Relocating Personal Data Folders

Although the organizational scheme that Windows has adopted for personal data folders— the 11 visible subfolders of %UserProfile% (see Figure 8-5 on page 275)—is suitable for many users, the scheme has one potential defect: it combines data and system files on the same physical volume . For a variety of reasons, some users prefer to separate their documents and other profile data. These reasons might include the following:

• Large collections of data, particular digital media files, have a way of overwhelming the available space on system volumes, eventually necessitating their removal and relocation to a separate, larger volume.

• Separating data from system files makes restoration easier in the event of system corruption (for example, by malware).

• Separation reduces the size and time devoted to image backups, encouraging their regular use

• Separation can make it easier, when the time comes, to upgrade the operating system

In earlier versions of the operating system, we routinely recommended that users accomplish this separation by relocating their user profile subfolders . In Windows 7, an alternative makes equally good sense: store personal data in folders on a separate volume, and then include those folders in your libraries. (For information about using libraries, see "Working with Libraries" on page 282.) This approach leaves you with a default set of profile folders, which you can still use when it's convenient to do so, but it keeps the bulk of your personal information in a separate place

Not everyone loves libraries, however, and there's no requirement to love them . You can still move some or all of your profile subfolders in Windows 7, just as you could in Windows XP and Windows Vista. To relocate a user profile folder by editing its properties, follow these steps:

1. Click your account name at the top of the Start menu's right column to open the root folder of your profile, right-click a folder that you want to relocate, and choose Properties from the shortcut menu.

2. On the Location tab of the properties dialog box, enter the address that you want to relocate to . For example, to move the Downloads folder from C:\Users\Craig\ Downloads to F:\Users\Craig\Downloads, you could simply replace the C with an F at the beginning of the path n

3. Click OK. Windows asks permission to create the target folder if it doesn't already exist. Click Yes . A Move Folder dialog box similar to this one appears:

4. Unless you have some good reason not to move the existing files from the original location to the new one, click Yes .

It's really not a good idea not to click Yes in this dialog box. First, it's difficult to imagine why you would want some of your personal documents in a given category on one disk and the rest on another. (If you want to keep your existing files separate from those you save in the future, move the old files to a subfolder in the new location instead of leaving them in the old location.) Second, because %UserProfile% is a system-generated folder, not an ordinary data folder that corresponds to a fixed disk location, leaving some files behind will give you two identically named subfolders in %UserProfile%.

If you move any or all of your personal data folders, watch out for one gotcha: the Windows Search index includes the original profile locations by default, but it doesn't pay attention when you relocate. To ensure that the files in your relocated folders show up, you must add the new locations to the list of folders that the search engine indexes . For information about how to do this, see "Which Files and Folders Are in the Index?" on page 309.

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