Posted by: 2stepsback | August 3, 2007

Changing Windows special folders

Windows allows you to change the locations of its standard or “special folders” like “My Documents”, “My Music”, “My Pictures”, etc. so that you can customize the locations as you wish.

There are a few ways of doing this:
(a) Changing registry entires by hand:
This requires you to be a pro at Windows registry. A few wrong entries can make your system stop working. So be careful.

(b) Using software that manage Windows “symbolic links” like Winbolic Links.

(c) Using The TweakUI XP Power Toy for Windows XP. Of course, installing Power Toys needs you to have a registered copy of Windows XP, which if you are using, you really should register.

Symbolic Links are not shortcuts. Instead, you could think of them as pointers to folders (like references in OOP).

There are “Junctions” as well, which are supposed to be even more closely integrated with the NT kernel, but it is advised against using those since if you delete a junction to a folder, the folder is also lost, unlike a symbolic link which, on deletion, just removes that name to the target folder. If any other names/links point to the target folder, the target folder remains unaffected.
That is obviously much safer.

The strategy I use is:

  • Install Windows on a partition of about 10GB size (some programs simply cannot be reconfigured, so that space is for them)
  • Using Symbolic links, the data folders point to another partition, so that backing up data is done by saving only one partition (Yes, if you have those non-cooperative programs, you have to do some extra backup work, but majority of your work is saved on this data partition)
  • Programs are installed on a third partition – this requires you to perform the rare, patient operation of carefully clicking next throughout the installation, always choosing the “custom” install and changing the program location to the other partition, say “D:/programs”, for each program you install. Fwiw, I also suggest that you read license agreements carefully as well. You are supposed to read it as a consumer, much like you should a warranty document
  • Another partition for storing installers of various programs, frameworks, SDK’s, etc.

In short, organize your folders as you want them.

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