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Move the Users Directory in Windows 7 [How To]

Ed. note: If you’ve tried moving the Windows Users directory to a location other than the default, you know it can be quite an undertaking. Reader Roobs wrote in detailing how he moved his Windows 7 Users directory without nasty registry hacks.

(Every day we keep a close eye on our #tips page to see what readers have to offer. Sometimes we get links, other times quick suggestions, and sometimes we get full-fledged how-to guides. Here’s one of them.)

When scouring the net for hours on a method of relocating the entire Users directory (in Windows 7) on another partition, most of the methods were not good. They mostly involved nasty registry editing and dummy accounts, and had quirks that could cause potential issues further down the line.

Eventually, I came across a brilliant method on tuts4tech by a user named “ohdannyboy”. It’s utterly flawless, and makes use of symlinks. It’s simple, and you can just forget about it after it’s done. Everything takes care of itself. The only quirk is that accessing the Users folder from the C: drive (for example) appears as “C:” when it’s actually on “D:”. But this appears to be the intentional behaviour of symlinks. Several months on for me, and it’s like nothing was ever changed.

Unfortunately, that post no longer seems to be there (the site crashed shortly after, and I think they had to resort to backups or something). It’s too good a method to let it disappear. Just remember that this is THIS user’s method and NOT mine.

It’s also best to do this on a clean install of Windows, unless you don’t mind waiting awhile…

I’ve read all I could find about this, and the information below is correct and tested:

To most easily move all user files and user program files off your boot drive (an SSD in my case), follow these instructions.

FIRST, Create a restore point (they’re better in Windows 7 than you might remember):
1. Open System by clicking the Start button, right-clicking Computer, and then clicking Properties.
2. In the left pane, click System protection. If you’re prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
3. Click the System Protection tab, and then click Create.
4. In the System Protection dialog box, type a description, and then click Create.

THEN: Go to System Recovery/Command Prompt:
1. Boot with the Win7 Install DVD, choose language, currency and keyboard, and hit Next.
2. At the screen with the “Install Now” choose “Repair your computer”
3. You will be asked if you want to “Repair and Restart” by the System Recovery options, choose “No”.
4. Then Make sure that Windows 7 is listed as one of the installed OS’s available for recovery, and that it’s selected and then press next. You will be given a list of recovery tools.
5. Choose “Command Prompt”.

Find your virtual Windows drive loaded from the Win7 media (probably either C or X), find your actual Windows/SSD drive (D or E) and find your HDD (regular hard drive) (D or E).

In my system normally, C=SSD with Windows on it, D=HDD data drive

Using Win7 Update media, the drives in Recovery mode were set up differently, thusly:
X: virtual/temp Windows drive,
E: actual Windows/SSD drive,
D: HDD, hard drive I wanted to put Users on.

Some report that System Recovery mode will set up their drives like this:
C: virtual/temp Windows drive
D: Actual Windows/SSD drive
E: HDD, they want to put Users on.

In the command prompt you will be using Robocopy (NOT xcopy!) to copy c:Users to d:Users, then delete the old c:Users, then make a symlink from c:Users to D:Users. Note that you must do these things in order, and you must not have a d:Users dir before you do this.

NOTE: in the System Recovery command prompt window, your drives are not the same as they will be after you leave recovery mode! So adjust the commands below for how the drives are in Recovery Mode, and then they’ll turn out correct later.

I used:
robocopy /mir /xj E:Users D:Users

To move Users from Windows/SSD to HDD.
/mir tells robocopy to mirror the directories, this will copy all files and permissions.
/xj is very important, this tells robocopy not to follow junction points. If you forget this, you will have a lot of trouble.
Make sure no files failed to copy (FAILED column = 0).

Then you must remove the old Users Folder from the Windows/SSD (c:) drive, before you can create the symlink:
I used:
rmdir /S /Q E:Users

Create a NTFS Junction/symlink that points to the new Users folder:

I used:
mklink /J E:Users D:Users

Use the /J switch to create a junction that’s a hard symlink. (If you use the /D switch, you’ll also have to edit the registry, cuz it won’t be a hard link.) Using /J, when Windows looks for the C:Users dir, it will find it! But it will be on the HDD instead of the SSD. Tricky!

To see the proof of what you’ve created, still in the command prompt window, go into the actual Windows/SSD and do the “dir” command, and you’ll see:
” Users [D:Users]”

Now restart and you’ll see Users on your HDD, and there you go. No further configuration or fiddling required. New user profiles will all be stored on the D: drive, as will any user specific data. And it is achievable without any messing about in the registry, searching and replacing values, or having to mess with new profiles in any way. Totally set and forget.

If you give the method above a try, make sure you set your System Restore point just in case something goes wrong. If you’ve tried this or other methods, let’s hear about it in the comments. Thanks Roobs!

Enable Check Box Selection in Windows 7 [Windows 7 Tip]

The control and shift keys have long been the imprecise means of selecting multiple items on a Windows system. The How-To Geek’s blog away from Lifehacker reminds us that, as with Vista, Windows 7 users can use check boxes instead.

As always, the How-To Geek’s site has an extensive, step-by-step screenshot guide to flicking on the check box selection tools in Windows 7. For those who know their way around, however, the process is simple: Enter “folder options” in the Start menu’s search bar and hit Enter, click the “View” tab on the resulting window, and then check to enable the “Use check boxes to select items” option. Hit Apply and OK, and you’ll see check boxes pop up next to the items you’re hovering next to with your cursor.

Create an Ad-Hoc Network Sharing Point from a Windows 7 Netbook [NetBooks]

Windows 7 Starter Edition, the version loaded onto netbooks, isn’t supposed to offer “advanced” features like ad-hoc network sharing. In this one case, however, finding this feature is as simple as typing the right phrase into the Start Menu search.

Rafael Rivera’s Within Windows blog points out that while the dialog that normally starts the ad-hoc networking process in Windows 7 is disabled in Starter Edition, simply searching for adhoc allows you to start it up. That means being able to connect other computers, smartphones, and Wi-Fi-enabled devices to your netbook when it’s got a net connection. It’s not quite as convenient as Virtual Wireless Networking, which you can enable with Connectify, but it does get the job done.

Change the Guest Account Name in Windows 7 for Better Security [Windows 7 Tip]

Windows 7 features a guest account that can make it easy for friends and housemates to quickly check their email or the web on your system. Giving it a different name, however, makes it a bit more secure.

We're not talking totally, hacker-proof, locked-down secure, here—but giving the Guest Account a different name makes it just a little harder for those trying to guess username/password combinations to your computer, remotely or through malicious software. When Guest Account is just "Guest Account," in other words, it's an easy way in for anyone, or any software, that knows that account exists.

At the How-To Geek’s home away from Lifehacker, writer Mysticgeek runs down the process for changing the Guest Account name in Windows 7, which requires a little switch and name change by an administrator. Want to pull off the same kind of trick in Windows Vista? Try DotNet Wizard’s guide.

Get a Functional Recycle Bin on Windows 7’s Taskbar [Windows 7 Tip]

If you’re a fan of having a completely empty desktop but want to keep the functionality of Windows 7’s recycle bin, the TechSpot blog details how to get a Recycle Bin icon on your taskbar that accepts drag-and-drop deletions.

We’ve previously written up another Windows 7 recycle bin trick, but in that case, it was only useful for accessing what's in the trash, and couldn't accept files for deletion hovered over it. TechSpot's solution—creating a Quick Launch taskbar, removing its text and title, then bringing the desktop Recycle Bin icon into it—covers all the bases, and lets you place your Recycle Bin pretty much wherever you'd like on the taskbar.

Found a similar taskbar hack for Windows 7 you can’t live without? Tell us about it in the comments.

Use a Separate Partition to Speed Up Windows 7 Upgrades [Windows 7 Tip]

PC World was, like us, slightly amazed at how long a Windows 7 upgrade can take on a Vista system crammed with data. They recommend a good overall geek tip as a fix: creating a separate “data” partition.

Gina ran down the benefits and how-to steps of separating your data from Windows on a standalone partition back in May, but with Windows 7 just a little over a month away, it’s worth re-considering, especially if you’re on a lower-end system and have a whole lot of media stored away. As PC World points out, once your music, movies, and other stuff is stashed away on a separate partition, you can still make it easy to access with Libraries, one of Windows 7’s best underhyped features.

Activate Windows 7 Jumplists with the Left Mouse Button [Windows 7]

Reader Dan writes in with a small but interesting tip: You don’t have to right-click on the taskbar buttons to activate Windows 7's Jumplists—you can hold the left mouse button and drag upwards.

At first glance, this tip might seem like we're trying to teach you how to use the mouse, but laptop or touchscreen users might want to take a closer look—on a touchscreen all you need to do is tap and swipe your finger up to activate the jumplist, but if you have a laptop touchpad, you can mimic the same action with a double-tap and swiping your finger upward. Once you get used to it, being able to access the menu without clicking a button might just come in handy—and even if it doesn't, it's always fun to know more tricks for controlling your computer.

For more, check out how Windows 7 creates new folders with a hotkey, maximizes windows vertically with a double-click, and closes applications with a middle-click. Thanks, Dan!

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