Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Because of the files an installed application usually leaves behind, it's prohibitively difficult move it to another drive.

I have installed a second HD (200Gb). Can I get my apps from one drive to the other without reinstalling all of them? Also, can I leave XP on the primary drive but move the "documents and settings" folder to the new drive without upsetting XP?

The short, pragmatic answer to both your questions is no.

Let me explain why...

When an application installs, it leaves pointers to all sorts of files and such that it cares about in various places including the system registry and quite possibly files and locations known only to that application. There's no way to go in and change all those settings and know that you've gotten them all. So the "right" way to move an application is to uninstall and re-install it to the new location.

Be aware that some applications will still install some components to "c:\program files" even if you are installing the full application somewhere else.

As for moving Windows' "c:\documents and settings", technically I believe there is a registry setting that defines its location. However, I would be extremely reluctant to change that. My concern is that I fully expect some applications to ignore that setting and always write to "c:\documents and settings" anyway. My suggestion here is to have your video or other application simply use directories that you create on your new drive, thus ignoring the whole "documents and settings" thing all together.

Article C2225 - November 16, 2004 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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27 Comments
Roy Bonner
November 21, 2004 12:24 PM

Regarding moving programs from one drive to another, PowerQuest release a utility with their Partition Magic software which happily transports all but the most recalcitrant program installs to another drive quite successfully.
I did for a while use a separate drive for installing programs, it only requires a single item to be changed in the registry, and works without problem, but then the normal windows accessories that install with windows start to get screwed up as they try to move themselves to the new location and wind up split between the two, I therefore saw no advantage to it and went back to the standard location.
The Documents and settings is a different kettle of fish altogether! It really isn't worth the hassle of trying to move the whole thing, but the My Documents folder with all it's subfolders can be moved anywhere you want simply by right click, drag and select Move to. If you have more than one Documents folder in XP or whatever, you do have to put each one into a named folder to keep them separate. It does make good sense I think to keep data files well away from potential dangers, likewise does it also make sense to keep such dangers well away from Windows! We must all be aware of the perennial problem where you need to repair or re-install windows every few months because it has started getting flaky. Well, it's actually a relatively easy fix as I have proved over a number of years, the average age of a windows installation without major repairs can easily be three years or more. A separate data drive (logical is fine), a separate logical drive of 5Gb or so for the windows swap file

Brent Dax
November 24, 2004 12:03 PM

If your drives are both formatted NTFS, Windows XP (and presumably 2000 too) allows you to mount the second drive onto an empty folder, Unix-style--i.e. when you access C:\Mounted Drive, you're really accessing D:\. This functionality is available through the Logical Disk Manager--just right-click on the volume you want to mount and select "Change Drive Letters and Paths" (or something like that). There's also a set of command-line tools discussed in .

Taking advantage of this is a bit tricky. I would probably do the following for a system with only one (large) user account:

0. Make a complete backup! This procedure is completely untested!
1. Boot into Safe Mode and log in as a different administrator account than the one you want to use. (Make sure it's an Administrator, of course!)
2. Rename the folder that houses your primary user profile to, say, Temp.
3. Create an empty folder with the same name the folder you just renamed had.
4. Use the Disk Manager to mount the new volume onto the empty folder.
5. Move the contents of your profile into the now-mounted folder.
6. Reboot and try it out.

If you have multiple large profiles, I'm not sure what you should do; one option is using the linkd.exe command-line tool to create junction points for each My Documents folder that pop out on the new drive. (A junction point is very similar to a Unix symbolic link.)

(Oh, and if you test the procedure above and it works, let me know--I may be getting a new hard drive as a present this year. ;^) )

Brent Dax
November 24, 2004 12:05 PM

Oops, the link disappeared--it was supposed to be http://support.microsoft.com/kb/205524 .

old hobo
December 13, 2004 4:32 PM

There is one program I know of , and it works although there are some programs it doesn't work on so read it's faq. It is called "application mover"
It really helped me.

awilliams
December 22, 2004 9:33 PM

quite the contrary, I have found an excellent application that makes moving applications from one location to another, including registry entries and shortcuts, does, in fact, exist. http://www.iolo.com.
Granted this process takes a long time depending on the size of your harddrive from which you're moving the application because iolo's application scans the whole drive for registry entries, the application to be moved and shortcuts. Ultimately, it works and the wait is shorter than reinstalling.

Carole
February 28, 2005 9:47 AM

How can i move the folder "documents and settings" to a another drive (D)?

Leo
February 28, 2005 9:57 AM

In general you cannot. (There may be hacks, but I don't trust them not to impact the system in other ways.)

The general solution is to examine the application you're using and seeing if you can tell it to use some other directory as its default data directory.

Matthew D. Walker
April 4, 2005 11:16 PM

I have Documents and Settings on a second drive- I wish I could remember exactly how I did it, but in terms of moving it, I seem to remember that it was a no go, however you can set it up that way during the install process. I do remember doing something along the lines of installing normally on C:, then adding an unattend file to drive D: (I think you can use a floppy for this), reinstalling windows using the unattend which specifies the location of documents and settings. I'm about to reformat my whole system and once I get this working again that way I'll report back here on exactly how I did it.

A Nonymous
April 27, 2005 12:29 PM

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/q236621/

As they say in the classics: "RTFM"...

jimbo
June 30, 2005 12:28 PM

get Tweak UI (free, part of the microsoft powertoys). you can specify anything youi want to be your my documents, my music, etc. along with a host of other little tweaks

Shaun Lloyd
August 2, 2005 12:07 AM

free alternative to iolo.com

http://www.funduc.com/app_mover.htm

scottyfree
December 11, 2005 8:43 AM

Follow the instructions at this link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Features/intelmatrixich6r/5.html
This works just fine even if you don't have a RAID array. If you have questions, Terren Tong, the author will get back to you if you e-mail him. I've done this several times on different XP installs and it is pretty easy.

Zaheed Ahmed
December 21, 2005 3:08 AM

To move My documents to anther drive , just right click on the icon My documents on the desktop and change the destination, it will automatically create a Document and setting folder on your new drive.

Doctor Fishbone
May 16, 2006 4:42 PM

most of the software solutions to relocating applications seem to be focused on moving the applications within the same system, like from drive C: to D:. Specifically, I am interested in moving applications from one system with an OS installed, to another system with an OS installed. Without reinstalling the applications on the new system, and retaining the program settings, can this be done??????

I have seen system mechanic mentioned above by Iolo, and yes it's a wonderful tool indeed, but, it also is mereley changing the location of the program within the same machine like a directory or drive change. It is still going to edit the same registry and not the registry of another system running a different registry, am I correct?

As for the people merely wanting to change the default location of the my documents folder....select the properties of the my documents icon on the desktop and you will find a TARGET location which you may change to whatever location you like.

Mike Hunt
August 10, 2006 2:19 PM

what about using a program like magic mover or PC relocator, that will move all links and registry additions.
You make it sound like its an impossible task, when in fact theres some software that will do it in as easy as 3 steps.

Pam
October 18, 2006 2:09 PM

I uninstalled my "Kodak Easyshare" software that was originally on drive c: as I wanted to move it to drive f:, my new drive... However when I went to install it now on drive f: it automatically installed it on the c: drive again, not even giving me an option to choose where I wanted it!!! I gues I shouldn't just "drag" it over to the other drive? this will probably mess some settings up???

Clive Galway
July 2, 2007 11:55 AM

I see a lot of people here confusing "My Documents" and "Documents and Settings" - one is the parent dir for ALL profiles and one is a subdirectory of one profile - there is a huge difference. Without using an unattend.txt or similar (ie use nLite to install XP) then it is not possible (Well there is meant to be a way but it is very convoluted and a bugger to get working, and it doesn't seem 100% reliable) to move the docs and settings (where ALL profiles / app data goes) - it is only possble to move individual profiles to another location.
The same is possible with vista (Move the Users dir at install time).
And yes, you are right that some things are (wrongly) hard-coded to use C:\documents and settings regardless of whether your D+S dir is on C:. The simple way around that is to create a symlink on C: to point to your D+S on D:.

I use this setup exclusively along with GHOST. If my OS dies, I can re-flash my C: with a backed up image and not even have to worry about my profile data (eg outlook mail / favorites / my docs etc) being lost.

luanna
July 31, 2007 9:07 PM

I have a imac g5 and it is moving EXTREMELY slow and/or applications constantly quit. My ex-husband loaded all my applications on my computer and has the disc and/or registration codes for all the apps. I have over $10,000 of applications and plug-ins for the applications on the computer and am not looking to pay that again. However, I NEED an upgraded system. Is it possible to either move the files to another hard drive or maybe even extract the internal hard drive and install it in a new computer? I don't know but I am open to any possibilities!

Eric Vasiliades
August 22, 2007 5:20 PM

Windows got corrupted on hard drive. installed new hard drive as primary. I backed up outlook to a .pst file and installed on the new hard drive. This drive failed in 2 weeks and I did not backup THAT 2 weels worth of emails. I can still access the origianl drive as a secondary drive. Is there a way to retrieve email from the secondary drive that was in use for 2 weeks?

ertan
April 5, 2009 9:51 AM

what about "softrescue pro" ?
look at this program please

Harvey freeman
May 23, 2009 6:45 PM

not looking to move documents just trying to recover installed programs from a drive that doesnt boot to another fully working pc.
I had a motherboard failure, first thought it was the 100gb drive but I hooked it up as a slave on another computer and could read all directorys ok so I bought a motherboard and tried to install old drive NO BOOT had a spare 80 gb drive and reinstalled win xp se on it and it boots fine and again old drive is ok as a slave what I want is to find an easy way to either move all of my installed programs and there regestery links to the new drive or a way to make pointers to the old drive, I have a lot of programs that I have no clue where the origional installs are and would probilly have a dificult time replaceing them is there software that can do that for me? the local computer shop only wants to format and reinstall xp to make it a boot drive and Im trying to not loose everything
thanks

harvey

roberto lijs
August 7, 2009 10:06 AM

i am using this and it is ok

Application Mover (shareware)

Thomas John Hulligan
March 15, 2010 9:43 AM

There used to be quite a few programs that would let you move a application INCLUDING ALL links and DLL's etc to another computer and/or Hard Drive.So WJAT happened to them? The original "Uninstaller" program did this but it looks like the Software manufacturers have squashed this type of program! i.e. to get you to buy ANOTHER copy of their product!! IF a software program can move the contents of a complete Hard Drive to another then there HAS to be the ability to move just ONE application? Yes?!!! John H

Jon Van Loon
April 3, 2010 4:55 PM

I keep (save) all my downloaded uninstalled files of applications on my hard drive, this way they can be moved as downloads and installed on another drive. For many applications a USB connection is okay to make this move. It is better however to connect using a Sata or eSata connections for transfers. Using Sata and eSata it is often possible to move installed applications such as utilities directly, but usually only on XP. With Vista or Winidows 7 the problem is more problematic. Transfers of installed applications from one computers hard drive to a hard drive on another computers hard drive even if both are Vista or Windows 7 is not usually sucessful. For reasons stated above Windows OS or apps like Windows Office cannot be moved except by cloning.
I am just beginning a study on the capabilities for applications transfers using a 32 GB eSata Flash Drive ( also available in 16 and 64 GB capacities). These devices are being sold mainly on their file transfer speed (X4) advantages over USB 2 (USB 3 will negate this), but I feel more attention should be paid to their potential for maintaining file integrity during transfer. In my experience the eSata Flash Drive is recognized as a hard drive (even appearing in the boot menu) if a reboot is done after this hardware is recognized and installed by the computer.

mahuja
December 1, 2010 12:50 AM

The correct answer is yes.

Move the files, create a junction point at the old location pointing to the new. When it accesses the junction point, the file system will silently redirect the read request to a new path. An application that's not specifically looking for it, won't see a junction point.

See wikipedia: NTFS Junction point.
The hitch is that you have to use NTFS for your filesystem, FAT in its various incarnations have no support for this kind of thing.

There was a number of applications that did move the files and fixed all references (in all the obvious places), but it could still miss something. In particular, there's software that hard codes where it is supposed to be located.

Speaking of path-wise broken-by-design, back in win95 non-english, the actual "program files" folder name was localized on disk (e.g. "programfiler"), and installers created a "program files" right next to it. After all, the programmers must have been thinking, there are no languages out there but english, right?

(Nowadays, the localization of pathnames is a User Interface thing, meaning the programs will show the localized name, while using the english name.)

With so much broken software, there's nothing you can (safely) do outside junction points.

Stu
May 21, 2011 9:56 PM

""The short, pragmatic answer to both your questions is no.""

Typical! and the one area that Microsoft have just never "fixed"!! anyone who has ever run a regustry scan from any of the miriad of reg scanners will know all to well - you'v move a folder, or a file from one place to the other, or deleted something and even if there's a new registry entry to show the new location.. you can bet the old one still exists! even the deleted file! Windows needs some serious work to work properly, and perform a registry update when ever something is moved or deleted! even if it stored these up to perform a reg update at shutdown.
The registry is the biggest Pain in the Ass that Microsoft created.
and there Should be a simple way to shift a folder containing an installed app to another location and have it work just as before.

'Course you can't break anything by giving it a try.. Copy the instal folder to the other partition or disk drive, rename the original folder to something else, and point the shortcut to the new location, if it doesnt work you can just rename the original folder back to normal and delete the copied folder from new location.
and reset the shortcut back to as it was.

Edam
August 6, 2011 8:54 PM

You are wrong. As one person already replied, Application Mover will do the job. I've been using it for years. Asking Leo is obviously a waste of time! But I'm guessing that this won't be published, right?

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