Windows annoyance #342: Everything goes to the C drive

Sometimes the sheer pain of dealing with Windows' quirks, 'features', and various anomalies is just about more than any sane person can bear. The fact that everything goes to the C drive drives me crazy and after 20+ years with Windows, that drive is pretty short.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

Have you ever wondered just what the heck is up with every bit of software that's made by Microsoft defaulting to the C: drive? I don't hate Microsoft. No, seriously, I really don't. I like the company, the operating systems, and the applications today more than ever before. In fact, if you've read my last few Microsoft-oriented posts, you'd think I'm in love with that particular Washingtonian. And yes, among other things, I'm a Wintel Administrator, but truth be told, there are some things about Windows that makes me want to personally "whack" some of the developers. And by whack, I don't mean backslash, although that's not a bad move.

Microsoft should take a hint from the UNIX/Linux world in that the system partition should be kept small and relatively unchanged. For those of you in that world, you know what I'm talking about. The / directory is sacred. As a separate volume, it's small and almost never changes. It shouldn't.

That's what /var is for. Hasn't Microsoft ever heard of UNIX or Linux? Sure they have. But just in case, I'm going out on a limb here and giving Redmond a message from the heart.


I hope that isn't too subtle. The only things that really belong on the C: drive or C: partition are the operating system and the pagefile, although the location of the pagefile can be debated.

Here's my problem in a nutshell.

If you build a new system, virtual or physical, shouldn't 35 or 40GB be enough for a system partition? You'd think so wouldn't you?

But it isn't.

It's not enough.

The C: drive just keeps growing and growing and growing.

Most of it is kept in that C:\Windows\winsxs directory. My current winsxs directory is just over 20GB in size. On my C: drive.


Wouldn't it be smarter for a leveraged server environment, where you have hundreds or thousands of servers, for the winsxs directory to be located on a shared SAN drive? Sure it would. Provide me a tool or an option to move it. I don't want to burn 20+ GB of space on drivers and whatever else is in there. Don't make me keep that stuff where I don't want it.

Also, don't automatically place the pagefile.sys and hibernate files on the C: drive. Let me choose those locations as well.

And, as a side note, do we really need a pagefile or hibernate on server systems that run 24x7x365 and that have plenty of RAM? No, I don't think so either. Let's let those things all be optional and editable.

Also, when installing new software, allow me to select where the files are stored. Oh, I know that I can tell software application X that I want it to install to D:, E:, or whatever but there are still dozens of files that write to C:. I don't want that. I want them all on D: or E: or whatever drive I decide. Don't write anything to C: unless it's a log file for that installation. And that file's location should even be optional.

I'm tired of fighting space problems on C:. Do you know how difficult it is to repartition a system partition or C: drive? Well, it's hard. Trust me. And it's no easier if it's virtual.

I understand that it's next to impossible for Microsoft to anticipate real world scenarios for its operating systems and applications but come on, this isn't your first rodeo. You've been around long enough to realize that disk space is still at a premium and that your customers have to pay for that SAN space. 

The C: drive thing has been a major thorn for those of us in support for many years. Consider this a formal protest. I'm here to represent my brothers and sisters of the Wintel System Administrator ilk. I have your collective back. Get on board with this.

The C: drive is sacred. It is the Windows equivalent of /. Stop putting stuff there. Take that one shred of wisdom from the UNIX world. Separate your partitions. Limit the amount of stuff that gets written to certain directories. Allow us, the real worlders, to decide where to put apps, libraries, logs, and files. Keep applications and their associated files all together under a single directory tree. Please simplify our lives, I beseech you.

I don't beseech very often but I beseech thee Microsoft, giveth us control of our C: drives, giveth us options, and giveth us some freedom from the constant fight for space on the system partition.

Please remove Windows Annoyance #342 from my list. Let's replace it with the whole rebooting thing after every update or installation of a new service, which incidentally are Windows Annoyances #343 and #344. Consider yourself beseeched.

What do you think? How many times have you run into this very problem? How have you resolved it? Talk back and let me know.

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