For more than 20 years, "Disk Cleanup" has been a feature in every Windows Build. It's a quick, easy way to free up hard disk space by getting rid of unneeded system and temporary files.

In the October 2018 release of Windows 10, Microsoft added a checkbox that allowed users to also delete the contents of their downloads folder.

Unfortunately, a significant percentage of users download an important file, access it, make changes to it, and then save those changes, all while leaving the file in the download folder. That means when they later run the disk cleanup feature, if they're not careful, they can easily wind up deleting an important file they hadn't intended to. Not good.

In the May 2020 release of Windows 10, the company took steps to correct that issue. The downloads folder is no longer an option you can select when it comes to freeing up hard drive space.

That's not all. In 2018, Microsoft introduced another new feature called "Storage Sense," which appears to be an eventual replacement for the venerable disk cleanup feature. Unlike the older feature, Storage Sense monitors the free space on your hard drive in real time and automatically deletes unneeded system and temp files when space gets too low.

Even better, Storage Sense can be configured to treat anything in the Downloads folder as a temporary file and delete them as well. That is, if they haven't been used for some number of days specified by the user. Best of all though, is the most recent change.

Microsoft had this to say about the latest enhancement:

"Based on feedback, if your Downloads folder is synced to a cloud provider, we are disabling the option to have Storage Sense clear out your Downloads folder on a cycle."

This is an exceptional move, in our view. It prevents any cloud-based files from being inadvertently deleted as an unintended consequence of your particular Storage Sense configuration. Also, it makes it much less likely that you'll accidentally delete something you desperately need and never intended to be rid of. Kudos to Microsoft for the recent change!

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