the storage location of the personal folders

By default, the personal files (documents, pictures, music, videos, e-mail archive, contacts, e.g.) are stored on the Windows partition, next to the system files. As you can imagine, this is not the most practical storage location… That’s why I prefer to separate the personal files (like documents, pictures, videos, e-mail, contacts e.g.) from the system files by moving them to another storage location (a special data partition). It is important to move the files the right way, to make sure Windows is aware of the change and will use the new storage location in future. For that reason, this page not only describes which personal files can be moved to the data partition, but also how it is done properly!

LET OP: Although it can be done differently, this page assumes that the new storage location is a separate data partition with the disk letter D:. Furthermore it is assumed that Windows is installed (as usual) on a partition with the disk letter C:.

The advantages of a data partition

By creating a personal folder on the data partition for each user account (like D:\Menno), it becomes easy to keep the overview. It becomes even very easy to back-up the personal files automatically and because the other partition keeps untouched by reinstalling Windows (possibly by using a system image), the files are stored safely. Especially when Windows won’t boot anymore, it is nice to have quick access to the data partition!

The page about partitioning the hard disk describes how to create additional partitions in the case Windows has to be reinstalled. If a reinstall of Windows is not desirable, resizing the Windows partition to create free space for a data partition (by using the Windows Disk Manager) is an option as well.

TIP: Another option is to create a data partition for each user account. This setup has the disadvantage of less efficient use of the available space…

How to let Windows know what the new storage location is

If moving the personal files is done the right way, the settings for the used storage location are

changed automatically. However, in some cases a manual change is needed, for example by changing a registry value…

ATTENTION: Move the folders for storing the personal files as quickly as possible after (re)installing Windows, if possible before additional software is installed. If a personal folder is moved and the program isn’t aware of the new location (which does not happen frequently), then it is logical that the program can’t find the files anymore…


By default, the most files which are discussed here are hidden in the Windows Explorer because they are system or hidden files. For Windows XP, thes files can be shown by changing the following setting in the Windows Explorer (Tools, Folder Options, tab View):

· Enable Display the content of system folders

· Enable Show hidden files and folders.

· Disable Hide extensions for known file types (for example it is nice to know if a picture is JPG-, GIF- and BMP).

· Disable Hide protected operating system files.

Within Windows Vista, the following settings can be changed (by the button Organize

in the menu bar of the Windows Explorer, Folder and Search Options, tab View):

· Enable the option Hide protected operating system files (Recommended).

· Disable Hide extensions for known file types (for example it is nice to know if a picture is JPG-, GIF- and BMP).

· Enable the option Show hidden files and folders.

Moving the personal files and folders (XP)

This part explains how to change the default storage locations of the personal files and folders in Windows XP. Changing the default storage location of the personal folders can only be done when the specific user account is logged on, therefore the procedures below have to be done for each user account separately!

The My Documents folder

First create a personal folder on the data partition for the logged on user account and a subfolder named Documents (e.g. D:\Menno\Documents). Then move the folder My Documents

(C:\Documents and Settings\loginname\My Documents) within the Windows Explorer to the new subfolder by right clicking the original folder (My Documents, at the left top of the Windows Explorer), Properties, tab Target, button Move, navigate to the newly created subfolder on the data partition and click OK.


By clicking the button Apply all documents and subfolders (like the folders My Pictures, My Music) are automaticaaly moved from the folder My Documents to the new folfder. At the same time Windows is informed about the new location, to make it the new default storage location.


TIP: The icon of the folders Mail and Addressbook in the example abover are changed by right clicking the folder, select Properties, tab Customize, button Change Icon and to navigate to the icon. Almost every executable file has these icons, if needed select a different file (e.g. the program which uses the folder).

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