How to Delete an Old Windows Installation Folder from Windows 7

After recently upgrading my computer with an SSD, I needed to clean up my old system hard drive. I thought “Oh, all I have to do is open windows explorer as administrator and surely I’ll be able to just delete the old Windows folder from my old HDD.” As you can imagine, I was wrong – of course Microsoft had to make this semi-common task into a cryptic puzzle.

Here are the steps that worked for me, but be careful! This will wipe out permissions within the Windows directory you’re about to delete, so be sure you’re ready to trash it!

Take ownership of the windows directory:

  1. Go: Properties -> Security -> Advanced -> Owner -> Edit
  2. Select your username from the “Change owner to” list
  3. Select the checkbox to “Replace owner on subcontainer and objects”
  4. Click Apply, dismiss the warning, and then hit OK
  5. Click OK again, in the Advanced Security Settings dialog

Ensure your username is in the list of users for this folder

  1. Go: Properties -> Security -> Edit
  2. If your username isn’t in the list of users, click Add
  3. Enter your username and click “Check Names”
  4. When your username is found and displayed in the text box, click OK
  5. Click OK to close the Permissions dialog

Give yourself write permission to the folder and all its contents

  1. Now back in the Properties dialog, go: Advanced -> Change Permissions
  2. Select your username and click Edit
  3. Select the “Full Control – Allow” checkbox
  4. Ensure that “Apply to” is set to “This folder, subfolders and files”
  5. Select the “Apply these permissions to objects and/or containers within this container only” and click OK
  6. Select the “Replace all child object permissions with inheritable permissions from this object” and click OK
  7. Click OK on the confirmation dialog that comes up
  8. Click OK to several times to close out the dialogs completely

Now, you’ll be able to delete the folder without any permissions troubles! Yay!