Move Your Data to a Safer, Separate Partition, Part 2: Vista

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Leo knows that data is safer if you don't keep it on the same partition as Windows and your programs. Last week I explained fixing this in XP; now I'll tackle Vista.

Restoring Windows to its brand-new condition (an occasionally necessary job) generally involves losing everything on the hard drive system partition. That includes your documents, photos, and everything else we collectively call data. Moving your data to a separate partition therefore adds an extra layer of security and convenience.

Last week I explained how to do this surprisingly difficult task in XP. Now I'll tackle it in Vista.

Before you begin, make an image backup of your drive, just to be safe.

Now let's shrink the existing partition and create a new one. Select Start, type diskmgmt.msc, and press ENTER. In the resulting Disk Management program, right-click the box for your hard drive partition and select Shrink Volume. Fill in the resulting dialog box. When the volume has shrunk, right-click the Unallocated box and select New Simple Volume and follow the wizard. The default settings will probably be fine.

Once you've got the two partitions set up, make sure that your PC shows hidden files and folders: In Windows Explorer, select Organize, then Folder and Search Options. Click the View tab, select Show hidden files and folders, and click OK. You can change this back when you're done, if you wish.

Then, just to be safe, back up your registry.

For convenience sake, I'm going to refer to the new partition, which is probably D: or E:, as X:. I'll also refer to your logon name as logon, as in C:\Users\logon\Documents.

Navigate in Windows Explorer to the data partition you just created (the one I'm calling X:) and create a new folder named with your logon name (which I'm calling logon). Then select Start and lick your logon name at the top of the Start menu to launch another Windows Explorer window, this one show your old C:\Users\logon folder.

Let's start by moving the Documents folder: Right-click Documents and select Properties. Click the Location tab. Enter X: \ logon \Documents as the new path. (By now you know what I mean by X: and logon, right?) Answer affirmatively to all of Windows' questions.

You may notice when Windows is finished that Documents is still visible in the C:\Users folder. Have no fear. That's just a pointer. The files are actually now on X:\. If you don't believe me, open up the Documents folder and click in the address bar, like this:

And you'll see something like this:

This same trick works in every folder in your login except AppData. You can decide which of these you want to move.

By the way, you might notice a couple of files in the login folder, named ntuser.*. Do not move these. They're part of the Registry. Even if they were moveable, they really belong on the Windows partition.

The AppData folder has stuff you want to move and stuff you don't. and Windows doesn't want you to move any of them. Here's how to move the parts that you should move:

In x:\logon, create an AppData folder. Then, in :\Users\logon, open the old AppData folder and drag the Roaming folder to D:\logon\appdata. This will copy, not move, that folder.

Now you have to edit the Registry. Select Start, type regedit, and press ENTER. In the left pane, navigate to and select HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders. Double-click the AppData value, change the 'Value data' field to X :\ logon \AppData\Roaming, and press ENTER. Reboot, go to C:\Users\logon\AppData\Roaming (make sure it's the one on C:) and delete every folder except Microsoft. That one, unfortunately, has to stay put.

If you're not using Outlook or Windows Mail, you're done. If you are, follow this extra instructions:

Outlook: In Windows Explorer, navigate to and select C:\Users\logon\AppData\Local\Microsoft. Inside this folder you'll find a subfolder named 'Outlook'. Move it to X:\logon\Application Data.

Then Select Start, Control Panel. Double-click the Mail icon (if you don't see this icon, click Switch to Classic View). Click the Data Files button. On the Data Files tab, click the Personal Folders listing (probably the only one). Click OK at the error message. Browse the resulting dialog box to X:\logon\Application Data\Outlook, double-click the displayed file, and close the various dialog boxes.

Windows Mail: Open Windows Mail and select Tools, Options, and click the Advanced tab, the Maintenance button, and then the Store Folder button. Click Change, and pick a new location. When you close Windows Mail, the program will copy the files to their new home.

11/13/2009: This article was altered to correct an error.

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