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Moving Your Personal Data Folders in Windows Vista the Easy Way

If you are running out of space on your primary drive, you’ve probably considered moving your data to a second drive, but the built-in folders such as Documents are all located inside your user directory by default. Luckily Windows Vista provides a simple way to move these folders without causing any problems.

Before you do this, you should close every single application that you have open, because otherwise you’ll have issues moving the files that are in use.

Right-click on the folder you wish to move and choose Properties. On the Location tab, you can either manually type in a new folder path, or you can use the Move button to select a new location to put the folder.

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The new folder will be created, and you will be asked if you want to move all your files, which is probably wise.

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You can use this for any of the “special” folders in your user directory, such as Downloads, Favorites, or any of the folders that have their own icon.

Note that you can also usually just drag the folders to the new location to move them. I prefer to do it this way just to make sure everything is updated correctly, especially when moving to a separate drive.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/10/08

Comments (19)

  1. Nikola

    Can you post a *working* way to move the “Shared Documents” in XP? TweakUI, which claims to offer such a possibility, doesn’t help there – it’s just not working.

    Or if you can tell me how to stop XP from creating the system folder “My Music” under “Shared Documents” every once and while, that would also of help. I’ve somehow simulated the rest with junction points.

    Thank you.

  2. Nguyen

    What I found with this method (haven’t tried other methods yet, if exist) is that after a while, Vista will re-create those folders with their default folder locations. So now I have two of each of the desktop, music, video etc. More annoying, so now whenever I have new shortcuts, those shortcuts will be put in the default “Desktop” location and will not show up on my desktop!

  3. uzgaar

    How can I reduce the size of the Window for this Gadget?

  4. fred

    when i right cleck on properties the box that comes up does not have locations on it!!!!!!!!! so what do i do?//

  5. RTShaw

    lost most control of my fingers so pleaqe bear with me, it hurts like hell 2 type.

    yeah when i change my documents (or other personal folder) 2 a new location. the documents dir in the origional location turns red but when u click it the os cant find the moved document dir. i thought i saw sonetnning about changing a registry item but cant find it,..
    help please

    thank u

  6. karl

    My name is Karl, and I use windows vista.
    My problem is that I don’t like how there are so many default sub-folders within the ‘C:\Users\Karl’ folder.

    I don’t want windows to automatically download or save MS Office documents into a ‘Karl\Documents’ folder. In my ‘Karl’ folder I like to just set my files out how I like them. Similarly, I don’t always want to save picture files into the ‘Karl/Pictures’ folder, if the picture is related to something else. I might want to save the picture into ‘C:\Users\Karl\Research for University Work’ for example.

    From the default save locations I routinely have to go ‘back’ one level to my ‘Karl’ folder, then place the files where I want them, and it’s very annoying. How can I change all of the default save locations to the ‘C:\Users\Karl’ folder? Is it possible?

  7. Legs

    And I am an old granny and not hip to all the computer lingo, but I’ve found many helpful tips in your articles, so many thanks.

    *I* woud like to get RID of some of those many folders..I do not like Vista putting stuff where it wants to..I want to put EVERYTHING where I want it. Also, can you move folder up or down in that tree??

    And I still wish I had the “Up Folder” button….I think I learned for you I can go “up” by hitting Backspace, but I still miss it.

  8. whs

    Let’s assume you move Music and Pictures to an external disk that way. The day the external disk crashes, you cannot reset the original Default by going to your crashed folders because everything will be geyed. In that case, go to Music and Pictures in the right pane of START, right click > Properties > Location > restore Default. This way you will get your default folders back. But , of course, your files on the external disk will be lost. But at least you can continue operating normally.

  9. Legs

    but if I never ever put anything in the (for instance) Music and Pictures folder, then why would that matter.

    I like to have all my folders under one huge umbrella, and that way I can back thst thing up on my external harddrive with one click

    I guess we cannot actually get rid of all those folders no matter what..it sounds like even if you did, they could come back at any time

    I sill wonder if we can move the folders up or down in the “tree” (I don’t know what else to call it)

    I would at least like to put the folders I actually use at the top of the list

  10. chax

    Useful tips – however I’ve tried to do this (using a new network attached drive, so I can get better data security – I hope). Problem is that I lost the connection to the network drive and now my document, picture, music links etc don’t work.

    When I right click them and select properties it only gives a single “general” tab, with no data (so can’t change location or restore to default). Can’t find out how to re-set up the link. Any advice – thanks in advance.

  11. walker

    hi chax,

    **When I right click them and select properties it only gives a single “general” tab, with no data (so can’t change location or restore to default). Can’t find out how to re-set up the link. **

    have the same problem, did you find a solution yet!?

  12. chax

    Walker – my solution was to do a factory image restore on the PC and reinstall everything! Not really ideal (I was having other issues, so it seemed the best thing to do).

    Still waiting to see if anyone has more useful solution.

  13. walker

    chax – true, not really ideal. messed around with some of the other personal folder too, so i really would like to know how to fix this…thanks for your replay though.

  14. Karl

    My hardrive is split into C: and D: (and in disk management there’s an unnamed EISA Configuration partition, but I’m not touching that with a 10 foot pole since I suspect it’s the factory reset files).

    If I were to move my “C:\Users\Karl” files to just “D:\”, would I have the same problems as people above where C:\Users\Karl folders would reappear after a certain period of time? Is this the same problem as people have been having, or have they only been moving them to external hardrives or network locations?

    I think that this would be good perhaps, since I currently have C:\SYSTEM, D:\FILES and F:\MEDIA; so it’d save me some time to have files auto-save on the D:\ drive, especially with how long it takes Vista to copy files accross, and all the problems it usually runs into. (Copy without it’s privillages? You need Admistrator permission! I’m just not going to let you copy files here no matter how hard you try, because I say they’re in use even though they’re clearly not, you’re going to have to reboot the laptop to sort out some weird memory glitch I’ve got going on MUHAHAHAH!) I just don’t want to end up loosing any files.

  15. alvin

    How does one simply change the default for “documents” or My pictures, or whatever? I want to place my default folders for these to a D: drive, like I did in XP. how to do it?

  16. KJSacramento

    After so many problems with Vista that have led me to restore and recover, I have finally put ALL of my personal files on an external drive and am much happier. It’s a matter of knowing your individual programs and their limitations. Many programs have a choice as mentioned in the article within options as to where your personal folders are stored. I have found the option in programs like Outlook 2007, OneNote 2007, SnagIt 9, my scanners, my graphics programs and my video programs. Most document programs are built to allow you to save where you like.

    For example, Outlook 2007 defaults to my KJ-user file: C:\Users\KJ\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook\Outlook.pst. To change this I go to Outlook’s Options, the tab “Mail Setup”, Click on “Data Files”, and then “Settings” to change the DEFAULT location (alternative – go to menu “File” and then “Data Management”). I used to save the .pst file on a backup and then import it back in, but would lose information if I didn’t backup constantly. I have yet to lose my information on the external PnP drives which have been operating fine for over 5 years and I can take them to any computer with the programs to run them (I still backup the data on them but don’t have to backup my primary computer any more except for program settings with Easy Transfer). I keep a list of my locations stored with my recovery disks and after three full recoveries due to Windows Update issues, I have found my computer runs cleaner and faster and recovery is a lot easier just restoring the program settings again. I also worry much less about the system or some malware damaging my personal files! Also, if you do decide to go back to the defaults you should be able to import the files or copy them into the default location if you keep a record of the default locations before the change (most can be found online). In Outlook 2007 I was able to set it up and still import older .PST files to the original location without affecting the default as it created a new mail folder for the second location.

    Now if Vista would only let me move folders complete with everything in them I would be fine – it infuriates me that it leaves a copy of every folder behind in the move and I can’t move my personal folders without moving layer by layer the folders within. I hesitate to delete them in case something is left behind, which is how that happened in XP.

  17. Emma

    I’ve just been reading round this & have found http://joshmouch.wordpress.com/2007/04/07/change-user-profile-folder-location-in-vista/ – which seems to answer many of the questions re. moving lots of folders.

    I’ve not tested it yet, but hope to soon.

  18. whs

    If you move the top folder (Documents, Pictures, etc.), the location is changed automatically.

  19. tony

    The way I’ve always done it since w98 is to make a whole partition or a second drive the “My Documents” folder, then move “My everything else” onto that partition/drive. Then make shortcuts to the folders I use most and drop them onto the start menu.
    That way reinstalling Windows doesn’t affect any documents.

    We just share the machine, we don’t need to hide things from each other, but if you need privacy I suppose you could go one level down, and just move your user documents folder to the new partition/drive, or even have a seperate partition for each users documents.

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