The C:\Windows\System32 directory is a vital section of the Windows operating system where system files crucial for the proper functioning of your PC are stored. You may have come across people online who tell you to delete it, but you shouldn’t. In this article, we’ll explain exactly what happens if you do end up trying. You can find the System32 folder in the C:\Windows\System32 directory.
System32 is a part of all modern versions of Windows. It holds important operating system files that Windows requires to function properly. This directory holds many different formats of files, but EXE and DLL are a few of the most common formats you’ll come across when you start scrolling through the folder. Dynamic Link Library (DLL) files are shared library files used by programs running on the Windows Operating System, including features built into Windows and third-party programs you install, to perform various functions.
The EXE files in the System32 folder make up different system utilities for Windows. Let’s say, when you launch the Task Manager, Windows accesses the Taskmgr.exe program file that is located inside the System32 folder.
Many more such important system files are located in this folder too. For example, the C:\Windows\System32\Drivers directory holds the SYS files that hardware drivers use. Your system needs these files to ensure proper communication with its hardware. You can also find the system-wide Windows Registry files stored here, in the C:\Windows\System32\Config directory.
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Don’t let the name misguide you, as the System32 folder is crucial even on 64-bit versions of Windows. The System32 folder also contains executables and important system libraries in 64-bit form.
Internet pranksters have made use of the naiveté of a few PC users to come up with a rather annoying than a funny prank that’s been floating around the Internet for quite some time now. The tricksters try to convince people into deleting their System32 folder. By now you should know that you absolutely shouldn’t do this, as the System32 folder is absolutely necessary for Windows.
If you end up falling for the prank and deleting the System32 directory, this would render your PC completely useless. You’ll need to reinstall Windows to get it working properly again. As a demonstration, we tried to delete the System32 folder to let you know exactly what happens when you delete the System32 directory. Warning: Don’t try this at home!
We tried to delete the folder normally on both Windows 10 and Windows 7, and both immediately stopped us from deleting this system folder, and we were greeted with a “Folder Access Denied” notification. But don’t fret; we used our ways to get around this “problem”.
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To serve the purpose of this article (and for the morbid curiosity to see what would happen), we took ownership of the System32 folder by giving the Windows user account full access to its contents. We then tried force-deleting the folder one more time, but Windows prevented us from deleting it. We were served with another notification that read that it couldn’t complete the process as files inside the System32 folder were being used by another program.
Following these steps and the subsequent failures brought to our notice that it is very difficult to delete the System32 folder. So understand that if a friend ever says that they successfully cleared malware from his PC by deleting the System32 folder, you can affirm that they’re joking. It takes some serious determination and tinkering through advanced settings to actually end up clearing the System32 directory.
As File Explorer did not serve our intended purpose, we decided to switch to Command Prompt and force-clear the folder by using the del command to delete as many files from the System32 directory as possible. Even this command wouldn’t delete a few files that were currently in use, but it cleared many other ones.
This is when we started to notice major issues as the Windows operating system started to fall apart right after we cleared many of the files from the System32 folder. We tried accessing the Start menu and clicking the Power button, but no visible task happened. We then tried using the Task Manager, and we immediately got a message that the Task Manager itself no longer exists. We came across similar error messages while clicking on other menu options in Windows as well. It seemed to be impossible to power down the computer normally, so we rebooted it by manually plugging off the power to see what would happen.
Windows then tried to boot into Automatic Repair but couldn’t repair the PC, perhaps because the repair files were cleared too. In the end, we accessed advanced options and prompted Windows to boot up anyway. No visible action happened. All that the PC displayed was a black screen for a few seconds before the computer booted into Automatic Repair mode yet another time. It was now clear that important files required for booting Windows were deleted and as a result, the operating system could not even boot up the PC.
Our experiment should have made it clear why you shouldn’t delete the System32 directory. It should not come as a big surprise that deleting System32 renders Windows useless. Nothing exciting happens when you break things, either (other than the obvious frustration that comes while trying to delete the folder). Important features of the operating system just suddenly start crashing while you’re using it, and then Windows stops booting up again.
If you’re already stuck in this mess, understand that reinstalling Windows is the only fix. While the System32 folder obviously isn’t malware on its own as some pranksters claim, and you shouldn’t try to delete it, it sure is possible for malware accidentally downloaded onto your PC to hide anywhere, even inside the critical System32 directory. If you have valid reasons to be concerned that your PC may have malware, we’d recommend you to perform a system scan with well-known antivirus software.