Nifty Way to Safely Move Folders or Programs to Another Drive or Partition in Windows 7

Would you like to move some folders or programs off the C:\ drive to free up space or to reduce wear and tear on an expensive SSD? Unfortunately, moving folders or files off the C:\ drive to another drive or partition is not always as simple as it seems. The folder or file may be referenced in the Registry or in some script or application. If it is an installed program you are moving, you would have to uninstall it and then re-install it in the new location. Making an ordinary shortcut file won’t do because shortcuts look like separate files to programs and the Registry.

A previous tip showed a method for safely moving certain personal folders. In this tip I will show a general but simple way to move programs or other folders and files while maintaining all the original references. In fact, you can make it appear that your folder or file is still on the C:\ drive when it has actually been moved to another drive or partition. Moreover, you will be able to access or even edit the object from either place although there is only one copy. It brings to mind the old expression about having your cake and eating it too. The method uses what are called symbolic links. (A simple explanation of what symbolic links are can be found in this article.)

Symbolic links can be created in the command line with a special command that was first introduced in Vista. It is called Mklink (described in more detail here) and here is how it works for a folder:

  1. Before doing anything, make sure you have a backup of your system
  2. Move (not copy) the desired folder (let’s call it ExistingName) by the usual methods to its new destination on the X:\ volume. Give it whatever name you choose. Let’s call it NewName but it can retain ExistingName if you wish.  At this point programs and Registry references may be broken. It is necessary to move the folder first since otherwise no symbolic link can be created on the C.\ drive
  3. Next open a command prompt with elevated privileges. (This previous tip explains how.)
  4. Enter the command mklink /d C:\ExistingName X:\NewName The switch /d indicates that we are linking folders (directories). No switch would be used if a file was being linked. If your folder name has spaces, you have to enclose the path name in quotes.
  5. If a link is successfully made, the command line will show a message “symbolic link created for ExistingName <<===>> X:\NewName”.
  6. Close the command prompt 

That's all it takes. All of the previous Registry or other references to C:\ExistingName will continue to work. The command creates a small object on the C:\ drive that retains the previous folder name and behaves as if it has the contents of the folder that is really over on the X:\ drive.

It’s the magic of symbolic links.

Freeware that uses symbolic links to move folders - I haven't used it because I prefer the quick and easy command-line method but there is a free application called SymMover for moving folders and creating symbolic links. Website is here. If you try it, let us know how it worked out.

Warning: Moving personal data folders by the method described here is fine but moving or redirecting the main Users folder can cause trouble with upgrades.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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Comments

by BarMeNam on 6. February 2014 - 11:41  (114285)

Thank YOU for the link to "SymMover ". I received a gift of malware as a door prize. You download the crapware and are forced also to download their free backup system.

[Personal and racist comments deleted as per site rules]

by MidnightCowboy on 6. February 2014 - 12:09  (114286)

The SymMover download defaults to cnet which uses a wrapped installer. It is from this you received the unwanted extra components. We published an article about this some time ago but maybe you missed it. MC Site Manager.

http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/cnet-downloadcom-wrapped-install...

Additional information here.

http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/what-else-have-you-just-download...

by JazzLeighe (not verified) on 20. October 2012 - 23:16  (101122)

Looks like the next computer I buy will be a Mac.... all this fooling around is ridiculous, and worth the extra money that Apple (even though it is a monopoly) wrings out of its devotees. Yikes! And I've been a Microsoft supporter since 1992.

by michael clyde (not verified) on 14. August 2012 - 13:51  (97701)

i was just looking at "directory linker" recommended by tonny anderson it works on net. 3.3, will work on xp (w/limitations), vista and se7enx64. will do files and/or folders, seems easy. i used hardlinkshellext some years back and iirc it was not that hard but it wasn't a no brainer like d/lnkr and symmover seem to be. even though my 7x64 pro install disk is right around 2 GB's i'm around 18 or so GB's, just over 8GB's in an acronis image w/high compression, about 98 programs installed (way too many)
and i still get a functional d/top in 45 seconds, fastest on the block. thanks for the info vic.

michael clyde

by CuriousJM (not verified) on 16. July 2012 - 15:51  (96279)

I installed Symmover but it won't run in Windows 7 and asks for .NET Framework v4.0.30319.

Its website is silent about this requirement

by blaszta on 12. July 2012 - 18:23  (96106)

I use it to move my entire iTunes music library, apps, and iPhone backup to drive D, so I wouldn't worry if I need to reinstall Windows.

by mjhedger on 12. July 2012 - 0:26  (96066)

I use Steam Mover. It was originally designed to move Steam Games to and from your SSD and rotating media drive, but it also works with other folders as well. The thing I like about it is you can click a button to move the folder from one, to the other. The application is a portable, single file, thereby simplifying the process even further. It can be found at http://www.traynier.com/software/steammover/

by Tonny Andersen (not verified) on 11. July 2012 - 15:08  (96045)

I use a program called Directory Linker from http://dirlinker.codeplex.com to do this when I move installed games/programs. Very easy to use.

by Lance (not verified) on 11. July 2012 - 9:54  (96035)

This article reminded me of a great program I used for many years with Windows XP. It was called COA2- "Change of Address 2". Sadly it doesn't work with Win 7. I even moved the whole Microsoft Office suite from one drive to another without the slightest problem. I hope SymMover is equally as efficient.

by mpb (not verified) on 14. July 2012 - 3:30  (96154)

I used that too. It was great--sought, found, and changed every registry link.

by R.F. (not verified) on 11. July 2012 - 3:23  (96023)

You may want to have a look at:
"http://schinagl.priv.at/nt/hardlinkshellext/hardlinkshellext.html"

I have been using this software on Windows XP SP2&SP3
for several years with no problems. I even have directory junctions across separate partitions C: <===> D: of the same NTFS volume.

But you are correct about the great mass of misinformation re Hard/soft/links/junctions floating around out there.

Regards

R.F.

by Urbane.Tiger on 12. July 2012 - 2:19  (96068)

I've also used LinkShellExtension for several years on XP, Vista and Win7

As its name implies its a shell extension, i.e. it works from the Windows Explorer context (right click) menu. It works fine with other file managers like xplorer2, and XYplorer, I use it from xplorer2.

One of the most useful gadgets I have. It also implements SymLinks on XP, although I've not tried it.

There's also a command line version http://schinagl.priv.at/nt/ln/ln.html

Its free, its under continuous development, and the author is always open to suggestions for improvement.

by Robertden on 10. July 2012 - 23:47  (96018)

I used Symmover(Careful downloading-decline Coupon Companion)and experimented and it worked like a charm.I moved a 1gb. game in about 3 secondsand played it on my second hard drive with the same shortcut.It's funny because then all of the games files appeared in both locations but it was a 0 mb. file on my primary drive. I played it and then moved it back to my primary hard driveand played it there without a hitch except a minor complaint from my firewall. It was so much easier and 100 times faster than uninstalling it from C drive(then cleaning registry) and then downloading it and installing it on D drive.

by v.laurie on 11. July 2012 - 0:17  (96020)

Thanks for letting us know how SymMover worked out.

by tedwest (not verified) on 10. July 2012 - 16:49  (95995)

I still haven't gotten this question answered: why would anyone want all this nuisance when all you have to do is reinstall the program where you want it?

by chrisvw on 11. July 2012 - 5:12  (96026)

Most programs, when installed, will always add folders in the AppData folders on the C: drive, even if you choose to install said program on the F: drive. SymLinks enables you to move even the AppData folders off of the SSD.

For example: SecondLife. I installed it on my F: drive, but the cache and profiles are saved on the C: drive. SymLinks enabled me to move these frequently changed files to the F: drive also.

by tedwest (not verified) on 11. July 2012 - 8:14  (96031)

I like the idea of that, though I still question whether the nuisance is worth it unless the sizes involved are large. Coincidentally, I recently moved both my Firefox and Thunderbird profiles, and all it took was a redirect in the .INI file of each.

by Anonymous6989 (not verified) on 10. July 2012 - 23:40  (96017)

For 1 reason you might not have the original software or product key. It could be more of a nuisance trying to find a copy.

Also would uninstalling also remove all your preferences and settings depending on the program? If so then that could be more of a nuisance also.

by tedwest (not verified) on 11. July 2012 - 3:37  (96025)

OK, those are both relatively obscure examples since most people would still have their copies and few programs have so many settings that they're much of a nuisance to reset. Still, I suppose the nuisance described in the article would be justified in those circumstances.

by Anonymous6989 (not verified) on 11. July 2012 - 7:34  (96030)

True :-)

by Martin Chua (not verified) on 10. July 2012 - 16:18  (95991)

I believe the above method is good for moving unlocked files/folders. If you try it on say, your user profile (C:\Users\), Windows will not allow you to perform the move operation. One way to overcome this is to do the move operation outside Windows environment by booting to System Recovery mode using Win7 DVD.

Secondly, your method of using symbolic link (aka soft link) may not work well inside Windows compare to using the hard link method. Because soft link, unlike hard link, points to filename, not the file data itself.

There is a very good article on how to Users Directory (it can be applied to Programs Folder too) in Windows 7 here: http://lifehacker.com/5467758/move-the-users-directory-in-windows-7.

by v.laurie on 10. July 2012 - 17:03  (95998)

@Martin Chua: I am afraid that the erroneous statements that exist in many places on the Internet have misled you. For example, in Windows hard links apply to files only and work only on the same drive. You cannot use them to move folders. Even supposed experts have made incorrect statements about hard links. The reference you give repeats the incorrect notion that junctions are hard links. They are not. They are an older form of soft link.I do not understand why you say that soft links won't work well in Windows. They are used all the time.

For more information, please take a look at http://windows7tips.com/symlinks-definition.html and at http://windows7tips.com/symlinks-creation.html

by tentimes on 28. December 2012 - 16:17  (104053)

This is unmistakably wrong. I have moved directories and use symbolic links to them many, many times in Windows 7. I do it regularly.

I have used junctions for my entire steam collection and several other things to move them off SSD's.

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