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How to clear the 'SoftwareDistribution' folder on Windows 10 and make updates happen again

On Windows 10, the "SoftwareDistribution" folder is an essential component for Windows Update, which temporarily stores files needed to install new updates to keep your device secure and with the latest fixes and improvements.

This folder is maintained by the WUAgent (Windows Update Agent), and typically, it should be left alone, but there will be times when you may need to clear its content manually in the case the Datastore and Download folders aren't synchronized, and it's preventing Windows Update from applying new updates to your PC.

Usually, if you're having trouble with Windows Update, or after updates have been applied, it's safe to empty the content of the SoftwareDistribution folder. Windows 10 will always re-download all the necessary files, or re-create the folder and re-download all the components, if removed.

In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through the steps to delete the content inside the SoftwareDistribution folder. As an alternative option, we'll also show you the steps to rename the folder, in case you only want to test if the folder's content is the one causing problems.

How to clear the 'SoftwareDistribution' folder

To delete the content inside the SoftwareDistribution folder, do the following:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the result, and select Run as administrator.
  3. Type the following command to stop the Windows Update Service and press Enter:net stop wuauserv
  4. Type the following command to stop the Background Intelligent Transfer Service and press Enter:net stop bits

  1. Use the Windows key + R keyboard shortcut to open the Run command.
  2. Open File Explorer and browse the following path:C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution
  3. Select all its content and click the Delete button to clear the content.Quick Tip: In the case, you're having trouble deleting all the files, simply restart your computer, and try again.

  1. On Command Prompt, type the following command to start the Windows Update Service and press Enter:net start wuauserv
  2. Type the following command to start the Background Intelligent Transfer Service and press Enter:net start bits

Once you completed the steps, Windows 10 will reconfigure the folder and re-download all the necessary components.

How to rename the 'SoftwareDistribution' folder

If you don't want to delete the content inside of the folder, you can alternatively, rename the folder to troubleshoot Windows Update problems.

To rename the SoftwareDistribution folder, do the following:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the result, and select Run as administrator.
  3. Type the following command to stop the Windows Update Service and press Enter:net stop wuauserv
  4. Type the following command to stop the Background Intelligent Transfer Service and press Enter:net stop bits

  1. Use the Windows key + R keyboard shortcut to open the Run command.
  2. Type the following command to rename the folder and press Enter:rename %windir%\SoftwareDistribution SoftwareDistribution.bakQuick Tip: If the command isn't letting you rename the folder, try steps No. 3 and 4 one more time, and then try to rename the folder.

  1. Type the following command to start the Windows Update Service and press Enter:net start wuauserv
  2. Type the following command to start the Background Intelligent Transfer Service and press Enter:net start bits

After you've completed the steps, Windows 10 will re-create the folder and re-download all the necessary components.

The only caveat with this process is that the SoftwareDistribution folder also includes the Windows Update history information, which means that emptying up the folder will result in loss of this data. In addition, you'll notice that Windows Update will take longer than usual to detect and update your computer because the WUAgent must check and re-create the Datastore information. However, it's a small price to pay to get your device to update again.

While sometimes the folder may grow, it's only recommended to use these instructions only when necessary. You shouldn't mess with the SoftwareDistribution folder to free up storage space on your computer.

More Windows 10 resources

For more help articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10, visit the following resources:

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

29 Comments
  • Thanks... Any tips for removing files from the system volume folder? I have almost 50 GB lost in here and can't remove apps that aren't even installed anymore (Killer Instinct =40+ GB). I have tried deleting system restore points and making the size smaller for the allowed space. Also giving myself permissions doesn't allow me to delete anything through file explorer.
  • Completely disable System Restore, and re-enable it after.
  • I tried that too, even deleted points after disabling and then re-enabling. Maybe I need to restart in between or does that not matter anymore?
  • Are you really sure for this 50 GB ? Try restart, yes.
  • Yep. Used Wiztree to figure out what is burning up my hard drive space. Going to try restarting this evening, though I doubt it will help.
  • One person on Microsoft Answers mentioned setting System Restore to use 0% of the disk then set it to what you want it to be later. I don't know if this will help. https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_7-performance/...
  • Yeah, that's the link I saw that told me to try that in the first place. I caught a strange bug that caused OneDrive to stop working correctly, so my solution was to delete myself as a user and recreate my account. I believe this caused these files to be orphaned, or it may have been cloning the drive previously. Either way, quite annoying. Going to try a few programs if I can't do it with Windows settings.
  • what was the onedrive bug?
  • I simply copied the folders to a backup folder and that caused it to not synch properly and I could not reselect the folders that I wanted to synch in the settings (some error popup). Sp then I uninstalled the app in preparation of a reinstall to correct it (which isn't even supposed to be possible), then found out because it's built in now that I can't download it. Found some support answers that showed a location possible location in Windows or app data folders where it is stored to force a reinstall, wasn't there or errored out. I believe I finally got the folders back, but couldn't get them to realize they were supposed to be synch folders and couldn't get past the startup dialog of the app.
  • I don't know if this is safe, but it might be possible to delete the files from a Linux Live CD, although I've never tried it. In case you don't know, Linux stores deleted files in a ".Trash-1000" folder on the root of whichever drive files were deleted from, so make sure to delete that folder from Windows after verifying that everything works properly to regain space.
  • Probably will end up doing a fresh install if it comes to doing something like that. Probably should have done that instead of cloning in the first place, but the wife would have found something messed up on here side that didn't copy properly.
  • "Type the following command to stop the Windows Update Service and press Enter: net start wuauserv"
  • Try deleting your program's Cache
  • I would like to know one thing. Why for most of these topics, is it specified "for Windows 10". All these tutorials or other tips apply to all Windows for at least 10 years and Vista (sometimes even XP). For clicks?
  • to stop all the "my update screen doesn't look like that" comments.
  • Windows 10 is the major key 🔑 now and it continue to be, unless Microsoft tries to Reboot the OS again, either way Windows Central is gonna continue talking about Windows 10.
  • No sense. It's for Windows, not specially on Windows 10, and when you see marketshare... (I'm on Windows 10 on 4 devices)
  • Either call it "Windows 10 Central" or else publish articles covering Windows 8.1 and Windows 7.
  • XP, Vista and even Windows 2000 for some topics.
  • What about 3.1 or 95? Why leave them out? Windows 10 is the current OS. There are plenty of guides on the net regarding the previous editions. I personally would rather not have my time wasted with obsolete articles.
  • To avoid all kind if issues, I dual boot Windows, boot the new one, delete the SoftwareDiatribution folder for the broken one from there!!
  • Just use a boot USB/CD instead :-) I still use Hiren for some tasks and its mini XP is really useful for that
  • Quick question, does this also fix Windows store downloads????
  • No. Try WSReset.exe in search
  • Since this issue can cause W10 to stop downloading updates from MS, something which for many people would be desirable, could someone add the info on how to adjust this folder to block Windows Updates? It could possibly be used via a script to switch updates on or off.
  • For those on a Domain with a local update server there is one other step that helps a lot;
    after deleting/renaming the software distro folder, open up Regedit
    go to: Computer\hkey_local_machine\software\policies\microsoft\windows\windowsupdate\au
    the last value in there needs to be changed from "1" to "0" Then start the update service again and all will be well. The first update you do will hit the MS servers, and after reboot it will hit the local update server again (when it picks up policy to update the registry key).
  • Could have used this article a week ago.  My Nuvision tablet wasn't updating so just reinstalled Windows.
  • Same here with my SP3.  Oh well is kind of nice to have a fresh install.
  • There is an Update troubleshooter, that should take care of any Update issues instead of this hacking under the hood.