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User Profiles - Relocate to another Partition or Disk


Kari

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User Profiles - Relocate to another Partition or Disk
This will show you how to use Windows 8 System Preparation Tool to relocate user profiles to another partition or disk.
Published by Kari
#1
ByLine
How to Relocate User Profiles to another Partition or Disk in Windows 8
Synopsis
This will show you how to use Windows 8 System Preparation Tool to relocate user profiles to another partition or disk.
How to Relocate User Profiles to another Partition or Disk in Windows 8

information   Information
The method described in this tutorial allows relocating user profiles and folders already while installing Windows 8, before any user accounts are created, as well as after installation on an already installed system.

The advantage of this method is that it changes some internal Windows 8 environment variables, being a “Do it once and forget” procedure. Changing the variables takes care of all existing and future user profiles, locating them when created to selected drive or partition. The method is fail proof and reversible.

When Windows 8 is installed, 5 or 6 system folders are created depending on chosen bit-version:
  • PerfLogs (Performance Logs), where Windows stores performance and reliability logs
  • Program Files, where applications and software are installed. Windows x86 (32-bit) stores all applications here, Windows x64 (64-bit) only native 64-bit applications
  • Program Files (x86), exists only in Windows x64. All non-x64 applications are stored here
  • Windows, which contains core operating system files and drivers
  • ProgramData, where some applications store application and user specific settings and configuration files.
  • Users. This is the “home” of all user profiles. When a new user account is created and this new user logs in first time, Windows creates a set of user specific folders (Users\Username)

Microsoft does not recommend relocating, moving ProgramData, Program Files, Program Files (x86) and Windows folders. Too much is depending on information and data stored on these folders. However, there's simply nothing preventing us to move the Users folder. In this tutorial we show how to move (relocate) the Users folder by changing an internal Windows Environment Variable.

Moving Users folder can save a lot of space on system disk. Pictures, mp3’s videos, documents and so on, a user folder with its subfolders can be tens, sometimes hundreds of gigabytes.

Personally, when installing Windows 8 I always use Audit Mode to relocate Users folder, leaving system drive only for Windows and applications.


Note   Note
Screenshots from pre-release version Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Actual Windows 8 has different colors but the functions are the same, tutorial can be used as it is.


warning   Warning

An upgraded Windows cannot be sysprepped. As this method is based in sysprepping, this tutorial is valid only for Windows setups which have not been upgraded.

This means that if you have for instance in-place upgraded Vista or Seven to Eight you cannot sysprep and this tutorial cannot be used in your case. The same applies if you have upgraded Windows 8 to Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8 to 8.1.

Notice that a repair install is also an upgrade install, so if you have ever done a repair install (= in-place upgrade to same edition), you cannot sysprep.

When sysprepping an existing Windows setup, it only works if the Windows 8 was installed clean and has never been upgraded or repaired using repair install, or if it is the original pre-installed Windows 8

Although I have repeatedly told that relocating ProgramData will cause Windows Store and Apps as well as PC Settings not to function, people keep doing it using the method described in this tutorial.

DO NOT RELOCATE PROGRAMDATA! YOUR WINDOWS STORE AND APPS WILL NOT WORK IF PROGRAMDATA IS MOVED FROM ITS DEFAULT LOCATION.



1.Audit Mode

1.1. Boot to Audit Mode when installing Windows 8


(If you have already installed Windows 8, continue from step 1.2.)

Start Windows 8 installation normally.

When installation after a reboot or two is completed and Windows 8 comes to Personalize page (see screenshot below) press CTRL + SHIFT + F3 (press and hold down CTRL and SHIFT, press F3 still holding CTRL and SHIFT down, release all three keys).


Win8_RelocateUsers_012.png

DO NOT ENTER PC NAME HERE OR CLICK NEXT! Just press CTRL + SHIFT + F3.

Your computer reboots now. Don’t panic, it’s just doing what it really should do. Windows 8 starts now in so called Audit Mode, using built-in administrator account to let you to modify Windows before any user profiles and user specific folders are created.

Continue from step 2.


1.2. Boot to Audit Mode from existing Windows 8 installation

First you need to open Command Prompt using built-in administrative account: hover pointer over bottom left corner of the desktop, right click to open Start Menu , select Command Prompt (Admin):

Win8_RelocateUsers_005.png Win8_RelocateUsers_006.png

Command Prompt window opens. Type this to command prompt:
Code:
[B]C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep\Sysprep.exe /audit /reboot[/B]

Win8_RelocateUsers_015.png

Hit Enter.Windows reboots now to Audit Mode, "thinking" it's been started first time. Text Preparing can be seen on screen.

If you are interested to know more about Audit Mode, here are some links for you to read:




2. Audit Mode

Windows has now booted in Audit Mode using built-in administrator account, and you should see Metro interface. Click Desktop to enter classic Windows desktop:

Win8_RelocateUsers_003.png

To start, click Cancel to close System Preparation Tool:

Win8_RelocateUsers_004.png


If you don’t have a second internal hard disk or you have not created and formatted an extra partition on your system disk, you need first to create one. Notice that the drive or partition don't have to be empty, but especially if relocating on an existing installation it must be big enough to allow Users folder to be moved there. When we sysprep with answer file on next step these two folders are physically moved to new location.

If you already have a formatted second HD or partition, you are ready to go.


2.1. Creating an answer file (script) for System Preparation Tool

Audit Mode lets us to start Windows without creating any user accounts. At the moment we are using the built-in administrator account. Your own accounts are created later.

We are going to use System Preparation Tool (sysprep) to run an XML-script (so called Answer file) which modifies the Windows registry and settings as we want to, relocating Users folder to another partition, E: in this example, by changing a so called Windows Environment Variable. You can of course use any internal drive you want to.

Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a set of rules for encoding documents in machine readable form.
To make changes to Windows registry, we will now create a script in XML and run it with sysprep.

Open Windows Notepad text editor (press Win + R, type Notepad, hit Enter). Type the following script, or copy it from here and paste to Notepad (please do not forget to read the notes below code lines 4, 6 and 11 regarding said lines):


  1. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
  2. <unattend xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:unattend">
  3. <settings pass="oobeSystem">
  4. <component name="Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup" processorArchitecture="amd64" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" language="neutral" versionScope="nonSxS" xmlns:wcm=[noparse]"http://schemas.microsoft.com/WMIConfig/2002/State" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"[/noparse]>
    Note   Note
    (If you are installing Windows x64 (64-bit), value prosessorArchitecture should be amd64​, also on Intel processors. For x86 (32-bit) it should be x86.)
  5. <FolderLocations>
  6. <ProfilesDirectory>e:\Users</ProfilesDirectory>
    Note   Note
    In this example the new location of Users would be E:\Users. Change the drive letter according your needs.
  7. </FolderLocations>
  8. </component>
  9. </settings>
  10. [noparse]<cpi:eek:fflineImage[/noparse] cpi:source="wim:F:/sources/install.wim#Windows 8" xmlns:cpi="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:cpi" />
    Note   Note
    (Change the drive letter in wim:F: to that of your CD/DVD drive, USB stick or virtual drive containing your Windows 8 installation media (DVD/ISO). Notice that installation media has to be available to system when running sysprep. Change Windows version accordingly, Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.1 Pro.
  11. </unattend>
(Please leave the row numbers out when typing or copying the above code. Answer file generated with Windows System Image Manager).

If you are installing Windows 8 PRO x64 from CD/DVD/USB F: and relocating Users to E: you don’t have to change anything, you can use the script as it is.

Select Save As from Notepad’s File menu. Select Save as type: All Files. Name the file as you want, add .xml extension to the filename. Save the script to the root of any drive:

SaveAs.png

Alternatively you can download the answer file here: View attachment relocate.rar

2.2. Using System Preparation Tool

Open the Start Menu (Win + X), select Command Prompt (Admin).

First stop the Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service (WMPNetworkSvc) by giving the following command:
Code:
net stop WMPNetworkSvc
When the service has stopped, type the following to the command prompt and press Enter to move to the right folder:
Code:
cd c:\Windows\System32\Sysprep
Win8_RelocateUsers_007.png

Now type the following and press Enter (notice the name and path of the script we created above, change it if needed. I saved answer file on E so the path is E:\relocate.xml):
Code:
Sysprep.exe /audit /reboot /unattend:E:\relocate.xml
Win8_RelocateUsers_008.png

You should now see System Preparation Tool dialog telling it is working on our script:

Win8_RelocateUsers_010.png

Let it run, don’t touch mouse or keyboard now. When System Preparation Tool is ready, Windows must and will reboot. It reboots back to Audit Mode.


2.3. Exiting Audit Mode

To continue Windows installation we have to exit Audit Mode and reboot. After reboot you’ll land back on Metro interface. Click Desktop to enter classic Windows desktop, click OK on System Preparation Tool dialog to boot normally in OOBE i.e. normal mode.

Before clicking OK, check that System Cleanup Action is set to OOBE, and Shutdown Options set to Reboot:

Win8_RelocateUsers_009.png



3. Finalizing installation

Finalize Windows installation.

If you did this from an existing Windows installation, you will notice that for your Windows this is as if it were the first time Windows was booted i.e you are back on OOBE boot, inserting product key and personalizing Windows. It also means that you have to enter so called initial user. In this case Windows does not accept any of the users created earlier, whether local or Microsoft accounts; instead you need to create a new user.

An example from this PC I am using now: I had already created two users and installed software when I decided to do sysprep to relocate Users. I had a local account for me and an Microsoft account using my email address. After finalizing sysprep, I needed to create a third user Test because system does not let me to use either Kari (local account) or Kari (Microsoft account) usernames because those accounts already existed on this PC.

So I created user Test (local), then from Welcome screen logged in as Kari (Microsoft account) and simply deleted the new Test account which I had just created. An extra step, small annoyance but there's nothing to do to avoid it.

When Windows finally boots first time to Start Screen you will see that Users folder is now located on the new drive or partition with all its subfolders.

When you check your system drive [noparse](C:) still [/noparse]contains Users folder. The old, original Users on C: can contain some Windows Store information that may not be moved, so let the old Users folder stay on C:. It will no longer grow, all new user data will be stored on a new location, but it is essential it remains on C:. You can hide it if you want, you are never again going to need it.

Notice that Users folder is not created on or moved to new location when you return to Audit Mode after running sysprep. Relocation will first happen when you exit Audit Mode and boot to OOBE (Welcome) mode to continue installation. If done on an existing system the first OOBE boot after sysprepping can take quite a long time, depending on how big those folders are that sysprep is physically moving to new location.

Remember also that when you create a new user profile the user folders are not created before the new user logs in first time.

That’s it, folks! Welcome to the Windows 8:


Win8_RelocateUsers_016.png

Win8_RelocateUsers_017.png

Now create a system image and you wont have to ever again remember jumplists and links everytime you restore the system to earlier point or system image. User account folders are now permanently moved to another drive, all new user profiles are automatically created on this new location and your system drive won’t be full so soon.

Thanks for reading.

Written and published on 02[SUP]nd[/SUP] of March 2012
Edited and updated on 6[SUP]th[/SUP] of February 2013
Edited, answer file's validity checked on 14[SUP]th[/SUP] of April 2013
Added instructions for Windows 8.1 Pro preview on 29th of June 2013

Kari



 
Last edited by a moderator:

My Computer

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JMH

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476
#2
I like what I see there Kari.
Thank you!
 

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Kari

Old geek, new tricks
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#3
Thanks Jan :)

Kari
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center
    Computer type
    Laptop
    System Manufacturer/Model Number
    HP ENVY 17-1150eg
    CPU
    1.6 GHz Intel Core i7-720QM Processor
    Memory
    6 GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 Graphics
    Sound Card
    Beats sound system with integrated subwoofer
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    17" laptop display, 22" LED and 32" Full HD TV through HDMI
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    1600*900 (1), 1920*1080 (2&3)
    Hard Drives
    Internal: 2 x 500 GB SATA Hard Disk Drive 7200 rpm
    External: 2TB for backups, 3TB USB3 network drive for media
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    As Envy runs a bit warm, I have it on a Cooler Master pad
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vrosa

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#4
I liked it too, but liked even more that Laphroaid 25 years bottle ...lol...
 

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A Guy

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Looking good Kari :thumbsup:

A Guy
 

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Kari

Old geek, new tricks
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#7
Thank you, geeks.

Kari
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center
    Computer type
    Laptop
    System Manufacturer/Model Number
    HP ENVY 17-1150eg
    CPU
    1.6 GHz Intel Core i7-720QM Processor
    Memory
    6 GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 Graphics
    Sound Card
    Beats sound system with integrated subwoofer
    Monitor(s) Displays
    17" laptop display, 22" LED and 32" Full HD TV through HDMI
    Screen Resolution
    1600*900 (1), 1920*1080 (2&3)
    Hard Drives
    Internal: 2 x 500 GB SATA Hard Disk Drive 7200 rpm
    External: 2TB for backups, 3TB USB3 network drive for media
    Cooling
    As Envy runs a bit warm, I have it on a Cooler Master pad
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    Logitech diNovo Media Desktop Laser (bluetooth)
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    Logitech MX1000 Laser (Bluetooth)
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    50 MB VDSL
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    Maxthon 3.5.2., IE11
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    Windows in English, additional user accounts in Finnish, German and Swedish.

gt1434a

New Member
Posts
5
#8
A question

Thank you, geeks.

Kari
Kari,

I am in the process to put your directions in practice but, while typing the script, I realize that there are a couple of line (#6 and #7) which contain a reference to a disk F:. Considering the header (FolderLocations) shouldn't those be replaced with E: which is where, in your example, you are relocating the files? F: was for the location of the Windows installation disk.

To make sure, if my original windows installation is on C:, I want to move my user folders to D:, and my windows installation is on E:, how should I modify the script?

Thanks!
Alex
 

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    Windows 8

Kari

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#9
Hi Alex, welcome to the Eight Forums.

Of course you are right! That was a typo, fixed now.

It's like this:

- Answer file (script), row 6 value of ProfilesDirectory = new location of Users. Delete the row from script if only relocating ProgramData
- Answer file (script), row 7 value of ProgramData = new location of ProgramData. Delete the row from script if only relocating Users
- Answer file (script), row 11 value of Source = location of image.wim (DVD, USB or ISO containing Windows 8 installation files)

Thanks for pointing that out.

Kari
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center
    Computer type
    Laptop
    System Manufacturer/Model Number
    HP ENVY 17-1150eg
    CPU
    1.6 GHz Intel Core i7-720QM Processor
    Memory
    6 GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 Graphics
    Sound Card
    Beats sound system with integrated subwoofer
    Monitor(s) Displays
    17" laptop display, 22" LED and 32" Full HD TV through HDMI
    Screen Resolution
    1600*900 (1), 1920*1080 (2&3)
    Hard Drives
    Internal: 2 x 500 GB SATA Hard Disk Drive 7200 rpm
    External: 2TB for backups, 3TB USB3 network drive for media
    Cooling
    As Envy runs a bit warm, I have it on a Cooler Master pad
    Keyboard
    Logitech diNovo Media Desktop Laser (bluetooth)
    Mouse
    Logitech MX1000 Laser (Bluetooth)
    Internet Speed
    50 MB VDSL
    Browser
    Maxthon 3.5.2., IE11
    Antivirus
    Windows Defender 4.3.9431.0
    Other Info
    Windows in English, additional user accounts in Finnish, German and Swedish.

gt1434a

New Member
Posts
5
#10
Thank *you*! This is an awesome way to handle it. Wouldn't be surprise if this is going to be a permanent addon to the final version.

I am looking forward to be an active contributor!
Best,
Alex

Hi Alex, welcome to the Eight Forums.

Of course you are right! That was a typo, fixed now.

It's like this:

- Answer file (script), row 6 value of ProfilesDirectory = new location of Users. Delete the row from script if only relocating ProgramData
- Answer file (script), row 7 value of ProgramData = new location of ProgramData. Delete the row from script if only relocating Users
- Answer file (script), row 11 value of Source = location of image.wim (DVD, USB or ISO containing Windows 8 installation files)

Thanks for pointing that out.

Kari
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 8

gt1434a

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Posts
5
#11
ok, so I opted to reinstall the OS and do the CTRL + Shift + F3. Everything went great, but I noticed that the start gui had only a few items (like in the AUDIT mode). When instead I installed the OS without going into AUDIT mode, it had weather, finance, etc. No biggie, I'll learn how to make it look the way I want. BUT, I went to do a windows update and I got an error saying it couldn't do it. Also, it suggested to perform a refresh. I ok-ed the refresh and it said it couldn't do it because the user folder and program folders are on a drive different from the OS. By moving the folders, am I really precluding refresh? Why would not let me do a windows update?

Thanks!
Alex
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 8

Kari

Old geek, new tricks
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#12
Sounds as if you did not boot to OOBE (step 2.3.)? If not, windows stays in Audit Mode even when repooted, or shut down and later restarted.

Win 8 CP has only been around 4 days now so I have not had possibility to test every scenario, but I have already spsrepped and relocated Users on 3 physical and 4 virtual machines. All of them let me to refresh and / or reset Windows 8.

About the Metro GUI; screenshot below shows which part of it / which Metro apps are preset on screen after sysprepping and booting back to OOBE:

2012-03-04_233145.png

If your starting GUI looks different and / or if you can not refresh / reset Windows 8, I recommend reinstalling without sysprep, leaving Users and ProgramData on C:

Kari
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center
    Computer type
    Laptop
    System Manufacturer/Model Number
    HP ENVY 17-1150eg
    CPU
    1.6 GHz Intel Core i7-720QM Processor
    Memory
    6 GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 Graphics
    Sound Card
    Beats sound system with integrated subwoofer
    Monitor(s) Displays
    17" laptop display, 22" LED and 32" Full HD TV through HDMI
    Screen Resolution
    1600*900 (1), 1920*1080 (2&3)
    Hard Drives
    Internal: 2 x 500 GB SATA Hard Disk Drive 7200 rpm
    External: 2TB for backups, 3TB USB3 network drive for media
    Cooling
    As Envy runs a bit warm, I have it on a Cooler Master pad
    Keyboard
    Logitech diNovo Media Desktop Laser (bluetooth)
    Mouse
    Logitech MX1000 Laser (Bluetooth)
    Internet Speed
    50 MB VDSL
    Browser
    Maxthon 3.5.2., IE11
    Antivirus
    Windows Defender 4.3.9431.0
    Other Info
    Windows in English, additional user accounts in Finnish, German and Swedish.

gt1434a

New Member
Posts
5
#13
I did reinstall and did sysprep afterwards without problems. Most likely I was still in audit mode and I didn't realize it, although I did follow step 2.3.... It's all good now. I must have reinstalled it at least 6 times today :) typing the product key is the only annoying thing... almost memorized it though :)
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 8

Kari

Old geek, new tricks
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#14
Good to know you got it working.

Kari
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center
    Computer type
    Laptop
    System Manufacturer/Model Number
    HP ENVY 17-1150eg
    CPU
    1.6 GHz Intel Core i7-720QM Processor
    Memory
    6 GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 Graphics
    Sound Card
    Beats sound system with integrated subwoofer
    Monitor(s) Displays
    17" laptop display, 22" LED and 32" Full HD TV through HDMI
    Screen Resolution
    1600*900 (1), 1920*1080 (2&3)
    Hard Drives
    Internal: 2 x 500 GB SATA Hard Disk Drive 7200 rpm
    External: 2TB for backups, 3TB USB3 network drive for media
    Cooling
    As Envy runs a bit warm, I have it on a Cooler Master pad
    Keyboard
    Logitech diNovo Media Desktop Laser (bluetooth)
    Mouse
    Logitech MX1000 Laser (Bluetooth)
    Internet Speed
    50 MB VDSL
    Browser
    Maxthon 3.5.2., IE11
    Antivirus
    Windows Defender 4.3.9431.0
    Other Info
    Windows in English, additional user accounts in Finnish, German and Swedish.

JasonP

New Member
Posts
2
#15
Hi Alex,

I'm having the exact same problem you described in your earlier post! I've triple checked all the steps but I continue to boot into the start page with only a few apps. Can you remember doing anything differently to get it working correctly? I've installed at least 10 times today. If I do the default install everything works fine.

Thanks!

Jason
 

My Computer

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  • OS
    Windows 7/8

gt1434a

New Member
Posts
5
#16
Hi Alex,

I'm having the exact same problem you described in your earlier post! I've triple checked all the steps but I continue to boot into the start page with only a few apps. Can you remember doing anything differently to get it working correctly? I've installed at least 10 times today. If I do the default install everything works fine.

Thanks!

Jason
Nope! Unfortunately, I ended up re-installing everything wiithout using the shift+F3 trick and moving the folder afterwards. I wish I could give you better news. Since we are on topic, I must say that I ended removing the whole thing and leaving the user in the default folder. The method described here worked but I was getting random errors that I could not explain or solve. For example, it wouldn't do the windows updates anymore.
Alex
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 8

JasonP

New Member
Posts
2
#17
Hi Alex,

I'm having the exact same problem you described in your earlier post! I've triple checked all the steps but I continue to boot into the start page with only a few apps. Can you remember doing anything differently to get it working correctly? I've installed at least 10 times today. If I do the default install everything works fine.

Thanks!

Jason
Nope! Unfortunately, I ended up re-installing everything wiithout using the shift+F3 trick and moving the folder afterwards. I wish I could give you better news. Since we are on topic, I must say that I ended removing the whole thing and leaving the user in the default folder. The method described here worked but I was getting random errors that I could not explain or solve. For example, it wouldn't do the windows updates anymore.
Alex
That's a bummer! I really wanted this to work. I ended up using Junction Points for my Users/ProgramData folders. Works great!

Here's an article that explains how.
Tested
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 7/8

willinliv

New Member
Posts
1
#18
Hi Kari, thanks for writing this. Unfortunately, after following the instructions I'm always getting the error:

Windows could not parse or process unattend answer file [C:\Windows\Panther\unattend.xml] for pass [oobeSystem]. The settings specified in the answer file cannot be applied. The error was detected while processing setting for component [Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup].

In fact a few people over at the same guide for Win 7 found the same problem, the most recent:
User Profiles - Create and Move During Windows 7 Installation - Page 32 - Windows 7 Forums

I have tried to relocate all source installation files to C:, plu move the relocate.xml there. Looking online there seems to be a lot of problems with this when people are trying to automate the install process, possible problems with key built in? I have tried with the Consumer Preview, and also the Release Preview (for the latter changing the answer script accordingly).
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Win XP

XP1

Member
Member
Posts
14
#19
Thanks for the tutorial, @Kari.

Using sysprep is the easiest way to create user profiles in a different location. All the other, unofficial ways, such as messing around with junctions and copying or moving files around, gave me "The User Profile Service failed the logon. User profile cannot be loaded." profile error.
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    *
Posts
2
#20
Hello,

So I followed the directions in this thread and indeed my Users folder seemed to relocate to my hard disk, but unfortunately I am no longer allowed to install any Metro apps. Also, my Mail and Calendar apps in Metro have stopped working. I didn't touch the Program Data folder.

Does anyone else experience this problem, and is there any way for me to fix it? If not, how do I move my files back onto the boot disk?

Thanks.
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 8 / OS 10.8.0