft as a surrogate.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

What? It isn't? Well, then I hate that feature! :D Just keep it. It can be deleted before performing the next OS install... replacing it with the current OS. Would be better if Win8 would automagically notice if windows.old is referenced, then migrate the referenced part to windows.new and fix the reference... I mean, that would be actually useful.

TNT
TNT

Seriously? Who could possibly complain about the installer cleaning up after itself? The point of the windows.old folder is to assist in the migration from the previous Windows version, and if Windows 8 hasn't needed to go back to that folder for anything in 4 weeks, then the folder isn't necessary any longer. But if it really bothers you rename the folder. Problem solved.

warrenhottie
warrenhottie

This smacks more & more like Microsoft is becoming an acronym for BIG BROTHER telling us even more what we can have on our computers & what we can't!

Realvdude
Realvdude

Given the size of hard drives anymore, does the whole thing need to be removed. Additionally, they could prompt the user for what they would like to do: Delete it, Remind me in x days, Compress it, Don't ask again.

stevenospam2000
stevenospam2000

If you have restore points configured, won't you be able to restore windows.old from a restore point? I personally don't mind if the windows.old directory gets deleted because I'll have a backup.

sysop-dr
sysop-dr

It doesn't reference it migrates the driver or whatever to the new windows, but you know people they don't plug everything in and try it the first day, so Widnwso is giving you 4 weeks to plug in that device you only use once a month and then it will go hey new device, there is a driver for it in windows old, let us copy it to windows new. Hopefully after 4 weeks you have plugged everything in. But who doesn't first thing after a new OS install check they can get to the web. If you can get to the web you can probably get a driver there for your device automagically. But there are cases where someone is unable to get on the web immediately, so they have 4 weeks. There will still be some people who don't get everything migrated, so in those cases backup the windows old.

dogknees
dogknees

The system tells you what's going to happen. So plan for it.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Is it going to end the world to leave those measly hundreds of megs around? People waste more space on old recovery points (since the old recovery points will, according to murphy, be corrupt if they're ever needed).

sysop-dr
sysop-dr

the user could make a backup to say a dvd or tape or another partition or just rename it. But the only people who seem to be worried and or will have any problem with this at all are the people like us who should know how to handle it themselves. the other 99% of windows users won't notice or care. it's a non issue in that if any drivers or anything else already in windows.old that Windows 8 doesn't find a need to copy out to its own space already then it is perfectly fine to delete it. They figure that after a month you would have already asked windows 8 to do anything that anything useful in that directory would already have been migrated. So 4 weeks was decided as the number and if you ask me it's 3+ weeks to long anyway. If you have some peripheral that you use that you haven't plugged in to the computer in those four weeks I am sure that you can find a way to get the proper driver for it from the net.

seanferd
seanferd

A lot of people ascribe magical abilities to System Restore, but I personally have never seen it work even for it's intended purpose. I've read that it has worked for some people, though.