If you’ve installed Windows XP Service Pack 2 on top of an
existing Windows XP installation and are satisfied with the way your system is
behaving, you may want to consider removing the SP2 Uninstall files–especially
if you want to keep your hard disk free from unnecessary clutter. The SP2
uninstall files take up anywhere from 300MB to 450MB of disk space. In fact, while
you’re at it you might also want to think about clearing out the Uninstall
files for all the Hotfixes you installed before you installed SP2. (The SP2
installation procedure leaves the prior Hotfix Uninstall files in place in case
you want to uninstall SP2 and then uninstall a particular Hotfix.) You can also
remove any Hotfix Uninstall files for Hotfixes that you’ve installed after SP2
if you’re satisfied with the way they work.

Even though the goal here is to remove the Uninstall files
because you no longer feel that you need them and would prefer to have the
extra hard disk space available for data and applications, you should make
backup copies of the SP2 and other Hotfix Uninstall files. That way, should you
ever decide to uninstall the files, you can restore the Uninstall files and
then uninstall them

In this article I’ll walk you through the entire procedure for
backing up and removing SP2 and other Hotfix Uninstall files. As I do, I’ll
also show you how to remove the SP2 and Hotfix uninstall listings from the
Add/Remove Programs tool.

Author’s Note: Windows File Protection

Several folks with whom I’ve discussed this technique with
mistakenly assumed that if you removed the SP2 Uninstall files, you would run
into problems with Windows File Protection, which would no longer be able to do
its job. However, that’s not the case.

When you install SP2 on a Windows XP system, the installation
procedure actually creates a separate folder in the Windows folder called
ServicePackFiles\i386 in which the operating system keeps backup copies of all
the main files replaced by SP2. This folder is then used by Windows File
Protection in the event that a crucial system file needs to be replaced. In
addition, the operating system uses the ServicePackFiles\i386 folder to store
those files that are needed to install optional Windows components that aren’t
installed by default.

Locating and assessing the Uninstall files

The Windows XP operating system stores the SP2 and other
Hotfix Uninstall files inside the C:\Windows folder as Hidden folders. As such
you’ll need to be sure that you’ve enabled the Show Hidden Files and Folders
option on the View tab of the Folder Options dialog box.

Once you can view the Hidden folders in Windows Explorer,
you’ll be able to easily locate and identify the SP2 and other Hotfix Uninstall
folders as their names all begin with a $ and end with a $. For example, the
SP2 Uninstall files are stored in a folder called $NTServicePackUninstall$ and
typical Hotfix Uninstall files are stored in folders named like
$NTUninstallKB######, where KB###### refers to the Knowledge Base article ID
number that describes the Hotfix.

At this point, you can investigate the folders and determine
which ones you want to backup and then remove. While you’re doing so, you can find
out how much disk space each Uninstall folder is occupying. To do so, right-click
on any folder, select the Properties command, and check out the Size On Disk
section on the General tab.

Compiling a sorted list

If there are a lot of Hotfix folders in the Windows folder
and you want to be able to quickly determine which Hotfixes were installed
prior to installing SP2 and which Hotfixes were installed after installing SP2,
you can quickly and easily compile a text file listing of all the Hotfix
folders sorted by date with a simple command line. Here’s how:

1.      Open
a Command Prompt window

2.      Access
the Windows directory by typing the command:
CD \Windows

3.      Compile
the sorted list and send it to a text file by typing the command:
Dir /ahd /od $*.* > HotfixFolders.txt

4.      Load
the file into Notepad for viewing and printing by typing the command:
Notepad HotfixFolders.txt

Now you can scan through the list, locate the
$NTServicePackUninstall$ folder and quickly identify which Hotfixes were
installed before and after SP2. This makes it a snap to determine which ones
you want to backup and then remove.

Making backup copies

While the idea of trashing unnecessary clutter from your
hard disk, on the surface sounds very appealing, when it comes right down to it
and you’re just about to perform the Delete operation, chances are that you’ll
get butterflies in your stomach and start second guessing the wisdom of such a
move. As such, it’s a good idea to make backup copies of the uninstall files.
That way, should you ever decide that you do want to uninstall SP2 or any of
the Hotfixes, you can still do so by first restoring the Uninstall files.

If you have a CD-RW or DVD-RW drive, you can easily make
backup copies of your SP2 and Hotfix Uninstall folders by right-clicking on the
folder(s) and selecting Send To | Driveletter
where Driveletter is your CD-RW or
DVD-RW drive. If you’ll be saving backup copies on another hard disk or a
network drive, you can use Copy and Paste or Drag and Drop.

Removing the Uninstall folders

As you may have surmised, removing the SP2 and Hotfix
Uninstall folders is a simple matter of deleting the folders. However, some of
the folders, like SP2, are quite large and can potentially cause the Recycle
Bin to choke. As such, you’ll want to bypass the Recycle Bin and permanently
delete them. To do so, select a folder and then press and hold down [Shift] as
you click the Delete button.

Eliminating the Add Or Remove Programs entries

The Add Or Remove Programs tool contains a check box at the
top of the screen labeled Show Updates, that when selected, shows you all of
the installed Hotfixes, thus allowing you to remove, or uninstall, the Hotfix.
(SP2 shows up in the Add Or Remove Programs regardless of whether this check
box is selected.)

Well, these entries remain in the Add Or Remove Programs
tool after you’ve deleted the SP2 and Hotfix Uninstall folders. As such you’ll
want to eliminate them from the Add Or Remove Programs tool. Fortunately, doing
so is a simple procedure.

To begin, access the Add Or Remove Programs tool and select
the Show Updates check box at the top of the Add Or Remove Programs window.
Now, scroll through the list and select the entry titled Windows XP Service
Pack 2. When the entry expands, click the Remove button. When you do you’ll see
an Uninstaller Error dialog box like the one shown in Figure A.

Figure A:

Once Windows discovers that the Uninstall files are missing, it prompts you
to remove the entry in Add Or Remove Programs.

As you can see, not only does this dialog box alert you to
the fact that the operating system cannot remove Windows XP Service Pack 2, but
it also prompt you to remove the entry from the Add Or Remove Programs tool’s
list. To do so, simply click Yes.

To remove the Hotfix entries from the Add Or Remove Programs
tool, scroll down to the Windows XP Software Updates section, select a Hotfix
entry that you want to eliminate, click the Remove button, and follow the steps
outlined earlier

Undoing the procedure

If at a later date you decide that you want to uninstall SP2
or a particular Hotfix, all you have to do is restore the Uninstall folder to
the Windows folder. Once you do so, just open the Uninstall folder, open the
Spuninst folder, and double-click the Spuninst.exe file to launch the removal
procedure.