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:
cleanmgrfix.zip for Windows Vista or 7
cleanmgrfix-w8-1.zip for Windows 8
cleanmgr-w10.zip 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 Winhelponline.com 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.