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How to change the location of personal folders in Windows 11

With more and more computers coming with two (2) drives, managing the free space can be daunting. And the biggest space hog on your computer is your personal folders. So here is how to change the default location of your personal folders in Windows 11.

How to change the location of personal folders in Windows 11

Most computers that have two (2) drives will have one Solid State Drive (SSD) for the operating system and program files and one Hard Disk Drive (HDD) for data. And by default, Windows 11 saves everything to the same drive as the operating system.

But after a while, your personal folders can get quite large, with all of the music, pictures, and videos you save to your computer. And with Windows 11 saving all of these files on the same drive as the OS and program files, the possibility of running out of free space is quite real.

And if that drive is an SSD, your personal folders are taking up valuable real estate that could be used for other uses, like more programs. So why not move your personal folders to another drive?

Now relocating your personal folders is relatively easy, but there are a few guidelines you want to be aware of. When it comes down to it, the location of your personal folders is set inside of the registry. I include the instructions on restoring the locations of your personal folders via the registry later in this article.

Note: You can remap your personal folders to any drive or folder that has a drive letter assigned to it in File Explorer. It is recommended only to use drives that are built into your computer, not external and network drives. Remember that if you lose connection with an external or network drive, you will also lose connection to your personal folders.

How to change the personal folder location in Windows 11

  1. Open File Explorer using one of the following:
    • Left-click on the File Explorer icon (manilla folder) on the Taskbar.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo + E at the same time.
    • Use the Power User menu by right-clicking on the Start Windows logo button and selecting File Explorer.
  2. In the left-side column, left-click on This PC.
  3. In the right-side column, double left-click on the drive you want to use for your personal folders. The contents of that drive will appear in the right-hand column.
  4. Right-click on any blank space in the right-hand column, and a context menu will appear..
  5. From that context menu, select New > Folder. Give the new folder a unique name, like User files. If there are multiple users on this computer, you will want to create sub-folders for each user.
  6. Double left-click on the new user folder you just created. You now need to make six (6) sub-folders inside this folder. Named them: Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, and Videos.
  7. Now navigate to C:\Users\your user name. There you will find all of your personal folders.
  8. Right-click on the Desktop folder and select Properties from the context menu that appears.
  9. Left-click on the Location tab and left-click on the Move... button.
  10. From the Select a Destination dialog box that appears, navigate to the new location for the Desktop folder you just created in Step 6. Once selected, left-click on Select Folder.
  11. On the Desktop Properties dialog box, left-click on Apply. You will be prompted to move the contents of this folder from the old location to the new one. Left-click on Yes and let Windows proceed to move this folder.
  12. Repeat steps 7- 10 for the remaining personal folders (Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, and Videos).

To restore the default location of your personal folders, just navigate to the personal folder you want to restore and right-click on it. From the context menu that appears, select Properties and then Location. Left-click on the Restore Default button and follow the prompts. If you receive an error when trying to restore the default location of any personal folder, you can manually change the location by editing the registry.

Note: Editing the registry incorrectly can render your computer unusable! If you do not feel comfortable editing your computer's registry, please contact a local computer repair technician for assistance.

How to open the Registry Editor in Windows 11

  1. Left-click on the Start button Windows logo to bring up the Start menu.
  2. In the upper right-hand corner of the Start menu, left-click on All apps.
  3. Scroll down the list of programs and left-click on Windows Tools.
  4. Double left-click on Registry Editor. If prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

or

  1. Left-click on the magnifying glass to the right of the Start button to bring up the Search dialog box.
  2. Type Registry Editor into the Search box and left-click on the app Registry Editor. If prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

or

  1. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R to bring up a Run dialog box.
  2. In the Open field, type regedit and left-click on OK. If prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

When you have the Registry Editor open, navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders

Here is a list of the six (6) personal folders, the registry key, and the default value. Change only the keys for the folders you are having problems with. Once you are done editing the registry, log out or restart your computer for the changes to take effect.

Folder Registry key Default value
Desktop Desktop %USERPROFILE%\Desktop
Documents Personal %USERPROFILE%\Documents
Downloads {374DE290-123F-4565-9164-39C4925E467B} %USERPROFILE%\Downloads
Music My Music %USERPROFILE%\Music
Pictures My Pictures %USERPROFILE%\Pictures
Videos My Video %USERPROFILE%\Videos

How to enable automatic registry backups in Windows 10 and Windows 11

When it comes to repairing Windows-based computers, the one thing that will positively stop Windows from starting up is a corrupt registry. Having a backup of the registry is essential for quickly getting a system back up and running. So here is how to enable automatic registry backups in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

How to enable automatic registry backups in Windows 10 and Windows 11

In previous versions of Windows, the operating system would automatically backup the registry. In fact, Windows did automatically back up the registry until Windows 10 version 1803.

With Windows 10 version 1803, Microsoft disabled the automatic registry backup to help reduce the overall footprint of Windows. Microsoft would prefer you to use the System Restore feature.

But considering that Windows 10 and Windows 11 can take up to 40GB or more of disk space, the folder that contains the registry backup (Windows\System32\config\RegBack) only takes up roughly 100MB or so of disk space. I do not see a problem with having a backup of the registry.

Now over the past couple of years, I have seen an increase in Windows computers that do not have System Protection enabled. System Protection is the feature that creates and manages the System Restore feature.

So when I get a computer in the shop with a corrupted registry, and there are no System Restore points, then the only thing I can do is reformat the drive and reinstall Windows. But you can re-enable the automatic registry backup with a simple registry edit.

Note: If you are not comfortable editing the registry, don't hesitate to contact a local computer technician to assist you.

From my experience, getting the registry backups going again is a two-step process. First, you create the registry key and restart your computer to take effect. Then you run the built-in task inside of Task Scheduler. Let's start with the registry editor.

How to open the Registry Editor in Windows 10 / Windows 11

  1. Open the Registry Editor by either
  2. Navigate to HKLM (HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE) > System > CurrentControlSet > Control > Session Manager > Configuration Manager
    Registry Editor open to Configuration Manager entry
  3. In the left-hand column, right-click on Configuration Manager and select New > DWORD (32-bit) Value.
    Creating the new DWORD value EnablePeriodicBackup
  4. Name the new DWORD value EnablePeriodicBackup.
    Registry Editor open to EnablePeriodicBackup value
  5. Right-click on the EnablePeriodicBackup value and select Modify.
    Modifying the EnablePeriodicBackup value
  6. Change the Value data from 0 to 1 and left-click on OK.
    Changing the default EnablePeriodicBackup value from 0 to 1
  7. Restart your computer.

Using File Explorer, navigate to the Windows\System32\config\RegBack folder and see if the registry files are backed up. If you encounter a couple of dialog boxes that tell you that you do not have permission to access this folder, left-click on Continue.

You should see five (5) files in this folder; DEFAULT, SAM, SECURITY, SOFTWARE, and SYSTEM. And more than likely, they will be only 0KB in size. If that is the case, we will need to run the task that backups the registry.

Now we need to run the built-in task RegIdleBackup to get the Windows to start backing up the registry. Once you run the RegIdleBackup task, you should restart your computer again to get it fully functional.

How to open the Task Scheduler in Windows 10 / Windows 11

  1. Open the Task Scheduler by either
  2. When Task Scheduler appears, navigate down the left-hand column to Task Scheduler Library > Microsoft > Windows > Registry.
    The RegIdleBackup task inside of Task Manager
  3. In the center column, highlight the RegIdleBackup task and select Run in the right-hand column.
  4. Restart your computer.

Windows will now be backing up the registry regularly, usually every ten (10) days. Now that you enabled automatic registry backups let's check and see if they are working.

Let's use File Explorer again to navigate to the Windows\System32\config\RegBack folder and see if the registry files have increased in size. You should now see they are no longer 0KB.

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