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Managing Windows 10 Libraries

Written on June 8, 2020 by Chad Warmenhoven
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Why you need this article

It's recommended that users put Windows and any applications onto one drive or partition, then data such as documents, photos, videos onto another. This provides protection in the event of a drive failure and makes backing up far simpler. You can create an image backup of your bootable partition which is almost certainly drive C:, two or three times a year. And then you can conventionally back up your data partition, let’s call it drive D: more regularly.

This is an especially good idea if you have a small SSD and a large hard drive (HDD). Using the SSD as C: and the HDD as D:, your PC will gain considerable speed without losing inexpensive storage space.

Once the drives or partitions are running, create a folder called Libraries (or whatever you’d like to call it) on the now-empty drive D:.

Instructions

In the taskbar’s search field, type %userprofile% and select the %userprofile% system folder. This opens File Explorer to the location on C: where you’ll find your personal library folders.

Follow these instructions to move the Documents library:

1. Right-click the Documents folder and select Properties.

2. In the resulting dialog box, click the Location tab, and then the Move button.

3. In the resulting dialog box, go to drive D:’s Libraries folder and create a new folder inside it called Documents.

4. Select—but don’t open—the Documents folder, and then click the Select Folder button.

5. After you click OK, click Yes to move your files.

6. Repeat that process for the Music, Pictures and Videos folders or any other folders you'd like to move around.

Previously

Previously, in Windows 7/8, the process was far more complicated but we have all the details in this article below.

https://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/support-software/Moving-Windows-7-8-Libraries-184/

Conclusion

If your primary drive is filling up, moving the Libraries can be super helpful for freeing up additional storage space and potentially speeding up your primary drive if it is an SSD. SSDs start to slow down as they fill up, we will be covering that (the why) in a later article. Moving your Libraries also provides more data security in the event of a drive failure and also makes backing up simpler because your folders are neatly organized.

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Is it safe to target a folder that already has content? I have a long-established folder U:\Music with many gigabytes of music, which I would like to become my Windows-recognized Music library. (The Music library on my C: drive currently has a handful of music, mostly games soundtracks that I guess installed there by default.) Will moving the Music library preserve all content from both folders? I think we can assume there are no file-name conflicts.

Posted on 2020-06-20 20:33:56
Christopher Crader

That's a really good question! The short answer is yes, this is safe (the copy dialogue will prompt to replace, skip, or rename files). It will even prompt with a list of checkboxes if there's a bunch of files that conflict. There really isn't any practical danger that you will lose anything unless you finger-fub and tell Windows to delete one or more of the files. The long answer relates to practical safety with file handling. You can probably ignore the rest of this post, though I'd recommend reading the final paragraph for one more point specific to your case.

Starting off, I'll make the typical suggestion that before making any such change with important data, the data itself should be backed up somewhere. Chad actually wrote a rather clear article about that last year. Common practice for really important data is to have more than one backup, with the less-often-run backup routed to an offsite location. Options include using a cloud backup site, saving to an external hard drive typically kept at a trusted friend's house, or on a hacked NASA computer. Just something not at the home.

Beyond that, if you have two folders with similar content, I'd recommend just manually copying the smaller folder into the larger one before moving the library. That way you can check for any differences in how you have your music organized before relying on the copy dialogue. Once you've done that and checked that everything has copied over, you can delete the content in the smaller folder and then perform the move. Note, despite the name, it's not actually a "move". The old library folder will still retain its content. This doesn't typically matter if your computer is brand new, but if you've been using it, you probably want to check that everything copied over correctly and then delete the old folder (default C:\Users\(insert username here)\Music) after the library has been moved.

Make sure NOT to delete the user folder itself. There are hidden files that control how Windows works inside it and they cannot be easily moved. If you don't know about them, don't worry about them. They're hidden. They like being hidden. You like that they're hidden - or at least you should. If you need to know about them, you'll find them on your own.

Finally, I have a question relating to your drive letter. Is your U:\ drive a network drive? It doesn't have to be, but lots of folks use high drive letters for their network shares. If so, you might refrain from putting your Desktop folder on the shared drive. It shouldn't cause issues under ideal circumstances, but it will probably be a bit slower bringing your profile up. Historically, it could also make your profile unbootable if the Desktop folder was inaccessible, but I believe that now Windows will just give you a rather rude message when booting in such a circumstance.

Posted on 2020-06-25 00:51:20

Thanks! Regarding the U: drive, it's local. I picked that letter in part because an office I was working in at the time was using T: for its network drive, so your supposition wasn't off base!

Posted on 2020-06-25 22:30:53