Saturday, November 27, 2010

Computing: Moving your "My Documents" folder

Windows has been set up to do a very stupid thing... its default location for your "My Documents" folder is in the Users section of your C: drive.  The very same drive your operating system resides on.

Normally this wouldn't be a problem, if computer viruses didn't exist.  But oftentimes the most effective and time-saving method of cleaning up your virus problems (especially if the victim isn't particularly computer-savvy) is to reformat your operating system drive, and reinstalling Windows.  I'm sorry, but there's no way I'm going to spend a nine hour phone call with my Grandmother explaining to her how to download the virus removal tool or get into her hidden files and folders, or the registry.  It's just not going to happen.

So here's how you can permanently relocate your "My Documents" folder to another hard drive, assuming you have one (and you really, really should) so that you don't lose all those important documents, photos, and music.

1.  Locate the icon for your "My Documents" folder.  Depending on which version of Windows you're using, this may be located on your desktop or in your "Start" menu.

2.  Right-click the icon and select "Properties"... it should be all the way down on the bottom.

3.  In the box that pops up, you will see several tabs across the top... one should say "Location".  If it doesn't, then you're probably running a much earlier version of Windows (Like, before XP) in which case you can probably just move the folder manually.  I don't have a way of checking that, however.

4.  On the "Location" tab, you should see a box with the current file path in it, and three buttons below it.  Click on the "Move" button. 

5.  A box titled "Select Destination" should pop up.  Select the proper drive letter from the tree on the left, and then click the button marked "Select Folder".  It doesn't have to be an actual folder, despite what the button says.  In this instance, just the top level of the drive is good, such as D: or E:.   It's going to be "cutting and pasting" the entire "My Documents" folder from the old location to the new one, so there's no need to create a folder to put it in.  That will just make finding your files a pain in the keister later.  Make sure you have enough room on the drive for the folder, and some extra space for future stuff, like new photos or music.

 6.  Wait for it to finish moving.  Depending on how much stuff you have this can take quite a long time.  If you have over a Terabyte (that's 1,000 Gigabytes, people) it can take upwards of an hour, depending on what you've got running in the background.  Especially if you have things writing files to one of the two drives that are involved in this process.  My last move took several hours because I forgot Tivo desktop was copying TV shows to my computer.  Oy.

Okay!  You should be all set.  All programs that use the My Documents folder (some games and applications save files to your folder) will see it in its new location and everything!  And your data is safer if there's a catastrophic failure of your OS drive, or you have to reformat for any reason.  Not just viruses.

However, you should still follow a regular schedule of backing up your important stuff.  It's no different than scanning and saving your hard-copy photos or documents that are important to you.  Having extra copies, saved in a separate location than where the originals are, is always a good idea.  I'll be talking about a backup plan later.

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