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[Fix] Cannot Delete WindowsApps folder on Non-System Drives

If you have changed the default app save location to an external hard drive or secondary drive, Windows will create three folders, namely, WpSystem, WindowsApps, and WUDownloadCache on the target drive.

You may later change your mind and revert the default save location to C:\. But you may be unable to delete the leftover WindowsApps folder on your secondary drive due to tight NTFS permissions assigned to the folder. The other two folders, WpSystem and WUDownloadCache can be deleted easily.

When you access the WindowsApps folder on your secondary drive, you may see the following message:

You have been denied permission to access this folder.

And the Advanced Security Settings dialog shows the error:

Can't open access control editor. Unable to perform a security operation on an object that has no associated security.

This article explains how to properly delete the leftover WindowsApps folder on your secondary or external hard disk drive(s).

How to Delete the WindowsApps folder on non-system drives

You must delete the WindowsApps folder on the non-system drive(s) only if it is not your default app save folder and doesn’t contain any apps. If you have any apps installed in the secondary drive, please uninstall them first.

Step 1: Uninstall the apps in non-system drives

In Settings → Apps & Features, you can filter the list of apps by drive letter (e.g., D:\). In the following example, I have two apps, namely, Instagram and Microsoft VS Code. The VS Code is not a UWP app, and hence it’s not installed in the WindowsApps folder.

I went ahead and uninstalled Instagram before wiping out the WindowsApps folder manually (in Step 3 below).

Step 2: Revert the default app save location to the default

The default app save location can be changed by opening Settings → System → Storage → Change where new content is saved. Make sure it’s set to C:\ drive or your system drive.

Changing the setting on the above page would update the DefaultVolumeKey registry value under the following key:


Step 3: Delete the WindowsApps folder on the non-system drive

The unused WindowsApps folder on your secondary drive or external hard drive can be deleted by taking ownership of the folder and assigning your account full control permissions for the folder.

(The procedure is the same as deleting the Windows.old folder using Command Prompt.)

To delete the WindowsApps folder on the D:\ drive, run these commands:

takeown /f d:\windowsapps /r

icacls d:\windowsapps /grant administrators:F /t

rd d:\windowsapps /s /q

Important: Don’t accidentally delete the WindowsApps folder on your C:\Program Files folder.

In some cases, the takeown command produces the following error:
ERROR: Access is denied.

In that case, please open Command Prompt as TrustedInstaller and carry out the steps.

Getting an error?

Are you seeing the following error message after running the above commands?

The process cannot access the file because it is being used by another process.

If so, it means that one of the apps installed on that location is currently open. Terminate the app, uninstall it as per the instructions in “Step 1” above, and repeat the deletion procedure.

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