Sunday, July 15, 2012

Save precious SSD storage by moving the Windows Installer files

One thing I hate about the Windows Installer is that it leaves the installer files behind, even after you have installed the the application. The reason for that is the *modify* and *reinstall* features that Windows Installer provides. (E.g.: Microsoft Office. You can add/remove different portions of the applications without doing a full uninstall first.) These installer files keep gathering up with each application that you install. Some times, you might not even uninstall the app ever again. These installers can sometimes become a real pain too, especially when updating an application. Sometimes, when you update an application, the old installer will be left in the drive and it won’t have any use again. Such a waste. Small applications should never use Windows Installer. There are much better alternative.
 
The space consumed by these installer files can be reasonably large, depending on the applications that you have installed in your PC – especially if you have many number of suites like Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, Visual Studio, MSDN etc. etc. In my case, the installer folder is consuming about 5GB.
 
Wanna know where the installer files are located at? Type this in Run dialog and hit enter.
%windir%\installer
You might not be able see the “installer” folder from within your Windows folder because it is a hidden, system folder. You have to change a couple of settings in Folder Options to make it visible.
 
How to show up hidden system folders
OK. Did you check the size of your installer folder? Now you must be thinking, “I won’t ever use modify or reinstall feature; I can simply delete these files, right?” Wrong. If you do this, you will break the uninstaller. You will not be able to uninstall your software.
 
But never fear. If there is a will, there is a way. You can move those files to a hard drive without disrupting their purpose. For that, use the symbolic links.
Here are the steps:
  1. Make a new folder in your HDD. Let’s assume it is D:\SaveMySSD\Installer
  2. Copy everything in the %windir%\installer to D:\SaveMySSD\Installer
  3. Delete installer in Windows folder.
  4. Open command prompt as Administrator and go to Windows folder.
  5. Type and enter: mklink /d installer D:\SaveMySSD\Installer
  6. Now when you install new applications that use Windows Installer, they will go into the folder you newly created. When you refer to the installer files when uninstalling or modifying the software, the installer files in the new location will be referred.
Note: You need administrator credentials to do this. That is why we launch CMD as Administrator.
 
Edit: Now you can use the Symbolic Link Maker app to do it easier.
 
After you create the symbolic link, it will show up like this if you browse your Windows folder. (%windir)
 
after creating the symbolic link
When you double click it, it will take you to the new folder, but in the address bar of the Windows Explorer, it will still show up as C:\Windows\installer. But the real folder is D:\SaveMySSD\Installer.
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