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:

Sikh

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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.

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

So windows will move the directory back when you sys prep back to the C drive? And yeah I plan on doing that before i manually copied my home directory anyway.
 

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challgren

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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

So windows will move the directory back when you sys prep back to the C drive? And yeah I plan on doing that before i manually copied my home directory anyway.


Yes follow the steps in the beginning of the tutorial but replace the D: or E: drive to C: drive. Then run sysprep in audit mode with the relocate.xml file. Once in switch it to OOBE mode. Once you enter OOBE mode it will copy the folders over and then reboot again. After that time you'll be at the Welcome to Windows setup screen. Just create a test account as your old accounts will still be on the computer. Then login to windows and install the Windows 8.1 update from the store
 

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Sikh

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I didn't think it would copy over in OOBE thats why I was curious. Thanks for the info Challgren.

Brink, thanks for the welcome and thank you for your input.
 

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challgren

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I didn't think it would copy over in OOBE thats why I was curious. Thanks for the info Challgren.

Brink, thanks for the welcome and thank you for your input.

Ok so now that I have 8.1 installed looks like its impossible to run sysprep on it since its been "updated" I'm still looking into it but will report back if I get anywhere with it
 

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?

gnusman

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Messages
1
Hot to update to 8.1 without moving your profile

I had updated to 8.1 without moving my User folder. But it did require few steps before doing update

  1. Follow the guide Here to change (using regedit) the default locations of the user profiles to %SystemDrive%\Users.
  2. Create a new TEMP user with MS account as admin.
  3. Login to windows with newly created TEMP account.
  4. Update windows through Store, doing all the steps under the new TEMP account.
  5. When update is finished change the registry for your profile back to old location (supposedly another drive).
  6. Restart and login with your old account (the one you actually use).
  7. Previously created account can be deleted (incl. all the data/files).

UPDATE:
No problem with an old (moved) account, but potentially there will be a need to reinstall all windows metro apps like mail, calendar, etc. Other apps like games work without problem.
 
Last edited:

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dage

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Hello everyone, I just built a new computer with an SSD and HDD. I had installed Windows 8 on the SSD but because of the limited space it has, I wanted to move the Users folder to my HDD. I followed all the direction up to part 2.3. For some reason my mouse and keyboard are not being detected by my computer anymore after the reboot to audit mode. Anyone know how to have my computer recognize my preripherals again so I may complete the relocation process?
 

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    Windows 8

noxas

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Messages
1
Ok so now that I have 8.1 installed looks like its impossible to run sysprep on it since its been "updated" I'm still looking into it but will report back if I get anywhere with it

Exact same issue here too. had already moved my users folder off of the SSD when on windows 8, but had to move it back to C: drive to upgrade to 8.1... Now sysprep says: "Sysprep will not run on an upgraded OS. You can only run Sysprep on a custom (clean) install version of Windows." in its error log.

Hope theres a work around for this :/
 

My Computer

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  • OS
    Windows 8.1
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop

Sikh

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Messages
5
I had updated to 8.1 without moving my User folder. But it did require few steps before doing update

  1. Follow the guide Here to change (using regedit) the default locations of the user profiles to %SystemDrive%\Users.
  2. Create a new TEMP user with MS account as admin.
  3. Login to windows with newly created TEMP account.
  4. Update windows through Store, doing all the steps under the new TEMP account.
  5. When update is finished change the registry for your profile back to old location (supposedly another drive).
  6. Restart and login with your old account (the one you actually use).
  7. Previously created account can be deleted (incl. all the data/files).

So far no problems with an old account.

This is exactly what I was looking for. Ive done it with windows 7 just like this.

Thanks man! Going to try this in about half hour and report back.

UPDATE:

Definitely didnt work. Was logged into temp account which was on C drive. Once it went to install, it gave me the "cant install cause users or program files is moved".

Since people are having a problem sys prepping an already "non clean" image (which im use to happening), I will just wait for another way to install 8.1.
 
Last edited:

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Sudarshan

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Did not succeed in windows 8.1 Installations

I had updated to 8.1 without moving my User folder. But it did require few steps before doing update

  1. Follow the guide Here to change (using regedit) the default locations of the user profiles to %SystemDrive%\Users.
  2. Create a new TEMP user with MS account as admin.
  3. Login to windows with newly created TEMP account.
  4. Update windows through Store, doing all the steps under the new TEMP account.
  5. When update is finished change the registry for your profile back to old location (supposedly another drive).
  6. Restart and login with your old account (the one you actually use).
  7. Previously created account can be deleted (incl. all the data/files).

UPDATE:
No problem with an old (moved) account, but potentially there will be a need to reinstall all windows metro apps like mail, calendar, etc. Other apps like games work without problem.

Did not succeed in installation of windows 8.1; I followed up the option 2 method and created a new user in C: Drive. Restarted the computer and logged in using the new account/user. Even then, got the following error:


Sorry. It looks like this PC can't run Windows 8.1. This might be because the Users or Program Files Folder is being redirected to another partition.
 

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re55t6e1

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I moved my user folder back to its original location and updated to Windows 8.1 via Windows store.
However, now I can't moved it back to my D: drive because "sysprep cannot be used on an upgraded Windows". I tried deleting HKLM\System\Setup\Upgrade from the register but I still cannot use sysprep.

Is there any other solutions to relocate User folder or solve sysprep problem?

Exact same problem here. I also deleted HKLM\System\Setup\Upgrade from the registry to no avail. I would really like to know a solution for this.
 

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AndyH

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Hi all - I've a question about permissions...

I originally moved the Users folder to D:\ as per the instructions and last night moved it back to C:\ so I could install 8.1. However now I have moved it back I seem to have a lot of permission problems. Google Chrome and Dropbox for example complain that they can no longer read/access something so I'm guessing that my old account has lost permissions needed on the moved User folder. Anyone have advice about what permissions are required within the users folders?
 

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zero440

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New to the forum, Kari your layout was great and the system has worked perfectly. However when I went to upgrade to 8.1 it will not let me, get a user data location error, any way around this? Sure now that I post this I see the posts above... I have my OS on a SSD and don't have room to move all the user data back, is there a simpler way than what I am thinking?
 

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AlkalineGood

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I had updated to 8.1 without moving my User folder. But it did require few steps before doing update
Follow the guide Here to change (using regedit) the default locations of the user profiles to %SystemDrive%\Users.
Create a new TEMP user with MS account as admin.
Login to windows with newly created TEMP account.
Update windows through Store, doing all the steps under the new TEMP account.
When update is finished change the registry for your profile back to old location (supposedly another drive).
Restart and login with your old account (the one you actually use).
Previously created account can be deleted (incl. all the data/files).


UPDATE:
No problem with an old (moved) account, but potentially there will be a need to reinstall all windows metro apps like mail, calendar, etc. Other apps like games work without problem.




I had to modify these steps and I got it to work and update to 8.1. After the update I had no problem with metro apps they all updated automatically. This took me about 4 hrs to figure out I will layout the basic steps from memory.


As a note I sysprepped my original install and moved just the user profiles and not Program file. During my copying parts I did have some files that I had issues with that I resolved separately. I assume those because I didn't use safe mode to copy and they were locked.



  1. Create a local account (yes do this before you change anything in regedit. I ran into User Profile service problems if I created users after the fact). Give this account Local Admin by adding to the Administrators group. Make sure you can log into this account.
  2. (I didn't do this step exactly but this is what should be done). Boot into Safe mode easiest way is to use msconfig
  3. Log in with the new local admin and copy all other accounts to the normal spot on the c drive.
  4. Log out and log into your normal user (presumably admin priveleges) and copy the temp admin user to the c drive.
  5. Now modify the registry. You must do both option 1 and 2. Follow the guide Here to change (using regedit) the default locations of the user profiles to%SystemDrive%\Users.
  6. Exit Safe mode
  7. Log into your normal account or the temp admin. I used temp admin
  8. Goto windows store and start the win 8.1 install. Once you get past verifying then it should complete.
  9. After it installs you be asked to log in I used the tempo admin account. You should see the metro apps update.
  10. I also logged in to my normal account to make sure it updated.
  11. Go back to safe mode
  12. Log in with the temp admin account.
  13. Copy all the user directories to the original spot you had them. I assume Microsoft installed or updated stuff there.
  14. Sign out and sign in with your normal user and copy the Temp admin's user directory back to the orginal spot
  15. Use regedit again to revert back your changes. Found in step 5
  16. Exit safe more
  17. Enter normal boot mode and log in with your normal user.
  18. You can now move or delete the user accounts you had to copy. I backed mine up to the data drive. The update installs some extra users I think to the c:\users so don't mess with those.


Well thats it. Once again this is from memory and about 4 hours after I got it work.

Good luck
 
Last edited:

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  • OS
    Win 8.1

Jonnot

New Member
Messages
3
I've just run into the same issue upgrading to Windows 8.1.

I've used this method to relocate User folders on many machines and it works a treat, but if it's going to be necessary to go through this every time MS releases a new OS it's hardly worth the effort. I'm seriously considering not bothering with the update to 8.1 anyway in view of the hassle involved in this 'fix', but I wonder what other problems will arise - After all, this was written 'from memory' and has only been up for a day. I have serious reservations about any procedure involving manually copying user data as it's caused me major headaches in past and the problems don't always surface until long after you think it's all OK.

Let's see if others find this works for them and if any problems arise later on down the line.

It would be interesting to get Kari's view on this as the author of the tutorial.
 

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    Windows 8 Pro x64

zero440

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Rather wait

I agree that for as great as this option is to move data and it keeping my SSD to a min usage it is an issue if upgrades fail. I have my system right where I want it and will skip the upgrade if it risks my setup.
 

My Computer

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  • OS
    Win 8
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AlkalineGood

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Messages
3
Well just trying to provide back to the community. Hopefully someone will find this helpful. Microsoft at least currently does not support moved user profiles to another drive in an upgrade scenario. So your only option is to wait for a full 8.1 ISO and sysprep that as a full install or do a work around as an upgrade like I provided.
 

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  • OS
    Win 8.1

zero440

New Member
Messages
3
Truly

Well just trying to provide back to the community. Hopefully someone will find this helpful. Microsoft at least currently does not support moved user profiles to another drive in an upgrade scenario. So your only option is to wait for a full 8.1 ISO and sysprep that as a full install or do a work around as an upgrade like I provided.

Seriously appreciate your efforts and submission just not ready to tackle nor have time at the moment to do this. It's great to know that what you did works and is the best idea I have found so far.
 

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RL70

New Member
Messages
6
Could we try this?

Hoping one of the Forum Gods can help here,

Im one of those that did a clean install of W8 Pro and moved Users and Program Data to my /D drive without any problems and apps working just fine. Updates are also no problem, however I cannot do the MS Store 8.1 upgrade as we all know by now with this setup.
Since it is working smoothly, Im wondering if I can repeat the process and do a clean install of 8.1 from an ISO file and also move BOTH Users and Program Data over to D the way I did with W8 Pro which was accomplished following the original instructions on page 1 posted by Kari(topic of this thread). After completing that, I then had to follow Anthony Flecks instructions(page 9 of this thread) in order to get my apps working.

The only new addition to this method is obtaining the proper setup files from MSFT to do a clean install of 8.1

So in order:

First
http://www.eightforums.com/installation-setup/34102-how-download-windows-8-1-clean-install.html

Second:
http://www.eightforums.com/tutorials/4275-user-profiles-relocate-another-partition-disk.html

Last(from Anthony Fleck, page 9 of this thread):

1) WinKey+R to launch the run dialog
2) regedit (press ctrl+shift+enter to run in elevated mode)
3) HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Appx
4) Right click on Appx and edit permissions
5) Click Advanced
6) At the top it says Owner: xxxxx Change
7) Click Change
8) Add yourself as an owner
9) Apply new settings, Ok
10) Give yourself permissions as Full Control
11) Apply, Ok
12) Right click PackageRepositoryRoot registry key and click Modify
13) Change the C:\ to your new drive. In my case it looks like this: D:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\AppRepository
14) Click Ok
15) Restart Windows

Any feedback on this is much appreciated


 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    8 Pro
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    CPU
    i7 x990 3.47ghz
    Memory
    18gb
    Hard Drives
    160gb SSD/750 HDD
    Internet Speed
    35/35
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