I built a workstation from the ground up back in late 2010. I chose the quad-core CPU, the GPU, the cooler, the fans, the PSU, the case, the drives, everything, and then put it all together. It was a lot of fun.

I knew that I wanted the Win 7 OS (Ultimate 64 bit) to boot from an SSD and all the Office apps to reside there for speed. And that I would keep all of my data on separate drives. Encrypted. For this I highly recommend TrueCrypt.

The OS and Office apps took up something like 22 Gb so with SSDs being as expensive as they were back then, I bought a 40 Gb SSD (Intel brand, because it supported TRIM). I didn’t intend to put anything else on the drive so I thought that I was set.

Little did I know that Win 7 stores every last single update in a folder called WINSXS. Over time it gradually began eating up more and more of my SSD boot drive. You can’t delete it. You can’t move it. It lives on C:\ whether you like it or not. Finally with the release of Win 7 SP1 came a utility to manage and delete the redundant files stored in WINSXS.

Great. I thought my problem was solved. But then recently I began seeing my 40 Gb boot SSD start shrinking again. Poking around I discovered that there were 7 Gb of data sitting in a user profile/account. But I couldn’t locate exactly where. And data of that magnitude in a Windows user account was just perplexing. Then when I was imaging the SSD yesterday for the purposes of blowing the image onto a larger SSD – just in case that turned out to be my only option –  I saw that the huge blocks of data were in a hidden sub-directory of the admin user called ‘appdata’.

After imaging the drive I went to the user folder and clicked on ‘properties’, ticked the ‘hidden’ box under attributes and the whole bloody user account disappeared. Which is certainly not what I expected to happen. Ticking ‘hidden’ has always been my experience to reveal the hidden files; not hide the whole directory. Maybe I had my finger up my nose or maybe it was resting lightly on another key at the time when I ticked the box. Who knows? But things broke.

Ouch. And because the workstation is administratively tied to that particular user account other things just disappeared or quit working. Great. Even my web browser quit working.

So after much dicking around putting bandaids on things I finally had the presence of mind to go to Control Panel, folder Options, and tick ‘show hidden files’ and bam, my admin user account reappeared. Whew.

So, finally, low and behold, there in a sub-directory was the ‘appdata’ folder crammed with 7 Gb of data. The question, was it necessary data like WINSXS or could it be deleted? Another big question was, what generated it?

I found the answer after I downloaded a wonderful little app called WinDirStat. It turns out that VMware Player (an app that ironically sits on another drive) stores copies of its downloaded stuff in C:\’User’\appdata\local\temp\VMwareDnD. What genius application developer is responsible for that design I wonder?

He probably was working late one night and thought, for whatever reason, that all downloads shouldn’t just reside in the download folder of the virtual machine (which is where it should go) but also needed to be copied into an impossibly arcane directory – buried in a user account, not to mention written in a hidden directory – on the host machine as well. Unfreaking believable.

And so yes, the problem is now solved. I deleted all 7 Gb of the data and my screaming fast boot SSD is now back to having a respectable amount of free space.