Windows 10 includes two disk cleanup features that allow users to free up storage space used by unnecessary system and temporary files. Microsoft is making changes to these features to prevent Windows users from deleting files in the Downloads folder by accident.
With the release of Windows 98, Microsoft has been including a tool called ‘Disk Cleanup’ that frees up space by removing unnecessary system files, past Windows installations, old Windows updates, and temporary files.
When the Windows 10 October 2018 Update was released, Microsoft quietly snuck the Downloads folder as an option that can be selected to clean when running Disk Cleanup.
This addition, though, was a cause of concern for many, as people could mistakenly select it and delete files that they are stored in that folder.
In Windows 10 2004, released last month, Microsoft has once again quietly tweaked the Disk Cleanup utility by removing the Downloads folder as an option.
As can be seen below, Disk Cleanup in Windows 10 1909, shown on the left, contained a Downloads folder option. The image on the right is the Windows 10 2004 Disk Cleanup with the Downloads folder removed.
Overall, making this change was a smart decision as the risk was not worth the reward.
Changes in Storage Sense coming as well
Starting with the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, Microsoft has also been steadily improving a modern version of the Disk Cleanup tool as a new integrated feature called Storage Sense.
Unlike Disk Cleanup, which requires manual operation, Storage Sense will automatically monitor the free space on the system drive and cleans up temporary files if space gets too low.
It is possible to configure Storage Sense to treat the files in the Downloads folder as temporary files and delete them if they have been unused for a specified number of days.
In today’s release of the Windows 10 Insider build 19640, Microsoft is changing this functionality by not clearing unused Downloads if the folder is synced to a cloud provider.
“Based on feedback, if your Downloads folder is synced to a cloud provider, we are disabling the option to have Storage Sense automatically clear out your Downloads folder on a cycle”
This change is most likely being to prevent the synchronized cloud servers from deleting the files if Storage Sense deletes them.