I wrote this post to help inform Microsoft customers who may be looking to subscribe to Xbox Game Pass for Windows 10 or purchase games through the Xbox app on Windows 10. Users should be advised there may be issues when managing game files as well the lack of support for backing up games. This is a request to Microsoft to consider adding a feature to restore games without needing to redownload.
The ability to backup and restore large games is a well-established standard in PC gaming.
Steam, for example, has a built-in option to backup and restore games as archive files to any directory including an external drive or network location.
Other game launchers, including Blizzard’s launcher, allow installing games to a separate partition or disk and allows reinstalling the game without re-downloading the game files.
Finally some launchers, like EA’s Origin, allow for copying backed-up game files to the game directory while the download is paused.
All of these methods can save bandwidth and time from downloading over slower internet connections. In some cases it can save wear on solid state drives if existing files do not need to be copied.
Many Microsoft customers have discovered there are no options for backing up and restoring games downloaded through the Windows 10 Xbox app.
Additionally the file and folder security settings can prevent users from deleting games left over from old Windows installations. When attempting to delete the WindowsApps folder on another drive or partition from a new Windows install, the user will see an error that they do not have permission to delete the folder.
According to several pages of posts in the above thread, users are unable to remove the folder even after changing permissions and ownership in the advanced security settings tab. I have personally tried changing permissions in the advanced tab and using the take ownership context menu option. I’ve also tried using the Wise Force Deleter as well as some batch file solutions with no success.
It wasn’t until attempting to change the permissions several times that the folder was finally deleted without explanation for why the permissions were able to update properly. This folder can have a size anywhere from hundreds of gigabytes to multiple terabytes depending on the number of games downloaded. Microsoft should release a troubleshooting tool to remove unused files, if they intend on making the directory resistant to deleting.
It is also not possible to copy game files from a backup by pausing an in-progress download to avoid downloading a game to reinstall it.
As there is no way to restore games I recommend uninstalling any games on other drives or partitions before reinstalling Windows if possible to avoid these issues with removing game files that were present previously.
I normally restore my AppData folders from a backup when reinstalling Windows as it restores most of my program settings. As a warning for anyone else who uses this method, restoring the Packages folder to Appdata/Local will result in an Error 0x803fb107 when attempting to install certain Windows Xbox games as well as an error when attempting to login with a Microsoft account.