Transferring to Windows 7
January 31, 2010 12:14 PM   Subscribe

My new laptop says it has two hard disk drives: OS (C:) with 31.7 gb free of 58.5 and Local Disk (D:) with 397gb free of 397. The C: drive has the whole Windows7 file structure in place with the users and the documents folders and the libraries, whereas the D: drive is totally empty. And all of the programs seem to default to put everything in the C: drive. Which doesn't seem to make any sense.

I understand there's value in keeping the OS stuff separate from all your personal files and programs and stuff. And the D: drive is much much larger than the C: drive. So why does everything default to land on the C: drive and is there a way I can change that?

Plus when I'm using the so-called Easy Transfer Cable to bring everything over from my older XP laptop it only lets stuff transfer to the C: drive which is obviously not big enough to hold all that stuff. There is no way to tell it to put the stuff onto D:. So I have to do everything in little bits and pieces and move it over one batch at a time. And the fancy Windows 7 Libraries feature goes totally unused.

Is there any way to get around these annoyances?
posted by amethysts to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Right click on your "My Documents" folder, select properties, and go to the Location tab. You can change the location to a folder on your D: drive. You can do the same thing for your Music and Videos folders.
posted by zixyer at 12:26 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

If the D partition is on the same physical drive, it should be possible to delete it (which would also delete any files on it) and then expand the C partition to use all the empty space on the physical drive.

It's tricky, though, and probably not something you should attempt unless you've done a full backup first.

It's done with the "disk management" section of the "computer management" tool.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:32 PM on January 31, 2010

Alternately, you can get rid of the D partition and adjust the size of the C partition to fill the now-available space. I don't know too much about Windows7, but this set of instructions sounds plausible enough.

(Does your laptop have two physical hard drives, or one physical drive which is partitioned into two logical drives? It's most likely the latter, but, if it's the former, this advice does not apply.)
posted by box at 12:34 PM on January 31, 2010

(Or, uh, what Chocolate Pickle said.)
posted by box at 12:35 PM on January 31, 2010

I feel like I've read in various places that it was good to keep the OS files on their own partition so if you had to reinstall it it didn't take all your personal files out with it. Is it better to just get rid of D:? Can't I just specify that I want non-OS files and stuff to land there? I'm pretty sure it's just a partition and not a second physical disk drive.
posted by amethysts at 1:11 PM on January 31, 2010

Unfortunately there is no "default install" variable that I am aware of. Every manufacturer since Windows 3.1 days has pretty much assumed that the only guaranteed drive to be in a system is the C drive and they default install to that drive. Windows 95 reinforced that with the creation of the "Program Files" substructure on drive C:, which has been with us ever since. You're just going to have to remember to pick a custom install location when installing things and change the C: to a D: I am afraid. I do this myself anyway since I have 4 large physical disks in my workstation and have different things in different locations. E:\games is where all the games go, for example.
posted by barc0001 at 1:20 PM on January 31, 2010

I don't recommend you delete the D: partition. You can use it to store all of your personal files (documents, pictures, music, video, etc.) and application configuration data.

If you lose your Windows OS, you won't be able to use most of the programs when you reinstall it, if you kept them on D:. The reason is that these programs oftentimes have to use particular libraries, store data in the Windows registry, or are otherwise "coupled" with the OS. This is why all installations go to your C: drive.

Keeping that in mind, personal files, at least in my case, take a lot more space than applications hence your drive configuration seems perfectly sensible to me.

Are you worried that your C: partition won't be big enough for all the programs you want to install?
posted by albatross84 at 1:31 PM on January 31, 2010

Okay, there is a registry entry to change the default destination for "Program Files," but you may not want to mess with it. It's been my experience that it's more trouble than it's worth. Go ahead and do a custom install and pick your own directory when you install programs. Yeah, it's a pain in the ass, but this will actually work without breaking anything. Windows isn't exactly notorious for being easily customizable in ways that actually matter.

Documents, on the other hand, are pretty easy. zixyer has already gone over that.
posted by valkyryn at 1:34 PM on January 31, 2010

I know that programs go on C:. I'm trying to set it up so that my personal files always wind up on D; I'm trying to replicate the file structure that's already on C as it's a part of windows and make sure that all personal files get saved to D. It's not easy.
posted by amethysts at 1:44 PM on January 31, 2010

Philosophically speaking, it shouldn't be the case that everything lands on C. As a practical matter, that's what will happen and there isn't a lot you can do to prevent it. Trying to fight it is an ongoing headache and a war where you can only really achieve a partial victory at best.

There isn't really any major problem with only having a single partition (C) and putting everything on it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:47 PM on January 31, 2010

Unfortunately there is no "default install" variable that I am aware of.

Not true at all. Well, except for the "I am aware of" part.

The "Default install" location is the program files folder, which Obviously you can change (looks like you have to edit the registry, though). Here is some windows 7 specific instructions.

Remember, this will only change the default install for future applications. A simpler option would be to simply remember to change the install location when you do installs.


If all you want to do is change the folder with your user files Here are some instructions -- that's just for moving individual folders (like my music, my docs)

If you want to move the whole user profile folder (C:\Users) Then it looks like you need to do some registry hacking.
posted by delmoi at 2:16 PM on January 31, 2010

Another nice thing about having a small windows partition is that it makes it easier to back up the system, and you can backup the system separately from all your files.
posted by delmoi at 2:19 PM on January 31, 2010

It's also possible to force the default location for user folders to a different place when doing a fresh install. But once the OS is installed it's not really very easy to change it. Doing so involves a LOT of registry editing. I know, I've done it and really try to avoid doing it again. I'd go with deleting the existing D: partition and then expanding C: into it.
posted by wkearney99 at 2:59 PM on January 31, 2010

The main benefit of keeping multiple partitions for windows is you can blow away the OS and reinstall without losing as much important data.

This was much more important with Windows95, where the OS would get irreparably messed up much more frequently. It still may be useful with win7, but I think realistically most of the problems that will necessitate a reinstall (hardware failure, hardware loss or theft) will affect C and D equally, since they're the same physical drive.

As a result I think the 'real' solution is to organize things to make it easy to make regular backups of anything you care about, and then ... make and maintain the backups! Which you should do regardless, in case your laptop get stolen or dropped in a river or catches fire or whatever. It won't be expensive to get an external hard drive that's larger than the laptop's drive. If you find it easier to put data to back up on one partition, and data to not back up on the other, fine. I think it's easy enough to keep track of with just one partition, and managing space between the two is enough hassle that I'd suggest merging them.

Also, I don't think changing where programs are installed will do you much good. If you do need to reinstall Windows, having a bunch of programs that aren't properly installed will be annoying rather than helpful. Instead, keep (and back up) a copy of any installer that you download, and of course, keep track of any software CD or DVDs you have.
posted by aubilenon at 3:23 PM on January 31, 2010

Just leave it as it it. It doesn't sound like you're a super user. Use the D partition for movies, music, backups, installers etc. Screwing around with partitioning when you're not sure how - and for no good reason is not recommended.
posted by mattoxic at 3:29 PM on January 31, 2010

I'd leave it as is, store all personal data on D partition.

You can add folders from this partition to the Libraries.

Say you have .mp3s stored in D:\MP3

Open Libraries, and open Music. In the top left hand corner you will see a link "Includes: * locations.

Click this, and add your MP3 folder. These files (on D:) will be included in the Music library.

Do the same for Pictures, Documents and Videos. You can also choose these folders on D: to be "default" locations, which will integrate them even further.

Greg Shultz on Libraries
posted by Duke999R at 5:03 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

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