How to Delete System Error Memory Dump Files

And get your disk space back

Image of a hard disk

Michael Schwarzenberger/Pixabay 

Whenever your computer crashes, and you encounter something like the blue screen of death (BSOD), the Windows operating system performs a memory dump to a location on your hard drive. Every now and then, it's good to know how to delete system error memory dump files to keep these files from consuming too much disk space.

What Is a System Error Memory Dump File?

If a BSOD error occurs, the Windows dumps all of the RAM memory into a file on the hard drive. This means if your system is using 8 GB of RAM at the time of the crash, the memory dump file will be 8 GB.

In other cases, Windows may take a "kernel" dump file, which only includes memory allocated to the Windows kernel for things like drivers and active applications. This memory dump file will be significantly smaller than a full system memory dump. This is the default size of a memory dump when you've set up your system to conduct an automatic memory dump.

The Windows team or software developers have tools to open and analyze this file for troubleshooting purposes. To check your memory dump setting:

  1. Type "sysdm.cpl" into Windows search, then press Enter to open System Properties.

  2. Select the Advanced tab. On this tab, select Settings under Startup and Recovery.

    Screenshot of Startup and Recovery in System Properties
  3. Observe the drop-down setting under Write degugging information. You can see which dump file setting is enabled, as well as the location of the memory dump file on your system.

    Screenshot of Write degugging information settings in Windows
  4. Select the drop-down and select Automatic memory dump. This will ensure that the each time a memory dump is performed, it only backs up the kernel and will conserve hard drive memory.

  5. Select Overwrite any existing file as well. This will ensure the dump file doesn't continue to grow over time.

  6. Select OK to save your changes.

How to Delete System Error Memory Dump Files Using Disk Cleanup

If your memory dump file has grown over time, it's a good idea to delete the file and restore your hard drive space.

The easiest way to clean up dump files is to perform an elevated cleanup using the Windows disk cleanup utility.

If you don't perform the correct "elevated" cleanup while running the disk cleanup utility, the utility will fail to delete the memory dump file.

  1. Select the Start button and type "disk cleanup" into Windows' search bar.

  2. Right-click Disk Cleanup and select Run as administrator.

    Screenshot of running the Disk Cleanup utility in Windows

    Running the Disk Cleanup utility as Administrator is what launches it in "elevated" mode and will allow the utility to delete the memory dump file.

  3. The utility will scan the C: drive (or whatever drive your operating system is on), then present you with a window to select which files to delete. Select all options, or at least select System created Windows Error Reporting or System error memory dump files.

    Screenshot of using Disk Cleanup to clear memory dump file
  4. Select OK to have the utility complete the cleanup, then reboot your system to finish.

The System Cleanup utility doesn't always successfully remove the memory dump file. This may be due to file permissions or local policy settings on your system, but since it's easy to run the utility, it's a good first attempt. If it doesn't work, move on to the next method below.

Use Extended Disk Cleanup to Clear the System Error Memory Dump File

Another Windows utility you can use to clean up the system memory dump file is the Extended Disk Cleanup utility. You'll launch this utility from the command prompt.

  1. Select the Start Menu, type "Command Prompt" into the search bar, then right-click Command Prompt and select Run as Administrator.

    Screenshot of opening the Command Prompt in administrator mode
  2. Type the command "Cleanmgr /sageset:65535 & Cleanmgr /sagerun:65535," then press Enter to run the command.

    Screenshot of running the Extended Disk Cleanup utility in Windows
  3. This will open the Disk Cleanup utility, but with some extra options for files to delete. You can select all options to clean up, or at least select System error memory dump files and System error minidump files.

    Screenshot of extended Disk Cleanup utility
  4. Select OK to finish the cleanup procedure, then reboot your computer to complete the cleanup.

Extended Disk Cleanup is usually successful at deleting the memory dump files because the additional options available specifically state both the memory dump files and the minidump files. Selecting these and running the utility should successfully remove all memory dump files from your system. Rebooting your computer is important to complete the process.

Use Software to Remove the Memory Dump File

If you find it difficult to delete the system memory dump file using Windows' own cleanup utilities, you could try using third-party software solutions instead.

One of the most popular Windows cleanup utilities is CCleaner. You can download the free version of CCleaner, which includes a feature to clean up memory dump files.

This should be a last resort since it requires the installation of new software. However, it's also usually the most successful at removing not only memory dump files from your system, but also temporary files and other unnecessary data stored on your hard drive and consuming excessive space. It's good to run a utility like this frequently to ensure hard drive space is never wasted.

  1. Download and install the free version of CCleaner. When you first launch it, the Easy Clean option will be selected.

    Screenshot of the CCleaner Easy Clean option
  2. Select the Windows tab, then select Custom Clean and make sure Memory Dumps is selected under the System section.

    Screenshot of selecting Memory Dumps in CCleaner
  3. If you want to make sure system memory dumps are going to be cleaned, select Analyze. When the analysis is completed, you should see "System - Memory Dumps" in the list of files to be deleted.

    Screenshot of files to be deleted in CCleaner
  4. Select Run Cleaner to have CCleaner complete the cleanup routine. This will remove all of the files that where listed in the analysis results.

Remove MEMORY.DMP Manually

If you know where to find the memory.dmp file, you can delete it just like you would any other file. That said, the file isn't easy to find because it's buried amongst many other files inside the System Root folder.

To find and delete the file:

  1. Note the path and name of the file in the Startup and Recovery window in the first section of this article. Typically this path is "%SystemRoot%\MEMORY.DMP."

    Screenshot of memory.dmp path in Startup and Recovery
  2. To delete the file, you'll need to launch the command prompt as an administrator. Select the Start Menu, type "Command Prompt" into Windows's search bar, then right-click Command Prompt and select Run as Administrator.

    Screenshot of launching the command prompt as administrator
  3. To change the path to the %SystemRoot% folder, type "cd %systemroot%" and press Enter.

    Screenshot of changing command prompt directory to the System Root
  4. If your system has captured a memory dump at any point, there will be a memory.dmp file in this folder. Type "del memory.dmp" to delete it.

Turn off Write Debugging

If you find the memory.dmp file is consistently taking up too much space on your system, you can re-open the System and Recovery window and change the Write debugging information.

Use the drop-down to change the setting to (none) to ensure no memory dump files are created whenever your system crashes. It will also mean there will be no way to analyze the cause of the crash, but the space on your hard drive will be protected from excessive memory dumps.