Serious Disk Cleanup Problem in Windows caused by Broken Registration

Reader’s Query:   I have a 160GB Western Digital Hard Drive partitioned into a 40GB Operating System partition and the other 120GB for my files. However, when I run Disk Cleanup utility from within Vista Ultimate, it shows multiple 131GB options for me to clean up. After I clicked OK to cleanup the selected entries, it erased everything on the 40GB partition. I then had to reinstall Windows Vista, but the problem seems to be recurring.

(Information in this post applies to Windows Vista, 7, 8, & Windows 10 systems.)

Having received three more such questions, I decided to work on this issue. Here is the screenshot of what Disk Cleanup displayed:

Fig 1: Disk Cleanup showing the list of files to delete.

According to the above Disk Cleanup graphic, the Windows Error Reporting files constituted to 196 GB, which is impossible in this case. I asked for the registry export of this key from the affected system:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer \ VolumeCaches

The above registry location contains the list of Disk Cleanup handlers and their registration information. When comparing the settings with in my system I noticed that a really important value named Folder was missing in each of the following subkeys under the VolumeCaches branch:

|_ Windows Error Reporting Archive Files
|_ Windows Error Reporting Queue Files
|_ Windows Error Reporting System Archive Files
|_ Windows Error Reporting System Queue Files

This paragraph from the MSDN documentation provides the description for the Folder registry value:

A specific folder or folders to search for items matching entries in the FileList value. You can specify wildcards using the ? or * characters. If the value is of type REG_SZ, multiple folder names are separated using the | character, without spaces on either side of it. If a CSIDL value is present, only one folder can be specified in this value. The location indicated by the CSIDL value is prepended to that folder path to compose a search path. For an example, see the CSIDL value description. If this value is absent, the root folder of the current volume is used. The DDEVCF_DOSUBDIRS flag is needed in that case to search the entire drive.

Note the last line which states that the Disk Cleanup will recursively search the entire volume for the list of files mentioned in the FileList registry value (*.* wildcard used in this case) and include everything on the volume for deletion, if the DDEVCF_DOSUBDIRS flags is enabled (which is enabled by default).

Fixing the Disk Cleanup WER Handlers

Available below are the REG files to fix the Folder registry values in each of the above registry keys, which resolved the issue indeed. This is what Disk Cleanup showed after running the fix:

Disk Cleanup Problem

Downloads for Windows Vista or 7 for Windows 8 for Windows 10

Although I could identify where the problem was, but had no clue on how the Folders value vanished in the first place. This may have been a result of running a registry cleaner. At any case, have an eye on the disk space showed in Total amount of the disk space you gain: section of the Disk Cleanup window every time when you do the cleanup work. I hope this post helped you avert a major problem in your system. Readers who’re using registry cleaners and experiencing this issue, feel free to comment on this article.

About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and has a vast experience in the ITeS industry — delivering support for Microsoft's consumer products. He has been a Microsoft MVP [2003 to 2012] who contributes to various Windows support forums.

13 thoughts on “Serious Disk Cleanup Problem in Windows caused by Broken Registration

  1. @Barry: If the Folder value exists (with correct value type) and pointing to the correct folder the problem should not occur. Perhaps you can send me the registry exports of those keys so that I can do a reg compare.

  2. @Ramesh: thanks for following up. I did not check it before hand, guess I should have. Yes, ‘folder’ is is showing on those 4 registry entries.

  3. @Barry: Glad you averted a serious crisis. Have you checked if the disk cleanup handers for WER is still missing the “Folder” value?

  4. Wow! I ran into the same problem.

    On a 120gb SSD for Win7 computer, Disk Cleanup was showing 149gb in “System queued Windows Error Reporting”.

    The issue was so strange, that I thought best to research first. I am *very* glad that I did so, before clicking “OK” to delete. I keep good backups, but I’ll be damned to have to re-install everything.

    I ran the cleanmgrfix.reg file, re-booted, the error persisted. I manually deleted all of the files in C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\WER. This worked.

    I have been using 360 Total Security and it does a very good job on the options Speedup, Cleanup, and System Backup Cleaner. I will never use Windows Disk Cleanup again.

  5. Disk cleanup on windows 7 is a joke – not only has it deleted the registry keys specific to my manufacturer of laptop (gateway) it has wiped my product key and the temporary files linking the slic key to the product key.. I have a config file with all keys for all manufactueres for win7 ultimate it wont take any – I cannot re run the upgrade option from setup either wierd cannot read image error is displayed… I shrank my 250gb volume to allow another insytall on the seperate partition and stillwont accept my key that I have used fine for 3 years… I didnt see it had ticked remove system restor file either and now im goosed… what a joke microsoft!! create utilities that at least warn u it may affect system settings and config u clowns!!

  6. I ran cleanmgrfix, but the large Windows Error Report files remain! Do you have a reversal for the fix. Or can you explain why the Disk cleanup states are unchanged
    Thanks, Kerryn

  7. Around 138 Gb of my personal data was deleted due to this stupid bug,Using recovery softwares i could get most of it back,but the problem is all the office and multimedia files are corrupted.

  8. This seriously screwed up my computer. I ran the clean up anyways and tried to use system restore to get my files back. When I logged on it said my windows key was invalid so now I’m posting here with Ubuntu. I’m hoping that a recovery program will get my files back since they went back 3 years (1000’s of photos). Has anyone done this clean up and were able to recover their files? What program did you use?

  9. Hi,
    i had the same problem, but i proceeded with disk cleanup thinking this is a display error, and all my files were deleted, everything that is on my laptop disappeared.
    has it occured to anyone? is there a way of restoring anything?
    it is very urgent for this is the work laptop.

    thanks for your help!

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