Modifying the default locations of user files and library properties in Windows 8

Did you know that Windows 8 has some great ways of managing your user files? From adding additional folder locations in the Libraries to completely moving your user documents to another location. You can do all of these and more. Here's how to modify the default locations of user files and library properties in Windows 8.

Moving your personal folders has become more common place when you have two (2) or more disk drives in a computer. By moving the user files to another drive, you're freeing up space on the drive with the operating system. This can be extremely beneficial if your operating system is installed on a Solid State Drive (SSD). When you move a folder to a new location, you change where the folder, as well as the files in the folder, are stored. However, you'll still be able to access the folder the same way you did before you moved it.

Also, instead of moving a folder, you might want to consider including another folder in one of your libraries. For example, if you have a large number of pictures, you can store those pictures in a location other than your primary hard drive and then include that location in your Pictures library. For more information, see below.

How to change the location of user files in Windows 8

There are six (6) user folders in Windows 8 which you can change their locations. They are Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures and Videos. You will need to create folders with the same name in the new location prior to moving any of these folders.


How to change the location of user files in Windows 8

How to move a user folder to a new location

  1. From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Navigate to This PC and expand it. If you don't see the Navigation pane go to the View tab, pull down the Navigation pane toolbar and place a check mark next to Navigation pane.
  3. Right-click the folder that you want to move, and then click Properties.
  4. Click the Location tab, and then click Move.
  5. Browse to the location where you want to move this folder. You can select another location on this computer, another drive attached to this computer, or another computer on the network. To find a network location, type two backslashes (\\) into the address bar followed by the name of the location where you want to redirect the folder (for example, \\mylaptop), and then press Enter.
  6. Click the folder where you want to store the files, click Select Folder, and then click OK.
  7. In the dialog that appears, click Yes to move all the files to the new location.

To restore a folder to its original location

  1. From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Navigate to This PC and expand it. If you don't see the Navigation pane go to the View tab, pull down the Navigation pane toolbar and place a check mark next to Navigation pane.
  3. Right-click the folder that you previously redirected and want to restore to its original location, and then click Properties.
  4. Click the Location tab, click Restore Default, and then click OK.
  5. Click Yes to recreate the original folder, and then click Yes again to move all the files back to the original folder.

Note:
If you don't see the Location tab in a folder's Properties dialog, then the folder can't be moved. If you see the Location tab but can't edit the folder path, then you don't have permission to move the folder.

How to modify library properties in Windows 8

We are all familiar with files and folders, but when Windows 7 came out; we got another way to manage them, Libraries. Libraries are where you go to manage your documents, music, pictures, and other files. You can browse your files the same way you would in a folder or you can view your files arranged by properties like date, type, and author.

In some ways, a library is similar to a folder. For example, when you open a library, you'll see one or more files. However, unlike a folder, a library gathers files that are stored in several locations. This is a subtle, but important, difference. Libraries don't actually store your items. They monitor folders that contain your items, and let you access and arrange the items in different ways. For instance, if you have music files in folders on your hard disk and on an external drive you can access all of your music files at once using the Music library.

Windows 8 has four default libraries: Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos. You can also create new libraries. If you don't see the Libraries in File Explorer, go to the View tab, pull down the Navigation pane toolbar and place a check mark next to Show Libraries.


How to enable the Library view in Windows 8 File Explorer

Here are some ways you can modify an existing library:

  • Include or remove a folder. Libraries gather content from included folders, or library locations. You can include up to 50 folders in one library.
  • Change the default save location. The default save location determines where an item is stored when it's copied, moved, or saved to the library.
  • Change the type of file a library is optimized for. Each library can be optimized for a certain file type (such as music or pictures). Optimizing a library for a certain file type changes the available options for arranging your files.

How to add a folder to a library

  1. From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Open the library you'd like to change.
  3. On the ribbon on top select Manage library.
  4. In the Library Locations dialog box, click on Add, navigate to the folder you want to add to the library and click on Include folder.
  5. Click OK.

How to change a library's default save location

A library's default save location determines where an item will be stored when it's copied, moved, or saved to the library.

  1. From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Right-click on the library you'd like to change and click Properties.
  3. Select the library location that you want as default and click on Set save location.
  4. Click OK.

To change the type of files a library is optimized for

Each library can be optimized for a certain file type (such as music or pictures). Optimizing a library for a certain file type changes the options that are available for arranging the files in that library.

  1. From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Right-click on the library you'd like to change, and then click Properties.
  3. In the Optimize this library for list, select a file type, and then click OK.

Strengthen your computer security with EMET 5

It seems like every day a new software exploit or vulnerability is found. Software vendors' work hard at keeping their software secure, but it can take time to test and deploy patches. So what can you do to protect your computer? The Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) from Microsoft does just that.

The main window inside of EMET 5
The main window inside of EMET 5

EMET is designed to prevent attackers from taking control of your system. It works as 'shim' in-between your programs and the operating system. EMET looks for the most common attack techniques and will block and/or terminate any program it is monitoring. EMET works alongside your favorite anti-virus and anti-malware programs for layered security.

I have been using EMET as part of my layered security for years and have written a few blogs on it. With each version, Microsoft keeps improving it. Some of the improvements in EMET 5 include Attack Surface Reduction (ASR), Export Address Table Filtering Plus (EAF+) and 64-bit ROP mitigations. Here's is the current list of mitigations EMET currently looks for.

  • Structured Exception Handler Overwrite Protection (SEHOP)
  • Data Execution Prevention (DEP)
  • Heapspray allocation
  • Null page allocation
  • Mandatory Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR)
  • Export Address Table Access Filtering (EAF)
  • Export Address Table Access Filtering Plus (EAF+)
  • Bottom-up randomization
  • Return Oriented Programming (ROP)
  • Attack Surface Reduction (ASR)

There are two (2) different ways to configure EMET, a Graphic User Interface (GUI) and a command line tool. It is best to configure EMET through the GUI, since the command line tool doesn't allow access to all of EMET's features. The built-in configuration wizard allows you use either the recommenced settings, keep previous settings (upgrade install) or to manually configure EMET (new install).

Easily configure programs to monitor in EMET 5
Easily configure programs to monitor in EMET 5

Once you have EMET installed, it's pretty easy to add programs to monitor. Just open the program you want EMET to monitor and then open EMET. On the lower part of the main window you will see Running Processes. Just find the program you want to monitor in the list, right-click on it and select Configure Process. You will have to restart any program you have just configured inside of EMET.

For more information on Microsoft EMET 5, just follow the links below.

Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit
Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit 5.0 download

How to safely optimize your solid state drive

When it comes to getting the best performance out of your computer, nothing can beat a Solid State Drive (SSD). Right out-of-the-box they are extremely faster reading / writing data than a Hard Disk Drive (HDD). But there are a few things that you have to do differently with an SSD. Here's how to safely optimize your solid state drive.

The definition of tweak

There are plenty of articles out there that will give you a ton of different tweaks you can use to speed up the SSD access time. From turning off disk indexing to disabling Prefetch and Superfetch. Some may work for you, some may not. Generally speaking, if you're running Windows 7 or higher, the operating system should recognized the SSD and modify its behavior accordingly. The following tweaks are completely safe and will not harm your system in any way.

General SSD maintenance

SSD's operate differently from HDD's and there are a couple of things you should never do to an SSD. Since SSD's have limited read / write cycles, any program that intensively accesses the SSD could shorten the life span of the drive. Running a disk defragment program on an SSD is definitely not recommended. And as far as Check Disk (CHKDSK) is concerned, you'll need to contact the manufacturer of your SSD to find out if they recommend it or not.

Microsoft started building in support for SSD's in Windows 7 / Windows Server 2008 R2 and has expanded on it in Windows 8 / 8.1 & Windows Server 2012. Since low-level operation of SSD's is different from HDD's, the Trim command was introduced to handle deletes / format requests. To verify that Trim is on, you'll need to open an Administrative Command Prompt.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 7
How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 8

You can verify that Trim is enabled by typing the following into an Administrative Command Prompt:

fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify

If the command returns a 0 then Trim is enabled. If it returns a 1, then it is not. To enable Trim, just type the following into the Admin Command Prompt:

fsutil behavior set DisableDeleteNotify 0

SSD free space maintenance

SSD's do have one down side; their capacity is smaller than HDD's, so maintaining an adequate amount of free space is necessary. Now there are two scenarios for setting up computers with SSD's: Single-drive (SSD only) and Multiple drives (SSD + HDD). Laptops are usually single-drive and desktops are almost always multiple-drive. Here's a few ways to maintain free space.

Single-drive (SSD only)

The options here are limited. To free up space you could store your personal files like documents, photos and music to an external drive or to the cloud. Here are a few more ideas.

Turn off Hibernation.
With the speed of an SSD, boot times will be quite faster than with an HDD. You'll find that you can boot your computer just as fast as if you brought it out of hibernation. And since hibernation writes the system memory to disk, you'll free up the same amount of disk space that is equal to the total system memory. And if you have a lot of memory, this can free up a big chunk of space on your SSD.

Disable Windows hibernation and free up disk space

Turn off the virtual memory / pagefile.
Use this with caution! Technically, virtual memory is used when all of the system memory is full. If you have a large amount of system memory (16GB or more) and you don't run memory hog software like Photoshop, you should be alright disabling it. And you'll free up a few GB's of drive space in the process.

Managing Virtual Memory / Pagefile in Windows 7 (same for Windows 8)

Clean up drive on a regular basis.
Temporary files and browser caches are a few items you'll need to keep an eye on. Using a program like Piriform's CCleaner or Disk Cleanup that comes with Windows will take care of these files. Disk Cleanup can also be run as a scheduled task too.

Free up more disk space with Windows 7 Disk Cleanup
Clean up your hard drive in Windows 8 with Disk Cleanup
Clean up and optimize your computer for free with CCleaner

Multiple-drive (SSD + HDD)

This is the optimal setup. Everything under single-drive scenario applies here. Windows and program files need to be on the SSD. Almost anything else that Windows doesn't require for normal operation can go over to the HDD.

Move the virtual memory / pagefile.
Instead of turning it off, just move it to the HDD (see link above).

Move personal files to HDD.
Your documents, photos and music can take up a large amount of space on your drive. Get them off of the SSD and over to the HDD.

Modifying the default locations of user files and library properties in Windows 7
Modifying the default locations of user files and library properties in Windows 8

There are plenty of other tweaks you can do, like moving location of your browser cache and temp folders to the HDD. You can find all of that information and more with a quick search on Google.

Create great graphics with Paint.NET 4.0

One of the things I like to do besides repairing computers is creating graphics. Over the years I have used many different image editing programs, including Photoshop and CorelDraw. Recently, one of my favorite freeware image editing programs, Paint.NET, released a new version. Let's take a look at what's new in Paint.NET 4.0.

The improved user interface inside of Paint.NET 4.0
The improved user interface inside of Paint.NET 4.0

Paint.NET was originally created in 2004 to be a replacement for the Paint program that is included inside Windows, but has evolved into much more since then. It now includes such features as layers, effects, transparency, blending and best of all, plugins. With hundreds of plugins available, you can really expand on the out-of-the-box graphic capabilities of Paint.NET. Since I have a digital camera that will take photos in RAW format, I found a plugin that opens that type of file. I also use Photoshop and have found a plugin to open those files too.

Paint.NET 4.0 now has a brand-new rendering engine (asynchronous and fully multi-threaded) and supports hardware acceleration via the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). Selections are now anti-aliased and selected outlines are rendered with 'dancing ants' animation, greatly improving the contrast between selection and image. And the user interface has also been revamped to include a Settings dialog box for easier configuration.

The new Settings dialog box inside of Paint.NET 4.0
The new Settings dialog box inside of Paint.NET 4.0

Now the only down side to Paint.NET 4.0 is the system requirements. Since this version of Paint.NET is built with the .NET Framework 4.5, it will only run on Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1. It does not run on Windows Vista or Windows RT. Here are the complete system requirements:

  • Windows 7 SP1 or newer is now required.
  • .NET Framework 4.5 is now required, and will be installed if needed.
  • A dual-core (or more!) processor is highly recommended.
  • Hardware acceleration (GPU) via Direct2D is now supported.

For more information on Paint.NET, just follow the links below:

Get Paint 4.0
What's new in Paint.NET 4.0

How to upgrade your computers hard disk drive to a solid state drive

Most computers (laptop & desktop) nowadays come with a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) as standard equipment with a Solid State Drive (SSD) as an option. Each drive type has its pros and cons: HDD's are cheaper and have more storage, but SSD's are extremely fast (especially when connected to a SATA3 port). So if your existing computer has a HDD, odds are you could replace it with a SSD. Here's how to upgrade your computer hard disk drive to a solid state drive.

How to upgrade your computer's hard disk drive to a solid state drive

I wrote an article not long ago on how to upgrade the hard drive in your computer and will be referring back to it often. It describes how to clone a smaller drive to a larger one of the same type. Since SSD's normally have less storage than HDD's, this time I'll have to shrink the existing HDD (80 GB) partition(s) down below the capacity of the target SSD (64 GB) before I can clone it.

As in the aforementioned article, the first thing to do is a Checkdisk of the existing HDD. Doing this will assure there are no errors that may prohibit the cloning of the drive.

Running Checkdisk in Windows Vista
Running Checkdisk in Windows 7
Running Checkdisk in Windows 8

Now we have to start cleaning up the drive. Windows has a built-in tool called Disk Cleanup (cleanmgr.exe) that works pretty well at getting out the clutter. Try using it from an admin command prompt, that way you'll get more options.

Disk Cleanup Windows 7 / Vista
Disk Cleanup Windows 8

Since we are trying to get the maximum amount of free space we can, we will have to delete some files, which may include documents, photos, videos, etc. Doing a backup right now will insure we have a copy of all of the files if we need to recover some later.

Windows Vista Backup
Windows 7 Backup
Windows 8 Backup

Next thing I have to do is find out what is taking up the space on the existing HDD. For this I'll use a copy of SpaceMonger. After quick view, I see I can free up several gigabytes of space by permanently removing the hibernation file and temporarily deleting the swap file. Windows will warn you about having no swap file, but we will be recreating the swap file once the drive cloning is complete.

Disable Windows hibernation
Disable Windows swap file

The next thing we need to do to the drive is to defragment it. I'll use Defraggler from Piriform for this task. Once the drive is defragged, it's time to shrink it. To do this, open Computer Management, expand the Storage section in the left column and select Disk Management. In the right column, right-click on the partition marked as Boot (usually C:) and select Shrink. Remember to take the size down at least 10-15% below the capacity of the new SSD.

Shrinking a partition down in Windows 7
Shrinking a partition down in Windows 7

Once the partition has been resized, it's time to clone the drive. The following article has all of the details on how to clone you hard drive, including links to the cloning software.

How to upgrade the hard drive in your computer

Note: An issue not addressed in the article above is the form factor; the existing HDD is 3.5" form factor and SSD's are normally 2.5" form factor.
A desktop hdd and an ssd with adapter brackets
This can easily be resolved by using a pair of 2.5" to 3.5" adapter brackets.

Once the drive cloning is complete and the system is running again, we need to expand the boot partition to use any free space that may be available. Open Computer Management, expand the Storage section in the left column and select Disk Management. In the right column, right-click on the partition mark as Boot (usually C:) and select Expand. Once the boot partition has been resized, you can now enable Windows swap file.

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