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Moving your Users folder from the C: drive to another drive

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    The same thing is for Windows 7 and Windows XP?

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  • Moving your Users folder from the C: drive to another drive

    TUTORIAL: Moving your Users folder from the C: drive to D: or any other drive

    Tutorial applicable to:
    • Windows 7
    • Windows 8
    • This can be carried out for XP too; just be aware that the Users folder is located in a different place for XP and older Windows versions.

    Skill Level Required:
    • Familiar with Windows registry (navigating and changing values), creating user accounts and file security settings.
    • Able to unhide hidden files and folders and circumvent Windows user security settings.
    • Good general familiarity with Windows.

    Why move your Users folder to another drive?

    This is considered very good practice because:

    • It protects all the settings for the software that you have installed. The settings for Windows itself and the files that you keep in "My Documents" and the other default Windows user locations.
    • If you have to re-format and re-install your operating system due to some unforeseen reason, then the critical program settings and data kept in the Users folder are safe. After you re-install the software, the previous settings and sometimes data in the program, are back.
    • It can save you hours of configuring Windows and different software, or days of troubleshooting.
    • Alternatively, you may just want a fresh copy of Windows, but keep your existing settings.
    • Save space on C:
    • It's a clever backup strategy. You can in fact keep a copy of the Users folder on both your C-drive and the new drive, and just run a sync periodically between the two locations. That would make sense if there is a chance you might want put the existing hard drive into another computer that will have only one drive.
    • Experienced IT professionals do this on their own machines; it's an old trick of the trade.

    Let's get started!

    Here is where we start out (default setup):

    First we copy the Users folder itself over to the D: drive (or whichever drive you prefer to use).

    In order to copy these files, we will need to access them from another user account, hence:

    In Windows, create a new account with Administrator rights.

    Next: Log out from your main Windows account and in again with the new account that you just created.

    Note: It is important that you actually log out, as the files you will be moving are locked while you are logged in with your main account.

    • Once you are logged into the new account, open Windows Explorer and create a new Users folder in the location where you would like it to be, for example D: (I am using D: in my example, if your preference is something else, just replace that for D:)
    • Next, expand the default Users folder on your C: drive.
    • Inside the Users folder, highlight the folders Default, and the folder that is named after your main user/account, for example John (ctrl + click to highlight more than one folder),
    • Copy these folders, and paste into the new Users folder that you just created on the D drive. A more advanced user may want to use Rcopy for this.

    Note: Expect to wait for up to an hour while all files are being copied.

    While waiting for the copying, let's carry out the necessary Registry changes!

    Open a command prompt in Admin mode (Task Manager > File > Run New Task). In the Run box, tick "Create this task with Admin privileges".

    Type Regedit to enter the registry.

    Warning! At this point I need to give the standard warning about backing up the registry before making any changes. Ignore it at your peril and only if you are 100% confident about what you are doing.

    In the registry, navigate to

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList.

    Go through the entire ProfileList node, and look for all instances of %systemdrive%\Users.

    Make sure you do not miss one! Look in the ProfileList parent node itself. There should be two keys there that need changing.

    • In each of the child nodes there is one key to change.
    • There will be as many profiles in the Profiles List as there are users on the computer.
    • Don't be surprised to see more than you were aware of.! A few programs install hidden profiles, including parts of the system.
    • It's unlikely to be more than max 8 keys that need changing.

    To change the key, double-click and edit the value.
    In the picture above, the value has already been changed. Initially it was %systemdrive\Users , where %systemdrive% is of course C:

    Enter the relevant path for the appropriate value.

    In this screenshot, the value was changed from %systemdrive%\Users\Admin to D:\Users\Admin.
    Only change the bit that needs changing! Leave the rest of the value as it is.

    That's it, WORK DONE!

    If the copying has finished, simply reboot the machine. At startup, select you regular profile.
    You can delete the profile that was created for this job once you get into Windows.

    If you have followed the tutorial closely, nothing will have gone wrong.

    Once you are in Windows, open up some of your favourite programs to confirm that everything is running fine.

    Secondly, verify that the change has taken place by opening "My Documents".
    In the Windows Explorer address field, double-click on the folder icon so that the old style folder path appears.
    It should say "D:\Users\[your username]

    I made the change as I was writing the tutorial. I had one small problem with starting up Photoshop, and had to delete the profile before it would start. Other than that there were no problems at all.
    Usually when I do this, there are no problems.

    If you want to delete the Users folder on the C drive:
    Don't do it immediately, unless it's urgent! Just to be on the safe side, wait a few days to be completely sure that the change went OK.

    Before the folder can be deleted off C: you may need to take full ownership of it, to over-ride any lingering locks that the system placed on it while it was still in use.

    Extracurricular footnote: With this system, you can simply clone your C drive once a month or so, and do a backup of the Users folder elsewhere. You then have immediate fool-proof recovery available. Should anything happen, you simply switch boot drive over to your cloned C drive and absolutely no settings are lost. This system is great for people who want to run their machines without antivirus. You have very fast fallback from hard drive failure, human error and viruses.

    If you feel that something has gone wrong, or you change your mind, simply change back the settings in Registry to what they were before you started, using the backup that you took, or doing it manually. This will of course only work if the Users folder remains or if you move the folder back to its original position.

    Feel free to PM if you attempt doing this and need further advice!

    Hope you liked the tutorial!

    Last edited by vikingprincess; December 30, 2012, 06:38 PM.