User Profiles - Relocate 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



 

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walks

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I wonder if anyone can help me. I followed this tutorial in order to move my users folder from C: to D: as my C drive is a small raptor (about 80GB) and my D drive is a rather large 1TB. I always install all programs to my D drive, but my C drive has been reporting low disk space recently and I have found that 30GB is in the users folder (most of it seems to be in a sub folder that I just can't find).

Anyway, after following this tutorial, my PC rebooted back into audit mode. When I then selected to boot back into OOBE, during the reboot I got an installation error. Now, every time I boot my PC I get an installation error (Windows failed to complete the installation.) I press OK, PC reboots and error appears again.

Before I started this process I created a restore point just in case, but I bought a download copy of windows 8 so I'm not sure how I can recover from this.

Any suggestions please?
 

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GGL

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Kari,

thank you very much for the professional, clear and understandable description of this procedure.
Everything worked well, and the result was a described.

However, the execution became rather exciting at the end, when several restarts occurred: It took a quite long time, in the order of an hour or more, until something happened again. But I didn't loose confidence, and was rewarded by a perfect result. Possibly, the long duration was due to my fully activated 3000 GB disk.

Gerhard
 

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JollyGreenGiant

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Move user folder after upgrade from Win 8 to Win 8 Pro?

Hi

This is a great tutorial. My apologies in advance if this question has been answered already, but you say this method cannot be done if you have upgraded eg from Win 8 to Win 8 Pro.

Is there any other way to move the user folders once I have done such an upgrade or do I have to right back to square one and reinstall Windows 8?

Any advice gratefully received!

JGG
 

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claytonjn

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I followed this guide 6 months ago and everything has been running smoothly (with the exception of some permission issues.) I currently have Windows 8 Pro with Media Center installed on a PCI SSD, and my user files on a two-drive spanned partition. I will be changing my setup slightly and will be using the spanned drives as DVR storage and will set up a RAID array for the user files. My question is, what is the best way to do this with the least amount of reconfiguring?

Obviously re-installing Windows would definitely work, but it would require the most set-up so it's my last resort.

I could change the user location back to C:\, set up the RAID array, then switch users to the RAID array. I don't know if this will work or what would be involved.

I could set up the RAID array, then copy all files with permissions over to the RAID array from my current spanned drives. Then use a bootable partition manager to swap the drive letters of the RAID array and spanned drives so Windows is tricked into thinking nothing has changed. I think this would be easiest to do, but I have no idea if it would work.

If anyone could give me any advice, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks!
 

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ro0415

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Hi. Im currently in the process and i have a question. (downloaded the relocate.rar file and switched the file type to all files, and renamed it relocate.xml and saved it directly on my E: hard drive) At step 2.2.1 there is the command:
cd c:\Windows\System32\Sysprep. But on the picture below it sais: C:\Windows\System32\CD Sysprep. Which of these do i have to use?
Also when i enter the
Sysprep.exe /audit /reboot /unattend:E:\relocate.xml command at step 2.2.1 and press enter it just sais: A fatal error occured while trying to sysprep the machine. Please help!!! i want to move the users folder
 

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JollyGreenGiant

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Hi. Im currently in the process and i have a question. (downloaded the relocate.rar file and switched the file type to all files, and renamed it relocate.xml and saved it directly on my E: hard drive) At step 2.2.1 there is the command:
cd c:\Windows\System32\Sysprep. But on the picture below it sais: C:\Windows\System32\CD Sysprep. Which of these do i have to use?
Also when i enter the
Sysprep.exe /audit /reboot /unattend:E:\relocate.xml command at step 2.2.1 and press enter it just sais: A fatal error occured while trying to sysprep the machine. Please help!!! i want to move the users folder

The first command cd c:\Windows\System32\Sysprep will work whatever is your current directory location. This simply says change my directory to the windows\system32\sysprep directory on the c drive. So I would use that command.

The command shown in the picture is a shorthand version of the above for someone who is already in the system32 directory on the c drive.

I am no expert at this level of windows but two quick questions:

1 Have you run any updates on windows prior to trying this?

Sysprep will only work on a clean install from original media. So if you have run for example an upgrade to Windows 8 from Windows 7 or an upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8 Pro, or installed any Windows security updates, Sysprep will fail. The only solution I have found from extensive searching is to reinstall Windows 8 from the original media. Obviously you need to back up all your program data and user data files before doing this, and you will lose any customisation.

2 Are you sure all your drive letters are correct in the commands you are using and you have the location of the files correct? '

The drive letters used in the tutorial are examples. You need to ensure you have the correct drive letters for your machine in place.


Hope that helps or at least offers some clarity. The author of this tutorial appears no longer engaged with this discussion.

Good luck
JGG
 

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Dwarf

The Contemplator, (1963-2013)
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There is a much simpler way to do this, and it involves an edit to the registry. I've used this method on all my installations without any problems.

To have all subsequent accounts have their user data on the U drive/partition

Code:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList]
"ProfilesDirectory"=hex(2):[COLOR=#FF0000][B]75[/B][/COLOR],00,3a,00,5c,00,75,00,73,00,65,00,72,00,73,00,00,00

Note that I have used the U drive as an example here, as it is what I use. To change this to a drive of your choice, replace the highlighted value above with the appropriate hex code.

To reset to the default of having subsequent accounts having their user data on the C drive (note that accounts created whilst their data location was on the other drive/partition will still read/write their information there).

Code:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList]
"ProfilesDirectory"=hex(2):63,00,3a,00,5c,00,75,00,73,00,65,00,72,00,73,00,00,00
 
Last edited:

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JollyGreenGiant

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Hi Dwarf - thanks for that post - great to hear from a more experienced user

There is no indication in the above as to which piece of hex code refers to the U drive :huh:

Also from reading other posts, I have a couple of questions

(i) is this the only change needed?

see for example here Win7: how do I move user folder to a different drive - Microsoft Community

which refers to the need to use junctions.

(ii) does this allow upgrades etc to operate?

see comment stream on User Profile - Change Default Location - Windows 7 Help Forums and also

Microsoft notes that updates may be blocked at Relocation of the Users directory and the ProgramData directory to a disk drive other than the disk drive that contains the Windows directory in Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, and later operating systems

Thanks for any guidance - I have been trying to navigate this for a very long time!!

Best wishes
JGG
 

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EvilAngel

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Hi,

I tried your method but everytime I try to run Sysprep I get the 'Fatal error occurred' message. Any idea how to work with that? I'm doing a clean install by the way.
 

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ro0415

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Thanks,
JollyGreenGiant. I am using windows 8 oem, but i have updated windows many tims so that has to be the problem. I have one more question for you. I have a windows 8 oem disk with a single time use, and i have uploaded it to my computer. is it possible to reinstall windows 8 without having to buy it again?
 

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JollyGreenGiant

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Hard to say without actually having the disk :).

I have never seem a one time OEM install disk so am reluctant to offer advice. In my experience, CD/DVDs that come with OEM installs are normally reusable. Perhaps your hardware vendor could tell you whether it is possible to use your CD/DVD as ISO media for the purposes of this task?

What you need is a disk with the install.wim file on it, this ought to be in the "Sources" sub-folder.

Good luck!
JGG
 

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ro0415

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I have windows 8 oem, but i have been running windows update many times. Will i be able to synprep my computer if i reinstall windows 8?
 

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charliecharlie1

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My laptop came with Windows 8 already installed and so I do not have any installation media with the software on. Is there any way I can still do this?
 

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ro0415

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I have windows 8 oem, but i have been running windows update many times. Will i be able to synprep my computer if i reinstall windows 8? And if i am installing windows for the first time, should i install drivers for the motherboard and such first, before i sysprep my computer? And can i move the relocate.rar file to a usb thumbdrive?
 

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muli

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The Answer File XML should include the letter of the target drive and the letter of the DVD/CD drive.
How can I know in advance before installing the operating system what will be the letters that will be assigned to these drives?
I'm going to install Win8 on a new PC I've just build, never been installed with any OS.
(hope it is not a silly question:huh:)
Tnx in advance
 
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prazanna

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Code:
[COLOR=#000000][FONT=verdana][SIZE=2]<cpi:offlineImage cpi:source="[B]wim:F:[/B]/sources/install.wim#[/SIZE][/FONT][/COLOR][COLOR=#b22222][FONT=verdana][SIZE=2][B]Windows 8[/B][/SIZE][/FONT][/COLOR][COLOR=#333333][FONT=verdana][SIZE=2]" xmlns:cpi="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:cpi" />

My installation media contains install.ESD instead of WIM, can I continue with this process?[/SIZE][/FONT][/COLOR]
 

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JollyGreenGiant

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Hi fellow movers and shifters of folders!

As our illustrious author seems no longer to be following this thread, the following page and discussion may also be of help:

Unleash Windows especially Isolate Windows in its own partition

There is also a useful discussion here, if you can be bothered reading the whole thread: Win7: how do I move user folder to a different drive - Microsoft Community

- this traverses Windows 7 and 8 issues and addresses some issues that have arisen for people in this discussion. Be warned however it is a little bit disjointed in places.

Hope that is of some help
Slainte
JGG
 

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jtmk

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Hi,

Has anyone managed to get this to work with Windows 8.1 Enterprise Edition?

I tried to run sysprep with the relocate.xml file, however I get the message "Windows could not parse or process unattend answer file C:\relocate.xml The answer file is invalid. The error was detected at line 11 column 1 of the answer file.

Thanks

JT
 

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  • OS
    Windows 8.1 Enterprise

mrvlhs

New Member
Messages
4
Hey guys been using the forum for some time without registering and must say great tutorial. I'd like to ask a question, it's mentioned that this won't work for versions that have been upgraded. My problem is kind of the opposite. I did this on Windows 8 Standard some time ago and it worked like a charm. Now I want to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro but I'd like to know if it's going to cause me any trouble at all since I don't fancy reinstalling everything all over again. Thanks in advance!
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 8 x64
    Antivirus
    Eset Endpoint Security 5

Brink

Administrator
Administrator
mvp
Messages
25,084
Hello mrvlhs, and welcome to Eight Forums.

I would recommend to move the profiles back to C before upgrading to Pro to make sure that they carry over. :)
 
Last edited:

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    64-bit Windows 10
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    System Manufacturer/Model
    Custom self built
    CPU
    Intel i7-8700K OC'd to 5 GHz
    Motherboard
    ASUS ROG Maximus XI Formula Z390
    Memory
    16 GB (8GBx2) G.SKILL TridentZ DDR4 3200 MHz
    Graphics Card(s)
    ASUS ROG-STRIX-GTX1080TI-O11G-GAMING
    Sound Card
    Integrated Digital Audio (S/PDIF)
    Monitor(s) Displays
    2 x Samsung Odyssey G7 27"
    Screen Resolution
    2560x1440
    Hard Drives
    1TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus M.2,
    250GB Samsung 960 EVO M.2,
    6TB WD Black WD6001FZWX
    8TB WD MyCloudEX2Ultra NAS
    PSU
    OCZ Series Gold OCZZ1000M 1000W
    Case
    Thermaltake Core P3
    Cooling
    Corsair Hydro H115i
    Keyboard
    Logitech wireless K800
    Mouse
    Logitech MX Master 3
    Internet Speed
    1 Gb/s Download and 35 Mb/s Upload
    Browser
    Internet Explorer 11
    Antivirus
    Malwarebyte Anti-Malware Premium
    Other Info
    Logitech Z625 speaker system,
    Logitech BRIO 4K Pro webcam,
    HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M477fdn,
    Linksys EA9500 router,
    Arris SB8200 cable modem,
    APC SMART-UPS RT 1000 XL - SURT1000XLI,
    Lumia 1520 phone
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