Stop Disk Cleanup and Storage Sense from Emptying your Downloads folder

If you use Disk Cleanup, you will want to be aware of a change to its options since the October 2018 feature update (v1809). Disk Cleanup, now also has the option to delete the contents of your Downloads folder.

disk cleanup downloads folder

However, many users like to use the Downloads folder as permanent storage area to preserve their downloaded files. This post tells you how to prevent Disk Cleanup and the modern Storage Sense tools from clearing files in your Downloads folder.

Prevent Disk Cleanup from Emptying your Downloads folder

When you start Disk Cleanup normally, the Downloads option (aka, disk cleanup handler) is unchecked by default. However, if the disk space is dangerously low, Task Scheduler run Disk Cleanup with the /LOWDISK or /VERYLOWDISK parameter silently. When these parameters are used the Downloads folder is also selected.

Related article: Start Disk Cleanup With All Checkbox Options Enabled by Default

To prevent the Downloads folder from being emptied by Disk Cleanup, you’ll need to remove the Disk Cleanup Downloads handler from the registry. Follow these steps:

  1. Start the Registry Editor (regedit.exe)
  2. Go to the following branch:
  3. Right-click on the DownloadsFolder key, click Export. Save the branch to a REG file.
  4. Right-click on the DownloadsFolder key, and choose Delete.
  5. Quit the Registry Editor.

    Disk Cleanup’s “Downloads” option should now be gone.
    disk cleanup remove downloads option

Prevent Disk Cleanup and Storage Sense from Emptying your Downloads folder

Storage Sense (Storage settings) is the modern app which replaces the Disk Cleanup classic desktop tool. Storage Sense frees up space by deleting things like Recycle Bin contents, temporary files, and “Previous versions of Windows” files.

Since Windows 10 v1809, Storage Sense also has options to clear the Downloads folder. However, the user can choose whether or not the Downloads folder can be cleared by Storage Sense.

Follow these steps to exclude the Downloads folder from automatic cleanup by Storage Sense:

  1. Click Start, Settings.
  2. Click System, and select Storage
    storage sense cleanup settings
  3. Click Change how we free up space automatically
  4. Set “Delete files in my Downloads if they have been there for over” option to Never
    storage sense clear downloads folder
  5. Close the Settings window.

That’s it! Windows 10 Disk Cleanup and Storage Settings should no longer empty your Downloads folder henceforth.

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Ramesh Srinivasan is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a consecutive ten-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award in the Windows Shell/Desktop Experience category, from 2003 to 2012. He loves to troubleshoot and write about Windows. Ramesh founded in 2005.

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