What is Windows prefetch in windows 10, you ask? The simplest definition anyone can ever give is that Prefetch is simply a memory management tool offered by Microsoft.

I’ve seen many people struggling with understanding what exactly Prefetch and Superfetch mean in the windows operating system. And you may not even see Prefetch and Superfetch actively working, but both are continuously working in the background from the moment your machine boots up.

Windows has this feature because it allows your operating system to work faster and smoother.

Many people think Prefetching and Superfetching are the same things. But in reality, they aren’t. However, both the features help slowing down the frequently used applications’ loading time in your windows operating system.

When it comes to Superfetch, it is safe to say that it is a little more advanced version of Windows Prefetch. At the same time, Prefetch is just a feature available in Windows 10, just like Superfetch.

Moreover, Prefetch wasn’t available in the earlier version of Windows. Microsoft introduced it in Windows XP and then carried it forward to newer generations of Windows, including Windows 10.

Prefetch in Windows XP

What is Prefetching?

According to Wikipedia:

Prefetching in computer science is a technique for speeding up fetch operations by beginning a fetch operation whose result is expected to be needed soon. Usually, this is before it is known to be needed, so there is a risk of wasting time by prefetching data that will not be used. The technique can be applied in several circumstances:

Prefetching is nothing but just a Computer Science term; it’s a method that permits a PC to quietly get the fundamental assets expected to show content that a client may access sooner rather than later so that the Operating system can call resources in less time. These resources are picked depending on the client’s everyday conduct.

So What is Windows Prefetch?

Windows prefetch makes cache files of your applications and activities in the simplest layman terms, so the operating system can access them faster the next time you fire them up. Prefetch helps you to minimize the loading time of applications.

Ok, let’s understand this with an example. It’ll be easier that way. We all have worked with Microsoft Office.

What happens when your machine shuts down immediately due to a power cut or low battery or anything while you’re working on an essential Excel document of yours and you couldn’t even save it? Huh?

The next time you log back and open Excel, you find a ‘Recover files’ pane on the left side of the screen. And voila! You got your files back! Have you ever wondered how that happens? No? Knew it, haha.

Well, your machine took a cache of the documents you were working on for situations like these exactly. And that’s why you were able to access it later.

And that is precisely how Prefetch works. It makes a cache file of all your software, boot files, applications, and all.

It is a necessary time-saving tool.

what is windows prefetch

How does Prefetch work?

Prefetch makes multiple cache files of all your frequently running applications you’ve used in the past so that it can help minimize the boot time of those applications.

Prefetch first came in Windows XP, and now it is still used in Windows 10.

How to display what programs are loading into Prefetch?

Prefetch logs detail the frequently running applications on your machine, and these logs are then stored in a specific folder: C:WindowsPrefetch.

Note: This is the default address. It might have changed in your machine due to various reasons.

And if you’re afraid of your actions being stored and logged somewhere, do not worry. Prefetch is encrypted in Hash Format, and no one can easily decrypt the data of the respective applications.

To check what programs are loaded into Prefetch:

  1. Manual visit: Follow the path C:WindowsPrefetch, and there you’ll see a bunch of cache files.

2. Taking shortcut: Fire up the Windows Run by pressing windows+R, type prefetch, and hit enter.

Prefetch in Windows 10

Is it safe to delete prefetch files?

Prefetch might seem an essential folder because of the name and the fact that it is present in the Windows folder, but deleting it won’t cause any problem to you directly.

Many people think that removing the prefetch folder along with the cache files in it will make your computer faster. And to be honest, I was one of them too. So, I deleted the Prefetch folder in my laptop (I took a backup, though, you know, just in case, haha).

Well, nothing terrible happened, but neither anything good came out of it. It didn’t make my laptop any faster; instead, it increased the booting time of many applications. So I would recommend not deleting that folder. It won’t do anything well.

Even after I deleted the folder, it was recreated again automatically by windows, and cache files were coming back slowly.

Thus, do not think that deleting that folder will make your system work any faster; if anything, it’ll become slower, and you will have to cache the frequent applications from the top, which could take some time.

Prefetch files

Verdict

Apart from this, a guy name mohdrafi on the Microsoft forum has effortlessly explained Prefetch:

Each time you turn on your computer, Windows keeps track of how your computer starts and which programs you commonly open. Windows saves this information as several small files in the prefetch folder. The next time you turn on your computer, Windows refers to these files to help speed the start process.

The prefetch folder is a subfolder of the Windows system folder. The prefetch folder is self-maintaining, and there’s no need to delete it or empty its contents. If you unplug the folder, Windows and your programs will take longer to open the next time you turn on your computer.

Dangerous myths: Deleting the information in the Prefetch folder

There are often claims that deleting the Prefetch folder results in less boot-up time and more free memory. The reasons for this vary—for example, some experts argue that Windows loads Prefetch information for all of the programs you’ve ever started on your computer into memory automatically, filling your RAM with unused data (this is not true.)

These experts recommend deleting the contents of “WindowsPrefetch” regularly to keep your memory free from new data. Ouch! Two reasons:

1. If you don’t run a program, Windows does not access the Prefetch information.

2. Windows maintains a maximum of 128 entries in the Prefetch folder. It cleans itself automatically.

So, if you delete the Prefetch folder, here’s what you should expect to happen: Windows and applications will need noticeably more time to start, as the Prefetch data needs to be collected again. The entire performance of your system will slow down.

(source: Microsoft forum)