Today’s post comes from an email we received from a reader asking about the ProgramData folder within Windows 10. It is a large folder, often a gigabyte or so in size and contains a selection of folders just like Program Files. Is it a duplicate? Is it even needed?

It isn’t the first time we have been asked this question so I thought it high time I answered.

What is in the ProgramData folder?

Where different programs list core files in Program Files or Program Files (x86) and profile information in AppData, ProgramData is where some program store files for all users. The folder took over from All Users\Application Data and is now the default repository for all shared files that are not user specific.

If you cannot see your ProgramData folder, show hidden folders should bring it into the light.

So anything that isn’t tied to an individual user like resource files, language or other shared files will be stored in ProgramData. Your game profiles, preference files and config files for individual apps will still be stored in AppData because they are customized according to each individual user.

Messy installations like this are a core problem with Windows. In Mac, a program is installed into an Apps folder and not integrated into the operating system registry. It does not install into a dozen places or plant roots into every user folder on the machine. This is one area where I think it is far superior to Windows.

Install a program onto Windows and it will mainly install in either Program Files or Program Files (x86). Any personalization will be stored in Users\AppData and as you now know, any non-user specific files in ProgramData. Then, it will also plant files inside any other program, DLL or driver folder it deems necessary. It’s no wonder uninstallation can be so troublesome!

Can you delete ProgramData?

You can delete ProgramData if you like, but you shouldn’t. You will find that many programs store files within the folder and will either crash because it cannot find them or have to recreate them before the program loads. It is best to consider the overhead caused by ProgramData as the cost of using Windows.

If you need to free up disk drive space, uninstall programs using CCleaner or the uninstaller that came with it. That should remove most of the program in question. You can always go behind it and perform housekeeping if you need to.