Vista Tip 16: User Folders in Vista and How To Move Them

Vista Tip 16: User Folders in Vista and How To Move Them
February 16, 2008 Jens

Vista radically changed the location and structure of user folders. No more “Documents and Settings” or “Dokumente und Einstellungen” (in german).

The root for the user folders of a specific user is located under c:users<User name>. This folder can be accessed over Windows Explorer where it is located underneath the Desktop folder.

Localization

The c:users folder is always named users regardless of the operating system language, but on a german version of Vista for example the user folder is named Benutzer. Why is that? Well, inside the users folder lives a file called desktop.ini. It can revealed by enabling Show hidden files and folders and unchecking Hide protected operating system files in the view tab of the folder options. The folder options again can be accessed by pressing the Alt+T in Windows Explorer.

The desktop.ini looks like this:

[.ShellClassInfo]
LocalizedResourceName=@%SystemRoot%system32shell32.dll,-21813

The LocalizedResourceName parameter allows to mask the folder name and replace it with another.

Symbolic Links

Finally Vista uses the benefits of symbolic links in many areas (I’ll get to that in a later post). But beware of symbolic links, when trying to move user folders around using registry hacks!

You find more information about that in two posts of Scott Hanselman:

http://www.hanselman.com/blog/MoreOnVistaReparsePoints.aspx
http://www.hanselman.com/blog/WindowsVistaJunctionsAndMovingMyDocumentsToAnotherDrive.aspx

Moving user folders

Luckily no extra tools are needed anymore to move a user folder.

Why moving user folders? I absolutely don’t like to place my documents, settings, etc. on my boot drive. I often try something out, make changes to the system and restore backups to keep the system clean(er). When moving at least some of the user folders to another partition, I don’t have to bother resetting my system to a previous state, or even reinstalling it.

To move a user folder:

  • Right click on the folder in Windows Explorer, e.g. Music
  • Click on Properties
  • Choose the Location tab
  • Click on Move an choose a target folder

Where are the other folders, like StartMenu, SendTo, etc.?

Those folders also located inside the users folder. They can be found at c:users<user name>AppDataRoamingMicrosoftWindows, but you have to enable Show hidden files and folders in Windows Explorer (see Localization).

An easier way to access those folders is to open the Start Menu and enter shell:sendto for example. This works even with Show hidden files … disabled.

7 Comments

  1. Anonymous 13 years ago

    1. This method will not work if your filesystem is FAT32.
    2. It does not update the registry and you will have files in two locations.
    3. Links can break.

    Not a real soliution.
    SEE My Solution: http://joshmouch.wordpress.com/2007/04/07/change-user-profile-folder-location-in-vista/#comment-816
    OR
    http://channel9.msdn.com/forums/Coffeehouse/188047-Moving-my-user-folder-to-another-hard-drive-in-Vista/

    MRGCAV at Gmail dot com

    • Jay 13 years ago

      Limitation of this method
      Thu, 2009-07-09 03:55 by Anonymous (not verified)
      1. This method will not work if your filesystem is FAT32.
      2. It does not update the registry and you will have files in two locations.
      3. Links can break.

      Not a real solution.
      SEE My Solution: http://joshmouch.wordpress.com/2007/04/07/change-user-profile-folder-loc
      OR
      http://channel9.msdn.com/forums/Coffeehouse/188047-Moving-my-user-folder

      Josh Mouch is a thief and a plagerist.
      It is well known on other sites that you take credit for work that is not yours.

      MRGCAV at Gmail dot com

      MRGCAV@Gmail.com

      • Jens Schaller 13 years ago

        But I have a few additions to make:

        > 1. This method will not work if your filesystem is FAT32.
        This may be and I can’t try it, but it sounds real strange.
        > 2. It does not update the registry and you will have files in two locations.
        Yes it does and no you don’t.
        > 3. Links can break.
        No they won’t. I tried it on different systems and it worked like a charm. It’s the standard procedure for this. Messing around the registry should be the last resort. Just be sure to always say YES, when you are asked, if you want to MOVE your files instead of COPYing them.

        Last but not least:
        You don’t provide a real e-mail address, but start fighting about who stole from whom. Could you please do this somewhere else? Thank you!

        • Jay 13 years ago

          Jens,
          I did provide my real email address: mrgcav@gmail.com
          So I do not know what you mean.
          You may write me anytime.

          I am a Microsoft independent beta tester.
          I am an engineer and work with PC’s & Vista Daily.
          I am writing an article on how to move the entire users folder for Windows 7. I was the First to develop a working recipe to move the entire users folder in Vista.

          I do need to correct myself.
          I have checked three Vista Ultimate Computers I have. x86 and x64 bit versions.
          YOU SAY: To move a user folder:
          * Right click on the folder in Windows Explorer, e.g. Music
          * Click on Properties
          * Choose the Location tab NOT Available
          * Click on Move an choose a target folder

          In all my computers. I get Five property tabs (General, Sharing, Security, Previous Versions & Custom) in the x64 bit versions and only four tabs on the x86. So obviously we are working with different versions of Vista. Thats my guess anyway.
          I would like to send you pictures of my system,

          Exactly What version and service pack are you running ?
          Can I get an English copy of your version for testing ?

          I did find a similar article to yours with better pictures at; http://www.vista4beginners.com/Move-user-files-folders-to-another-partition

          1. In a FAT32 file system you do not get the same level
          of security and linking capability that NTFS has.

          2. I will need to test that:
          the registry is updated.
          There is one file location.
          Until then, I will say you are correct.

          3. Links do break. It is rare but I have seen it happen. Usually it happens from a corrupt file system.
          I prefer Hard Pointers over links.

          My method is proven to work in any Vista system.

          As for my argument With Joshua. It Is my argument. I do not mean to involve you but the truth needs to be told.
          Your blog does not allow for editing nor posting of Pictures. So I can not correct anything.

          Your method may have value. But I have not seen the feature on any USA Computer.

          It is worth investigating.

          JAY

          • Jay 13 years ago

            The only time I can get the Six tabs is to move the documents folder
            Start > Right click Documents > Properties > Location tab.

            MRGCAV@Gmail.com

          • Jay 13 years ago

            After reading several similar articles, I have come to the conclusion that your method does work only for specific individual folders within a users account, but does not move the ‘users’ folder itself.
            So Each user account has to setup and relocate the Documents, Music, games , favorites folders. etc…
            This is Why I said you end up with folders in two locations and your account spread across multiple partitions.
            This does not get the user accounts off of the root drive. Everything from an account in not in one safe place off the OS Drive.

            What My method does is more complete and in the event of a crash / reinstall, The old Accounts can be reused.
            App Data can be reused. For Example: Saves Time setting up browser addons and certain program features.
            Setup time after a crash is minimized.
            My method also preserves the OEM folder structure on a new drive.
            Which is better for the individual, well, depends on the individual’s skills.
            My Method is harder to do but is more flexible and secure in the end.

            Thanks
            MRGCAV@gmail.com

          • Jens Schaller 13 years ago

            Of course you can move the complete folder, but I just needed to move the core parts and I guess that’s what most users need. Furthermore, I needed (wanted) different base folders for each user, which you can’t when using your solution.

            Anyways: Thanks four your tipps and comments!

            Thanks
            Jens

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