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.


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...

Editor's Picks