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Moving Windows 7/8 Libraries

Written on February 11, 2013 by Matt Bach


WIndows 7 Windows 8 LibrariesLibraries in Windows 7 and Windows 8 are a great way to organize your data as it allows you to combine multiple folders into a single view. For example, if you have two folders of pictures, you can set both of them to be accessed through your "Pictures" library. Once they are both set, you can browse, sort, rename, delete, or do anything else with all the files within both folders as if they were actually in one location. This functionality means that it no longer matters where data is located (it can even be on an entirely separate hard drive or even on a network location) as all of the data can all be organized and accessed from one central location.

The one thing that many users don't understand at first is that a library is not a traditional folder itself, but rather a collection of other folders. So when you save a file to a specific library, you are not actually saving to the base library, but rather whatever folder is set as the default save location. For most users, this default save location (My Documents, My Pictures, etc.) is perfectly fine but some users like to have it set to a separate hard drive so that if the OS ever becomes corrupt, their data will be safe. If you want to change where the actual data in your libraries is located, there are two ways to do so: moving the "My Documents" and other "My ____" folders, or making a new default save location for each library. This process is the same in both Windows 7 and Windows 8, although some windows might look slightly different than those shown in this article.

Moving versus Adding Default Save Locations

Before libraries were available, if you wanted to change where the data in your documents, music, pictures, or video folders resides, the only option was to completely move those folders to the location of your choosing. The problem with this method is that if this new location ever goes missing (the secondary hard drive gets disconnected, network storage becomes inaccessible, etc.) severe OS instability can occur. Even though the redirected location is not accessible, Windows continues to try access it which can cause error messages, OS hangs and potentially even full system lockups.

Error message that comes up if the location of "Desktop" folder is inaccessible.

Libraries provide an alternate method of changing the location of the data in your documents folder by making it possible to have the data in multiple locations, any of which can be set as the default save location. This way, even if the directory that is set as the default location becomes inaccessible, the OS will simply switch over to another location - thus avoiding the OS instability issues. This is a much safer way to have your documents automatically save to a different location, and greatly reduces the risk of doing so.

The main downside to making a new default save location in a library rather than moving the My Documents (or other) folder is that there is still some data that will be saved to the My Documents folder even if the save location for the library has been moved. Typically, this is just application data for programs like games and in the majority of cases it is perfectly fine to keep this data in the default location. If it is very important that this data be located on a secondary drive, then moving the location of the My Documents folder is the best way to do so. If at all possible, however, we highly recommend simply adding a new default save location rather than relocating the My Documents folder.

Moving My Documents

As we stated earlier, we highly recommend not moving the location of your My Documents or other document folders unless you absolutely need to. Adding a new default save location to the library is much safer and provides almost the same functionality. If you still want to move the location of the My Document or other user folders, however, it is actually very easy to do so in Windows 7 and Windows 8. We will use the My Documents folder as an example, but this applies to My Music, My Pictures, and My Videos and a few other User folders as well.


Step 1

Open Explorer and either navigate to the My Documents folder or simply expand the Documents library in the navigation pane. Right-click on the My Documents folder and select "Properties"

Step 2

In the window that comes up, click on the "Location" tab.

Step 3

From here you can either move the current My Documents folder to another location by clicking the "Move..." button (this moves everything that is currently in the documents folder to the new location), or simply set the new location with "Find Target...". Using "Find Target..." does not move any existing data, so if you have data that you want moved to the new location, you will have to do so manually.

Move WIndows 7 Windows 8 My Document Folder

Step 4

You will receive a confirmation window to confirm the action you choose in step 3. Double check that everything is correct then click the "Yes" button.

And that's it! At this point, the My Documents folder is now set to the new location. In addition to the "My ____" folders, this method can also be used to relocate the Desktop, Downloads, Favorites, Saved Games, and Searches folders. All you need to do is navigate to "C:\Users\USERNAME\" during step 1 rather than staying on the main Explorer screen. From that point on, the process is identical.

Setting a New Default Save Location

Adding a new default save location to a library is much safer than relocating the actual My Documents folder (or other user folders), and is also very easy to do in Windows 7/8. This process is also almost exactly how you would add additional folders to a library, only in that case you would simply skip step 4 (when you make the folder the default save location). We will use the My Pictures library in this example, but this process also applies to the Documents, Music, Video, and any user-added libraries as well.

Step 1

Open Explorer and navigate to the Libraries folder. Right-click on the My Pictures icon and select "Properties"

Step 2

In the window that comes up, click on the "Include a folder..." button.

Add Folder to WIndows 7 Windows 8 Library

Step 3

Navigate to the folder that you want to be the new default save location and click "Include folder". If the folder does not exist, you can create it by right-clicking and selecting New --> Folder.

Step 4

Highlight the folder you just added and click on "Set save location" to make this folder the new default save location. 

Set Default Save Location for WIndows 7 Windows 8 Library

At this point, the folder you just added to the library is the default save location. So anytime you download or copy a file to the base library, this is the folder that it actually gets saved to.


Both of these methods have their advantages, and it is largely up to the user to decide which one to use. For the majority of users, however, adding a new default save location to a library is likely the better option. It provides much of the same functionality as moving the "My ____" folder, but is much safer as there will be fewer problems if the new location ever becomes inaccessible.

Tags: Operating Systems, Windows 7, Documents, Hard Drives, Storage
Mike P.

A freeware utility, Profile Relocator, can be used to change the default location for new user profiles. I used it when I got my Puget machine with SSD & RAID data disks. http://software.bootblock.c... I have had no trouble with it.

I have to admit, after using computers since 1967, I did not have enough patience left to understand what Microsoft's concept of a "Library" is, nor why it might be an improvement over just using the filesystem as it is.

Posted on 2013-02-13 05:30:35
Sean Long

The absolute first thing I did, when setting up my new SSD-and-HDD equipped PC was move most of the Libraries off of the SSD, into an appropriate partition on my HDD.

Related to this subject, is the ability to specify where Steam installs it's games. You can add multiple Steam Library Folders, and point each game download at whichever library you prefer. I keep most of my non-Favorite games on my HDD, for example.

How you do it is relatively simple, but not very intuitive I'm afraid.

First: within the Steam Client, find the [Steam] pull-down menu, at the top left corner, and select "Settings". On the popup that gives you, go to the tab labelled "Downloads & Cloud".

At the bottom of the tab is a button, labelled "Steam Library Folders"; click this, and you will get a new popup with a list of all that currently exist (almost certainly, only _one_ to begin with). There's an obvious "Add library folder" button below the list. Click it, choose a destination, and ... you're all set up.

Now, whenever you install a game, you will see a pull-down list of the libraries on your computer. Simply choose the one you want, and that's it.

Doing this has already saved me just over thirty gigabytes of space on my SSD - which is 1/8 of it's capacity - without having to keep those games uninstalled.

Posted on 2013-02-26 18:09:10

Yes, this feature was added in a recent update to Steam - and it was a great boon! Previously you couldn't split up where Steam saved games, at least not natively from within Steam. Thank you for sharing the exact instructions, though, as I'm sure others will want to see how it is done :)

Posted on 2013-02-26 18:18:40

I want to offer the benefit of my experience to this procedure as of 2014/02/23. Let's say you have a C and d partition on your hard drive and you want to move the Windows 7 My Documents (and the other) personal folders to the D partition. Prior to doing moving (1) Create a folder on the D partition named My Personal Folders or Whatever. (2} Create within that folder 4 new folders: New Folder 1, New folder 2, etc.(3) Now when you move the My Documents folder to the D partition, select one of the New Folders as the target. Windows will move the My Documents folder to that location within the My Personal Folders and rename the selected New Folder as My Documents. That is where your data will be. Windows 7 renames the folder to which you are moving the personal folder to the name of the personal folder and that is where it stores the data. It took several internet searches and 3 re-installations of Windows to figure this out. Also I'd like to thank the author of this article for the instructions.

Posted on 2014-06-24 23:20:23

Your msg board is the closest I've found to answering my question, but please excuse me and redirect if possible if I'm incorrect...I believe someone set up My Documents as a library, and so now Win7 is transferring some files between both Documents and My Documents, but not all. Is it possible to change My Documents back to a folder instead of a library so as not to create multiple copies? I attempted to copy files over to eliminate the multiple locations, but it just created new copies instead of asking me to copy over. I know there must be multiple locations because I can create new folders under Documents but not under My Documents, so I want to make sure to keep all files in both places.--I'm having an issue with not being able to access all my files. TY

Posted on 2015-01-07 17:22:37