If you're not terribly tech-savvy and have gone online looking for ways to fix a slow computer or a different technical issue, you may have received the advice to delete the system 32 folder from your Windows computer. The person offering you the advice may have noted that doing so would fix your firewall, solve an audio problem, or increase your network connection speeds – but this is not true. System32 is arguably one of, if not the most important Windows folder on your computer, and it should only be deleted manually if you're in the process of removing a problematic Windows installation.
What is System32?
System32 is a core file repository, installed as a part of the Windows operating system (OS). Present in versions of Windows from Windows 2000 and onward, the folder contains a wide variety of files, executable programs and device drivers. While the folder controls too many functions to easily elaborate upon, as a whole System32 allows the various functions of your operating system to interface with the rest of your computer – as a result, without this folder and its contents, a Windows installation essentially falls apart. The only way to solve the problem after this occurs is to reinstall Windows entirely, potentially causing you to lose any files present on your computer. Because the folder is so critical, Windows has a variety of safety measures implemented to protect the folder from accidental or uninformed deletion. This is why advice to delete the folder is so often paired with instructions on how to bypass these protections entirely.
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The "Delete System 32" Prank
In all but the rarest instances, any advice to delete System32 from your computer is false advice meant to trick you into sabotaging your computer. Providing this malicious advice is a decades-old internet prank, popularized on the 4chan forums in the early 2000s and circulated widely around forums, question responses and social media networks by trolls ever since. Similar false advice exists for Linux and Mac operating systems, carrying the same intention: causing an uninformed user to render their computer inoperable. These pranks often include instructions that, when followed, cause a user to engage a system command or bypass procedure that circumvents the safety measures present in your OS.
Access and Deletion
If you encounter one of the extremely rare situations where traditional methods of uninstalling Windows from a hard drive are failing, you may find it helpful to manually delete System32 from the drive. If and only if this is the case, System32 can be deleted by first taking ownership of the folder through Administrator permissions. This can be accomplished by right-clicking the file, clicking "Properties" in the context menu and changing relevant permissions in the "Security" tab. However, in these situations it is often faster and more effective to format the drive entirely and then reinstall Windows or a different OS from scratch.