Which is the Junkiest Version of Windows?


When you buy a new computer, you have tons of free hard drive space.  Little by little, over the space of years, the hard drive fills up and ultimately you buy a new computer.  And the cycle repeats.  Does it really have to be this way?  Of course, the hard drive is full of many photos, videos and programs that we once used, and forgot about it.  It might be easier to buy a new computer, but it is more efficient to seek out those old files and back them up or delete them forever.

But…. there is another thing that is eating up chunks of our precious hard drive space and that’s the operating itself – Windows. Because of PC Matic’s unique cloud approach to PC maintenance and security, we are able to quantify which version of Windows is indeed the junkiest. By that, we mean which one accumulates the most junk.

The chart above is a study of 676,664 unique computers that PC Matic cleaned in 2013. The study analyzes the monthly junk accumulation that PC Matic removed from those computers. So the bottom line is that Windows accumulates a lot of junk and we are not vigilant, Windows has the potential to gobble up our free space over the life of the computer.

At first glance, we can jump to the conclusion that Vista is the junkiest version of Windows, but that is not entirely fair. The reason is that Vista’s junk is driven by its appalling size of its restore points. The restore points are capped at anywhere from 12-15% of the hard drive so Vista cannot endlessly accumulate junk at over 5GB / month. If you remove the restore points from the mix, then Windows 8 accumulates junk at 1.14 GB’s more month. The irony, of course, is that Windows 8 purported is to convey the Windows experience to smaller and more resource constrained devices such as tablets and phones. Suffice it to say that Windows 8’s needs to become a lot less junky if it is gain acceptance on these alternate platforms.


System Restore. System restore is an awesome Windows function which enables us to fix our computer by going back to a time when the computer was performing well. Imagine if we could do that with our lives. The problem is that through the years, Windows has had two major bugs that offset this benefit by eating up gobs of our disk drives. System restore assumes that it can use up to 12-15% of our hard drives. Microsoft did not anticipate was the explosion in the size and affordability of hard drives. As I write this, a 2 TB hard drive can be purchased for a little over $100 with an external enclosure. That would translate to 300 GB of Windows restore points. No one needs that.

The second flaw was in Vista. Vista added a seldom used function called Volume Shadow Copy. Whenever a file had been changed or overwritten, the older version was also retained in a hidden place, and could supposedly be restored if you had the correct version of Vista. As shown by our analysis, this caused Vista restore points to become absurdly immense. Fortunately, this has been rectified in newer versions of Windows as shown by our chart.

System Patches. Frequently, Windows updates itself to add new features and more importantly to keep the operating system as secure as possible. I guess we all worry whether the each Windows update has been adequately tested before being distributed so Microsoft gives us the ability to undo the patch through uninstallers. The problem is that Microsoft provides no way to erase these uninstallers and so they pile up. As time goes on, these uninstallers have become smaller, and less an impact on junkitude.

Caches. Did you know that every image that you view on the web is also saved on your hard drive? In many ways, browser caches are a vestige of the 90’s when we accessed the web using dial up modems through America On Line. Because modems are inherently slow, these images are cached on the disk so that if we visit a page multiple times, only the new images need to be downloaded in order to display the page.

In today’s always-connected broadband world, it is not clear the performance advantages of browser caches, but there are two side effects. The browser cache is an unintended history of all the web sites you have visited, and deleting it would be one less place where the NSA could spy on us. The main reason to remove the browser cache is to halt Windows encroachment on our hard drives.

Bins. When we delete a file, it is really not deleted. It’s placed in the recycle bin. This is nice because you might want that file later down the road, but our research shows that few people actually empty their recycle bins leaving unnecessary junk on their computers and potentially embarrassing situations.

Temp Files. When a program is first installed and quite often when it executes, it leaves various files in temporary directories. Also when a program uninstalls, frequently it does not clean up all of its remnants from the computer. These files are useless but Windows provides no way to safely remove these files so we can maintain our disk free space.

PC Matic cleans excess system restore points, old system patches, browser caches, recycle bins, and temporary files and directories.

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86 thoughts on “Which is the Junkiest Version of Windows?”

  1. I use Win 7 Ult, on my Home PC. I try W 8 it’s interesting, better if you got a touch screen, I still have my XP pro safely guarded, since 7 is not so good at defending against intrusion by evil doers. I’m asking what is the best security program to have?, that can Clean, secure and protect from intrusion?. Now I have a suite called MyInternetSecurity, it protects, antifishing,
    ? $99.99 a year for 3 pc’s.

  2. Intrested in knowing which Linux distro you use. If you say "Red Hat," then I can 77nderstand. If you are using linux for the terminal, then I can understand. However, the GUI based linuxes are close to being crap. They are pretty unstable, have trouble booting on occasion, and also on occasion, crash. Mr. Gates can comfortably keep his feet on the table, have his cake and eat it too.

  3. I have to agree with Martin Griffiths! Win7SP1 is especially pschizophrenic since it can't seem to decide if I am truly the system administrator on my sole-owner, sole-user laptop PC. It is becoming painfully clear why people spend the money for Apple computers! ( I Hate Microsoft! – I Really Do! – Honest Injun!)

  4. Oh, yes, the major problem with Windows 8, from my perspective, is IE 10. Some websites just won't load and it must be due to Microsoft attempting to make secure. All other browsers work fine on the Windows 8 so I wish, like Europe, that we could just opt out of having to use that browser.

  5. I still have two XP laptops and will be sorry to see the end of Microsoft support. I also have a Windows 7 and a Windows 8 and see nothing wrong with either of them, actually preferring the Windows 8 touch screen laptop to all others, escept my iMac. I do think Microsoft would be better served if they updated their programs the way Apple does, i.e. you loose nothing stored on your computer except the operating system when you upgrade. Every couple of years they have complete operating system upgrades and they only cost around $30, which is much better then shelling out hundreds of dollars for a new system that wipes your hard drive upon installation. Now that Microsoft is about to release Windows 8.1, does anyone know if this is an upgrade or if it's to be sold as a new system?

  6. I have XP Pro on four computers, Vista on one and 7 on my laptop. As many others have said, XP is the best OS and 7 is pretty darn good too. But I plan to keep XP so I have made a miror copy of my :C drive on all of my machines. The sit on a shelf. If I get hacked on the XP machines I’ll just change drives and then format and miror the hacked drive. I’ve been getting all my friends to mirror their drives too. If for no other reason than it’s so much easier and less time comsuming when a problem accures.

  7. Ever since I've had PC Matic, I have been getting a 1" pop-up strip on the bottom of my screen called "iReviewAds" that is very annoying. Does anyone know how to stop them from coming up?

  8. Alan Dooley You have a great point sir. The missing part here is alternative OS to switch to. Fact XP is best so far. But if MS who are in business could provide a modern working alternative then there would be no resistance from existing XP users. Similar to automation – people resist that as they lose jobs and system does not accommodate for that. Where it should. Same here no alternative to switch to (within the same manufacturer in this case MS). So it is bad business practice to force your customers to a newer but less quality product.

  9. Paul Julian Nugent yes i went win7 ultimate love it,no majar problems.looked at eight didn't like it,stayed with win7.other family members went to eight constantly working to fix problems in thier machines,just glad i stayed with7 less headaches.

    1. @Joe Marcom:

      Thank you Joe, I used to love the XP(sp?) email client but needed a new computer and it came with this horrendous WLMail Essential.

      Do you happen to know which email client is more similar to that XP or to WLMail Essential…without its innumerable glitches?

      I heard it’s complicated to transfer the files into Mozilla Thunderbird. They say you have to create a gmail account to transfer them here, then transfer to Thunderbird….one file at a time!!!

      Can you and/or someone here help please? Thanks so much!

  10. XP and it's associated hardware suit me perfectly, also…but new hardware omits drivers, new motherboards won't run it, and anti-malware programs can be expected to drop it, as they did with Win98. Tried Win 8 on my daughter's laptop and told myself "NEVER!"; trying to live with Win 7, but almost entirely on Ubuntu now.

  11. Tony Bensley ,

    If security updates are your only concern, just get a good virus scanner with anti-hacking tools ( for example Avast ).I installed many computers with windows XP and &, and I always instal a virus scanner and malware scanner and then turn of windows update in Security Centre, and explain to people how this works.Windows XP is my favourite OS, although Win 7 is sometimes needed for newer games, it's fine too; I sometimes advice people to use UBUNTU. Anyway, with a good virus scanner you'l be updated for a lifetime.

  12. You obviously have little experience with other operating systems, Martin. While XP was good, Windows 7 and 8 run much better. Don't listen to the fools who whine about the lack of a start button. $5 for Stardock's "Start8", or one of the free alternatives, and it's back where it belongs.

    Vista, on the other hand, I'm happy to have missed. 🙂

  13. I use windows 7, I clean my PC every week and do maintenance regularly, But you right the junk does build up if you don’t do regular maintenance, Another form of junk you forgot to mention is when you buy a store bought PC like HP or Dell they put all kinds of useless programs on there, I built my last PC so when and if I need a new hard drive all I have to do is get one and you can get a 500GB hard drive for around $40 these days… But I love windows 7 and probably will not upgrade to windows 8 until I have to, But bottom line is if people would take better care of their computers then they would last a lot longer, A PC is like a car, If you want it to keep running then you need to take care of it..

  14. I always liked XP and I never wanted Vista. I did, however, take the dive and went with 7. I am glad I did, my system is very stable and I've had no breakdowns (knock wood). Installs have been seamless as have been most uninstalls and maintenance has been a relatively easy task. My $0.02

    1. @Rick D. Huff:
      Hi There, I always was sure that windows make a mistake around 10 years, remember the 98’s very stable and fast windows, then come the 2000 very stable, but not to fast, then come the millenium, 10 years later, come the vista, let see what happend next…

    1. @Randy Kendall:
      I am older than dirt too.
      When God said,”Let There Be light”.
      I flipped on the switch.
      I still use XP most of the time.
      I use removalable hard drives and use 7
      just to get used to it.
      That way I only have to build one machine.
      Losing XP will be like losing an old friend.

  15. Ive had both Windows XP and Windows 7 and had few problems with either. I got lucky and dodged Vista and my friends who have moved to Windows 8 are not regretting that they did.

  16. Dan Romero yeah….I am happy with 7….I have heard that 8's not that great….lots of issues….Vista's like the transition between XP and 7 right?

  17. I love XP, but I really like 7 on my new laptop. I think there are some benefits to having XP on one computer and 7 on another.

  18. I'm NOT on the fence about Windows 8 — hopefully I'll never be forced to anything like it. But XP has been around a looooooooooong time, and I guess it is a lot to expect MS to support it forever. They are in business to make money — as I am — so I don't begrudge them.

  19. I have XP on my old computer and I have to keep it alive in order to continue using Visual Basic which was the last program that allows an ordinary person to create their own programs – what a lose. My main computer uses Win7 which is a major improvemnet in most areas and very stable. From what I’ve read Win8 is a 2 sided sword – modern efficient quick – but completely ignores the users need to relate their previous Windows knowledge with the new one. I would say this is a major if not fatal flaw. The #1 rule in software is it must be easy for the end user and MS has ignored this with the “We know what you need” attitude.

  20. Karen Nevard-Downs

    Interesting. The first thing that leaps out at me in this article is that ' 676,664 unique computers that PC Matic cleaned in 2013' are being monitored by the PC Matic software and sending the results back to the manufacturer. Did you all know that when you installed it? Did you all give permission for this? Are you all happy that they are monitoring your computer? Another good reason to never trust PC cleaning software.

  21. Paul Julian Nugent

    went to 7 – love it. No problems XP is looking old and dated now. I actually went to 8 but wished I had stayed with 7 :{

    1. I have used XP since about the time it hit the market. I love it. Sure it had flaws, all software does. The patches now exceed the size of the original release. (so I was told) I have also used other Windows versions that have been forced upon us since.

      I can say that Vista never gave me that many headaches. But graduating to Windows 7 on a touch tablet for a couple years, and liking it, for the most part, made me anxious to invest in a new laptop with Win 8 and a touch screen.

      Well……. I can’t say that I’m as happy with Win8 as I was with 7 or XP. I think MS was forced into the touch interface so as to compete with cell phones and touch tablets.

      My feeling is that Win8 will be short lived. I feel that the touch interface will be around for ages, but not under Windows as we know it today. I feel there is something larger and better in the wind.

  22. Paul Julian Nugent

    I don't use any 3rd party programs designed to "fix" things on my PC and it is still as fast as the day I bought it -very fast never get a Virus and I don't have an anti-virus program. Its all those progs like PC-matic – PC-doctor etc that cause problems.

  23. The nail was hit on the head when some say Microsoft like Autodesk must publish on a regular basis. It’s revenue stream will cease with the release of the perfect operating system and planned obsolescence is part the deal. Consumers (private and commercial) are pawns.

  24. I hate windows 8 windows XP was the only way to go. I was forced to go 8 as I had to buy a new computer. I wrote windows complaining of 8. The only ones who can understand the 8 manual are those who wrote the manual. A piece of complicated JUNK.
    John Edward

  25. The last day that Microsoft Support will provide security updates for Windows XP is April 8, 2014. After that, we XP users will be at ever increased risk of being severely hacked! For me, the time to somewhat reluctantly upgrade is before that day arrives!

  26. Unfortunately, as of April 9 2014, Microsoft will no longer provide support for XP users, leaving them with no choice but to change to a new O.S! Truth be told, as a long time Windows XP user, I'm a bit on the fence here. On the one hand, I resent being forced into HAVING to upgrade to a new PC that has a supported Microsoft Operating System! On the other hand, XP has been in existence since 2001, so I guess 13 years is a heck of a long time for support of ONE O.S, so I suppose it's simply high time to bite the bullet!

    1. @Tony Bensley:
      Just because MS is going to stop support of XP doesn’t mean that the operating system is going to self destruct. Keep an excellent internet security package running with XP and you should be fine until the internet security program support no longer supports XP.

    1. @Adela Pisarevsky: I really like Ubuntu. Since many of our Windows programs are really refugees from the free Linux world, You’ll find Mozilla Thunderbird over there too, working identically to Thunderbird for Windows, except faster. If you’re not using Thunderbird on Windows you should try it!

      All web-based e-mail, like Hotmail or Gmail work the same way they do in Windows.

  27. You're SO right! I'm ever SO sorry to have allowed Windows 7 when I bought my new computer, I seldom used to have problems with XP, nor with Outlook Express…Now I've gotten sick from the constant aggravation with Windows Live Mail and its thousands of glitches!!! I don't know which other email client might have some of the great features of WLMail…minus its glitches! :o)

    1. I never stopped using XP. Never had any problem with it. When I got my new computer 10 years ago, I changed from Vista back to XP. Still works just fine.

    2. just quit using live mail, get your own email and no problems. win 7 works great as is, and quit using outlook express!! Use your own ideas and no problems. win7 is fine!!

  28. On most of my systems, I have a dual boot with a Windows version and a Linux partitition.

    For most stuff, I use Linux – for dedicated software, I use Windows.

    Linux works bettewr by far and has a much easier layout and design in general.

    Windows is a colassal mess in any version – including XP…and I have all versions from Windows 2 to now…including versions which many of you never new existed.

    Many Linux operating sytems are so easy to work with and they are much faster in general.

    They become confusing at times when trying to find a file – or when installing particular software, but overall…using and definately installing an operating system, I would prefer some Linux any day to the Windows platforms…

    So Microsoft better get their head out of their ass and rethink their entire design for installation and ease of use.

    1. @Vic Formosa: Hi Vic. Did the same – dual boot with Win 7 and Linux Ubuntu. I find Win7 more confusing than XP due to all the redundant options. Also, the icons are difficult too see by comparison. Screens are not designed as well. Where the Ubuntu really shines is on the Internet. Quick, effortless.

  29. Awhile back, in preparing for an extended trip, aye transferred relative data from my desktop to my laptop. One thing aye always transfer are my email files. As usual, aye transferred the data to a ten or fifteen Gig flash drive,and from there to the laptop.
    Barely starting, aye noted the flash drive was topping off with 1.6 GB from the delete file alone!! Interesting,as aye had emptied the delete file before starting. Aye then went to options and then the Store folder where messages are stored. To my surprise aye found that the deleted messages are being Rat- holed here and never really deleted. What is the reason nobody mentions this? Let me guess, NSA? All other files are deleted if desired. Simple enough, aye deleted it right then and there. Of course, it popped up again but empty.That simple yet aye have never heard this important bit of information ever mentioned- anywhere. (LQ)

    1. @Luther Quick:
      Hi Luther, I can’t make out whether you are being funny or whimsical, or perhaps using a weird speech to text translater, but why do you say “aye” rather than “I”??? “I” is a pronoun and has the same meaning as “me”, whereas “aye” is an old fashioned word that means “yes” or “I agree” or like the modern usage of “OK”. Just curious. Arthur

  30. I have a Dell with XP Pro Edition on a computer I bought in 2004. I also have an HP with Windows 7, I bought in 20011. The Windows 7 is a lot better than XP. Plug in new hardware, like printers, external hard drives, etc, etc and it immediately starts downloading the software for it! And the restore function actually works, unlike XP’s. XP was good but I think W7 is a lot better.

  31. XP DOES not still rule! I have a Dell with XP Pro Edition on a computer I bought in 2004. I also have an HP with Windows 7, I bought in 20011. The Windows 7 is a lot better than XP. Plug in new hardware, like printers, external hard drives, etc, etc and it immediately starts downloading the software for it! And the restore function actually works, unlike XP’s. XP was good but I think W7 is a lot better.

  32. I have a Dell with XP Pro Edition on a computer I bought in 2004. I also have an HP with Windows 7 I bought in 2007. The Windows 7 is a lot better than XP. Plug in new hardware, like printers, external hard drives, etc, etc and it immediately starts downloading the software for it! And the restore function actually works, unlike XP’s. XP was good but I think W7 is a lot better.

  33. I have a Dell with XP Pro Edition on a computer I bought in 2004. I also have an HP with Windows 7 I bought in 2007. The Windows 7 is a lot better than XP. Plug in new hardware, like printers, external hard drives, etc, etc and it immediately starts downloading the software for it! And the restore function actually works, unlike XP’s. XP was good but I think W7 is a lot better.

    1. @Craig Chambers: Yeah Craig, I have to agree with you. I’m a Graphic Artist and I held onto XP for as long as I could just because VAfter hearing good things about 7 I made the jump and glad I did. Seven is just a much better operating system than XP and I appreciate it every day. At this point 8 is a pass.

  34. XP is a great OS. But what are you going to do when MS quits supporting it next year leaving your computer vulnerable? I like Windows 7 but I am just a home user.

    1. @Barbara Allen: I will continue using XP as long as programs will run on it. When Win98 was phased out, I still used it until most of the bugs from XP were cured. As for junk collection, I manually remove it and also clean up the hard drive with Ccleaner and a disk wipe program that overwrites all free space making it impossible for file recovery programs to work

  35. I loved WinXP and would still be using it, but my computer crashed after 8+ years, and I had to buy a new one, which came with Win7. It’s not too bad, but some of the changes, in my opinion, were idiotic.

  36. I kinda rather 7, hasn’t junked up badly xp is decent but the 32 bit version is memory limited and the 64 bit version has a bad tendency to have compatibility issues with some programs and drivers.

  37. Windows 7 is far faster than xp and manages free ram exponentially better. Windows 8 after all the eye candy cell phone os crap is disabled is a very capable os also.

  38. Check your facts before you make a fool out of yourself.
    1. Windows Updates do not happen every Wednesday. They happen on every second Tuesday of the month.
    2. It’s not Shadow Volume Copy, it’s Volume Shadow Copy Service, or VSS. And didn’t start with Vista, although the System Protection component did start with Vista. VSS is very useful for multiple uses, including creating backups of files otherwise locked by Windows, etc.
    And ultimately, as you have stated it, with the explosion in size of the hard drives, who gives a damn about (at most) a few GB? Even with broadband speed, a cache will speed up the browsing experience, at the cost of relatively little space. And having some extra System Restore points might prove very useful. So I see little merit in your article.

  39. I have used XP since Day One/ I have gotten new computers with Vista,, taken it off and installed XP, My HP is about to bite the dust so I will purchase another computer without an OS and install XP.

    1. @Bear Freeman: Even working in the IT field, systems admin, did not use windoze. Been using linux (various distros) for more than a decade. And I still hear the complaints from my former coworkers about the troubles from users about their “bugged” windows machines. It’s hilarious when they ask me for help and my only answer is to install linux on users machines!

  40. Susan Marie Schmitt

    Very informative post however, check your editing a bit better ;-). I have to agree with Alexander's assessment. The best Windows by far was XP. I held out as long as I could when the whole nightmare of Windows began with 3.0. You get to the point where no current software package will run with specific versions of Windows. I'm a DOS baby. I adored DOS and understood how it worked. I had no troubles working with it. It was much easier to perform maintenance on the PC with DOS. Windows doesn't allow the user an easy way into the workings of it to clean junk up ourselves.

    1. @Susan Marie Schmitt:
      Absolutely agree, Susan. DOS is still used by me with XP to get rid of junk files, .tmp’s, etc. Someone else mentioned not being able to use System Restore with XP reliably….guess nobody clued them in to booting into Safe Mode first, which works every time. I foolishly went out and bought an “Ultimate” WIN7 edition, saw it in all its glory on other PC’s, and promptly shelved it without installing it at all. Like the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

  41. Once I got XP I knew Microsoft finally had a winner. I think they realized that as a mistake on their part since they need people to upgrade in order to keep the mega profits rolling in. So after XP they continued to make more crap to make people want to upgrade all the time. It drives them nuts that so many people refuse to leave XP. If it's not broken don't fix it. Unfortunately all software will continue to be upgraded to the point that it will be impossible to keep XP someday.

  42. Hello Martin while I respect your viewpoint, and the fact windows XP has been out for 12 years. Could I possibly ask you to expand on crap. What do you mean exactly, so that people have a chance to put in counter argument. Thanks 🙂

    1. @Anand Khanse: I don’t know about the junk computers accumulate, but I know computers that work well, and I’ve seen a lot of problems with xp. I constantly had do either a windows restore or reinstall (3 or 4 times). Vista was a little tricky but had less issues (more hardware than anything). Now windows 7 I’ve had no issues, done maybe a couple of system restores, and a new hard drive. plus windows 7 defrags itself, so there’s less maintenance. At work I had to rescue some files and ran Ubuntu on an XP machine, and it was smoother. So I guess to each their own.

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