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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Last edited by a moderator:

mrvlhs

New Member
Messages
4
Tank you for your answer Brink, but the first post says the following:

"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."

Is there anyway you can confirm what you just said? I'd like to be 100% sure before I screw up anything. Thanks!

PS: I do have an original CD with Windows 8 Pro if that is relevant in any way.
 

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Brink

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mvp
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Yes, I would recommend to move the user profiles back to C before upgrading to Pro.

Personally, I would recommend to always keep your user profile on C. If you're tight on HDD space, you might consider this below to be able to access the files from your libraries with the files actually located where you like instead.

 

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mrvlhs

New Member
Messages
4
And would I be able to sysprep again? I've got a few hundred GB in those folders so need to move everything somewhere else first as I don't have space in C: for that. The reason I do it is to be able to format without too much work moving things around. I also like to have the AppData folder moved because of my email client and browser/etc that will fill up my C drive if I don't do it and this is the only way I know of doing that.
 

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Brink

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mvp
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Not unless you do a clean install instead. :(
 

My Computer

System One

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    CPU
    Intel i7-8700K OC'd to 5 GHz
    Motherboard
    ASUS ROG Maximus XI Formula Z390
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    16 GB (8GBx2) G.SKILL TridentZ DDR4 3200 MHz
    Graphics Card(s)
    ASUS ROG-STRIX-GTX1080TI-O11G-GAMING
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    Integrated Digital Audio (S/PDIF)
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    2 x Samsung Odyssey G7 27"
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    1TB Samsung 990 PRO M.2,
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    Arris SB8200 cable modem,
    APC SMART-UPS RT 1000 XL - SURT1000XLI,
    Lumia 1520 phone

mrvlhs

New Member
Messages
4
This really drives me nuts. I have a UEFI so I got the non pro version installed by default and it doesn't prompt for key. God... thanks for your help!
 

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JollyGreenGiant

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8
The following information may be helpful for people attempting this operation.

FolderLocations

It includes a link to known issues with changing the location of the User Folder and Program Data folders, including which folders may need a junction established once sysprep has run.
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
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    HP Envy 17 J005TX
    CPU
    Intel i7-4700MQ
    Memory
    16GB

Brunnies

New Member
Messages
1
Hi Kari, great work. Clear instructions although I am not to familiar with what I have been doing.
Users have been moved. I had already installed Windows with one user but your procedure worked like a breeze and on my SSD C: drive the users are completely gone and only on the D: drive.
I also changed the programm folder to work with the D: drive to leave my SSD with only the system files.

But now something strange is happening, Internet Explorer only shows a short start up screen but does not come through. It just dissappears again. I switched on/off the internet explorer from the Windows features and now IE is nicely installed on the D: drive.

I copied back to users (just copy) appdata to the C: drive but to no result.

What else can I try?

I do not care too much about IE as there are alternatives which work as well but I fear that other windows embedded programms might show the same problem as and when I need them.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Wim
 

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seg1147

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1
Moving users folder on HP Envy X2 - different .wim files

I have an HP Envy X2 laptop with an SSD C drive that is only 64GB. I have other SD drives in the computer and would like to move the users folder so other things, including my SkyDrive, are moved as well. I followed the procedure as closely as I could, but it will still not move the users folder.

Where I run into a problem is that when I create my recovery media, it does not have the correct .wim file. The .wim files that are there are: build.wim (309,154 KB) and ESP.wim (18,129 KB). I have tried to point to each of those when following the instructions, but I am still unsuccessful in moving the folder.

If anyone has any suggestions, I'd certainly appreciate it.
 

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AzureShadow

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Messages
1
Because I moved my user folder off my SSD (C:/) and onto my HDD (D:/) it looks like I can't install windows 8.1.

Anyone know of a way around this or am I going to have to move my user folder back to C:/ install 8.1 then move back to D:/?
 

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abhiroopb

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Because I moved my user folder off my SSD (C:/) and onto my HDD (D:/) it looks like I can't install windows 8.1.

Anyone know of a way around this or am I going to have to move my user folder back to C:/ install 8.1 then move back to D:/?

Yup getting the same problem today.
 

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Brink

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mvp
Messages
25,119
Unfortunately, you'll need to move the user profile back to C before upgrading to Windows 8.1. Afterwards, you could move it back to where you like if wanted. :(
 

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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 990 PRO M.2,
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    6TB WD Black WD6001FZWX
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    HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M477fdn,
    Linksys EA9500 router,
    Arris SB8200 cable modem,
    APC SMART-UPS RT 1000 XL - SURT1000XLI,
    Lumia 1520 phone

abhiroopb

New Member
Messages
2
Unfortunately, you'll need to move the user profile back to C before upgrading to Windows 8.1. Afterwards, you could move it back to where you like if wanted. :(

Thanks, unfortunately, my User folder is about 3TB and my C is a small 256GB SSD :(
 

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challgren

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Messages
6
Location
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Because I moved my user folder off my SSD (C:/) and onto my HDD (D:/) it looks like I can't install windows 8.1.

Anyone know of a way around this or am I going to have to move my user folder back to C:/ install 8.1 then move back to D:/?


No way around this I'm right now moving all my profiles back to the C drive so I can install Windows 8.1
 

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Brink

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mvp
Messages
25,119
You could move the files (music, pictures, documents, etc) out to another location for now to not take as much space.
 

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 990 PRO M.2,
    1TB Samsung 980 PRO 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

challgren

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Messages
6
Location
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You could move the files (music, pictures, documents, etc) out to another location for now to not take as much space.


Wish I remembered to do that before I entered OOBE
 

My Computer

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  • OS
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    Custom Built
    CPU
    Intel Core i3-2120 3.3GHz
    Motherboard
    Gigabyte GA-H61MA-D3V
    Memory
    G.SKILL Sniper 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800
    Monitor(s) Displays
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    Screen Resolution
    1920x1080
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    Primary Drive Crucial m4 256GB CT256M4SSD2
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Sikh

New Member
Messages
5
Whats the easiest way to move the profiles back to C and then back to D?

Since we did this via SYSPREP, the way to undo it would be to copy the user profile to C and then change it in the registry and restart correct?

Glad I checked this thread when I saw the "dreaded" windows 8.1 can't update message cause of user or program files being on a different partition.
 

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challgren

New Member
Messages
6
Location
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Whats the easiest way to move the profiles back to C and then back to D?

Since we did this via SYSPREP, the way to undo it would be to copy the user profile to C and then change it in the registry and restart correct?

Glad I checked this thread when I saw the "dreaded" windows 8.1 can't update message cause of user or program files being on a different partition.

You would need to do sysprep again and change the profile directory back to C then enter audit mode and then OOBE mode. During the welcome setup a temp account and login to the regular account. Then download Windows 8.1 and install it. I'm on this step right now. My next step is to then run sysprep again and change the profile directory back
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 8
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    PC/Desktop
    System Manufacturer/Model
    Custom Built
    CPU
    Intel Core i3-2120 3.3GHz
    Motherboard
    Gigabyte GA-H61MA-D3V
    Memory
    G.SKILL Sniper 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800
    Monitor(s) Displays
    2
    Screen Resolution
    1920x1080
    Hard Drives
    Primary Drive Crucial m4 256GB CT256M4SSD2
    Case
    Antec Dark Fleet DF-85
    Internet Speed
    100Mb download 50Mb upload
    Antivirus
    People still use these?

Brink

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Administrator
mvp
Messages
25,119
Hello Sikh, and welcome to Eight Forums.

Correct, you would basically use the same procedure as if you were moving it to C.
 

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    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 990 PRO M.2,
    1TB Samsung 980 PRO 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

Sikh

New Member
Messages
5
Thank you challgren! Let me know how it goes for you. I won't be able to do this for another 5 hours, so I'm hoping everything goes well for you :D.
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 8

challgren

New Member
Messages
6
Location
Texas
Thank you challgren! Let me know how it goes for you. I won't be able to do this for another 5 hours, so I'm hoping everything goes well for you :D.

As Brink said move your large docs and files to a different directory to save time when Windows moves the files back. It took almost 40 minutes to move all my docs to my SSD drive
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 8
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    System Manufacturer/Model
    Custom Built
    CPU
    Intel Core i3-2120 3.3GHz
    Motherboard
    Gigabyte GA-H61MA-D3V
    Memory
    G.SKILL Sniper 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800
    Monitor(s) Displays
    2
    Screen Resolution
    1920x1080
    Hard Drives
    Primary Drive Crucial m4 256GB CT256M4SSD2
    Case
    Antec Dark Fleet DF-85
    Internet Speed
    100Mb download 50Mb upload
    Antivirus
    People still use these?
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