How to Fix: Can't Delete 'C:\System Recovery' Folder

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Barry P. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I have an HP computer running Windows 10 (previously upgraded from Windows 8), and it's running very slow. I'd like to reinstall Windows - but before I do that, I want to back everything up onto external hard drive. I want to keep the backup as small as possible - as such, I noticed that I have a 'C:\System Recovery' folder with 'C:\System Recovery\Repair' and 'C:\System Recovery\Repair\Backup' subfolders. The 'C:\System Recovery' folder is taking up 40GB of data and I'd like to know if it's safe to delete. I have another machine here and I don't have a 'C:\System Recovery' folder on it. Can you help? "

My response:

From my initial research, it appeared that the "C:\System Recovery" folder may be specific to HP computers, as these folders are not typically found on the majority of Windows installations I've come across. Some posts online suggested that the "C:\System Recovery" folder is used in conjunction with "HP Recovery Manager," which is used to reinstall hardware drivers and software programs that originally came with HP computers. At any rate, I asked Barry if he would like me to connect to his system using my remote desktop support service in order to have a closer look, and he agreed.

After a bit of looking around (and some more research) I came across a few posts online which suggested clearing out System Restore points would help shrink the "C:\System Recovery" folder; unfortunately, this had no change on the folder size. It was also suggested that deleting this folder is safe, though it may break any function associated with this folder. Barry understood the risks and as willing to delete it, since he had no intention of recovering anything from this folder or the backups contained within it.

Unfortunately, simply deleting the "C:\System Recovery" folder will result in an "Access denied" error, as the folder and its contents are protected with special access permissions. The only way to make it deletable is to have the current user (with administrative access) take ownership of the files and its subfolders, then everything contained within "C:\System Recovery" can safely be deleted. Below I'll explain how to delete the "C:\System Recovery" folder, in case anyone else is interested.

How to Fix: Can't Delete 'C:\System Recovery' Folder

  1. The first thing you will need to do is open up an administrative command prompt. This will allow you to reset the permissions on the files and subfolders contained within "C:\System Recovery". To do so: click Start, then type in "cmd" (no quotes); wait for "CMD.EXE" or "Command Prompt" to appear in the list, then right click it and select "Run as Administrator".
  2. Use your mouse to highlight the text below:

    cd \
    takeown /f "c:\system recovery" /r /d y >out.txt
    icacls "c:\system recovery" /reset /T >out2.txt
    rmdir /q /s "c:\system recovery"
    echo this is a dummy line
  3. Right click over top of the highlighted text above, then select "Copy" from the dialogue menu.
  4. This step will delete the "C:\System Recovery" folder - take note that deleting this folder will break any function associated with it. With that said: if you are running Windows 8 or 10, it is still possible to "Reset" or "Refresh" Windows which is effectively the same as "Restoring," so to speak. If those features don't work (for whatever reason), another option is to reinstall Windows using install media (which can be downloaded free from Microsoft using the Media Creation Tool for Windows 8 or 10) - which is what Barry intended to do.

    With that out of the way: to delete the "C:\System Restore" folder, right click in the middle of the administrative command prompt and select "Paste" from the dialogue menu. The text you copied in Step #2 above should now be output to the command line and the "C:\System Restore" folder will be deleted.

I hope that helps.

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About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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Nelyk's picture

Thanks a lot for this article. I had no idea what that particular recovery folder was (since it seemed to be completely unrelated to system restore) and your solution helped me recover 15GB of presumably wasted space.