GEEK TO ME: Follow best practices on file storage

Jeff Werner

Back in November of last year, I took advantage of the “Black Friday” prices and snagged a nice new laptop. Aside from doubling my old system’s RAM to 16 gigs, it also came configured with dual drives — one SDD for fast booting, and a 1 terabyte drive for data storage. Unfortunately, the out-of-the-box configuration left something to be desired.

Windows likes to store data in specific user-owned folders set aside for that purpose. I’m talking about folders like, Documents, Music, Video, Pictures, and about a dozen others. These are called Personal Folders, and generally are located under C:\Users\<Username>. Do you see the problem? My laptop’s manufacturer provided a monstrous hard drive, but Windows is configured to store all my files on the SDD, which, while super-fast, has less than a quarter of the space that the dedicated data drive has.

Now, I could have just created some folders over on the big drive, and simply disciplined myself to manually change the save location every time I create a new file. While that would work, it is definitely not very Geeky. A much better solution is to change the Windows location where the user files are stored, so they are automatically placed there each and every time. It’s easier than you probably think.

For the sake of this example, we’ll relocate the Documents folder. Don’t get hung up on that one folder, because these procedures will work just as well for any of the Personal Folders. Start by creating the new location where you want the folder to live. Go carefully here, and do a little planning, because you will probably want to move other folders later, and you don’t want to accidentally mix their contents. In my case, I went to my E: drive, and created the path E:\Users\Geek\Documents\. When I wanted to move other folders, I created the new ones right in the E:\Users\Geek\ folder.

The following steps must be performed using File Explorer running with Administrator privileges. If you regularly follow my advice, the account you usually use does not have these privileges, but you know the credentials of your administration account. If you don’t know how to run File Explorer with privileges, follow the steps at TinyURL.com\IGTM-0652

Using the privileged File Explorer, navigate to C:\Users\<Username>. Right-click on the folder labeled “Documents” and then select “Properties” from the menu. In the dialog that comes up, click the “Location” tab, and click on “Move…” Browse to the new folder that you created above, then click “Select Folder”. Verify the new path that you want is displayed in the box, then click “OK”. Windows will prompt you with a dialog showing the old and new locations. Perform one final check to ensure it’s configured the way you want it, then click “Yes” to begin moving the folder and its contents.

Depending on the number of files that need to be moved, this might take some time, so don’t get impatient. Don’t try to open any of the files or reboot until the operation completes. When it’s done, you’ll probably notice very little has changed, since you rarely see the physical location where the files are stored. If you click on “Documents” in File Explorer’s navigation bar, you will find your documents, just like you always have, even though their location has changed. Remember, you can do the same for all the other Personal Folders, to keep drive C: well-below capacity.

Well the second shoe finally dropped on Jan. 14, and Microsoft has officially terminated support for Windows 7. If you somehow missed all of the very public warnings, as well as repeated mentions here in my column, and you’re still running Windows 7, your risk increases with each passing day. But it’s not too late to do something about it. I’ve already said my piece about this, so rather than re-hash it all, I’ll refer you to the column archives on my website, specifically, I.G.T.M. Issue #644, which published the week of Nov. 24-30, 2019. There you’ll even find information about upgrading to Windows 10 for free if your computer qualifies.

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