Windows Vista introduces a fundamental change in the way user data is stored. The XP-style Documents And Settings folder is gone, replaced by the Users folder, which is located in the root of the system drive. Each user account has its own profile folder here, which contains 11 folders, each devoted to a different type of data.
One of the smartest things you can do with these folders is to relocate them to a different drive than the one that contains Windows and your Program Files folder. The advantage? By separating system files from data, you make it easy to back up and restore each. Create an image-based backup of the system drive (using the built-in Complete PC Backup tool in Vista Business or Ultimate editions or a third-party product like Acronis True Image) and back up data files using whatever method works best for you. If something happens to your system drive, you can restore the image, and your data files remain unaffected.
Although you can partition a single drive into multiple volumes, I recommend using two separate physical drives for maximum data security; in a two-drive configuration a hardware failure doesn’t wipe out everything.
Moving your user data folders is ridiculously easy. The instructions below assume you have added a second drive using the letter E:.
- Click Start, Computer, and double-click the icon for your data drive (E:, in this example).
- On the Windows Explorer toolbar, click Organize and choose New Folder from the menu.
- Type a name for the folder in which you want to store all your document folders. For convenience, I use my user name, but you can choose any legal folder name. Double-click this folder to open it in the current window.
- Click Start and then click your user name (at the top of the right column on the Start menu). This opens a second Explorer window containing your data folders.
- Press Ctrl+A to select all folders. Point to any selected folder, hold down the right mouse button, and drag to the folder you created in Step 3.
- Release the mouse button. Windows displays a shortcut menu asking whether you want to move or copy the selected items. Choose Move Here.
That’s it. You can verify that the data folders have been moved by returning to the user profile folder, opening the Properties dialog box for any subfolder, and looking at the Location tab.
If you want to leave some user data on the system drive and only move specific folders (Music or Videos, let’s say), you can do so by modifying the procedure in Step 5. Instead of selecting all folders, right-click and drag one folder at a time into the new location.