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Windows 7: User Profile - Change Default Location


User Profile - Change Default Location

How to Change the Default Location of a User Profile in Windows 7 and Vista
Published by Brink
27 May 2010
Published by

How to Change the Default Location of a User Profile in Vista and Windows 7


information   Information
A user profile is the main C:\Users\(user-name) folder of a user account that contains all of the account's settings, shortcuts, information, and user folders (ex: My Music) with the files in them.

This will show you how to Move the default location of a user profile in Windows 7 and Vista to another location of your choice so it will be stored and used from the new location instead.

This can be handy if you are low on free space on your C: drive.

You must be logged in as an administrator to be able to do the steps in this tutorial.

warning   Warning
Before doing this, you should create a system image to be safe. This way you can do a system image recovery to undo any mistake you might make in the instructions below that could result in the user profile you are moving, or Windows, to no longer work.
Note   Note
The drive or partition that you move the user profile folder(s) to, will now be included in a system image if created since it will now be considered a system drive.
Tip   Tip
If you are just wanting to save HDD space from the files in your user folders, then you might consider this below to be able to access the files from your libraries with the files actually located where you like instead. This way you will not have to worry about any potential issues that come with moving user folder locations.





OPTION ONE
For Already Existing User Accounts

warning   Warning
Some of the programs you have installed may not work properly after moving your user profile folder since they are still looking for their information in the user profile folder's original AppData folder location which of course no longer exists.

If you have this problem afterwards, then you may be able to uninstall and reinstall these programs, or use OPTION TWO in the tutorial to create a new user account and create new shortcuts for the programs to fix this.






Method One
To Change the Default Location of an Existing User Profile
1. Log on to the user account that you want to move. In Windows Explorer, navigate to it's C:\Users\(user-name) folder, right click on the user folder, click on Share with and Nobody.

2. Log off.

3. Log on to an administrator account that you are not moving it's user folder for.
NOTE: If you do not have another administrator account to use, then you will need to create a new account first and log in to it. When done with the tutorial, you can delete the new account.

4. In Windows Explorer, navigate to the C:\Users\(user-name) folder (ex: C:\Users\User account to move) that you want to move. Right click on it and click on Copy. (see screenshot below)
User Profile - Change Default Location-step1.jpg
5. In Windows Explorer, navigate to the new location (ex: E: drive) that you want to move the C:\Users\(user-name) folder to. Right click on a empty space in the main window (middle), and click on Paste. (see screenshot below)
NOTE: This should be another internal hard drive or partition.
User Profile - Change Default Location-step2.jpg
6. If prompted, click on Continue. (see screenshot below)
Name:  Step3-UAC.jpg
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7. If prompted by UAC, then click on Yes (Windows 7) or Continue (Vista).

8. The C:\Users\(user-name) folder (step 4) is now copied over to the new location (ex: E:\User account to move). You can close Windows Explorer. (see screenshot below)
User Profile - Change Default Location-step4.jpg
9. Open the Start Menu, then type regedit in the search box and press enter.

10. If prompted by UAC, then click on Yes (Windows 7) or Continue (Vista).

11. In regedit, navigate to the location below. (see screenshot below)

Code:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList
User Profile - Change Default Location-step5.jpg
12. In the left pane under the Profilelist key, select and look at each S-1-5 key with the long number until you see the user account name and path (step 3) that you want to move in the value Data column of ProfileImagePath in the right pane. When the correct user name is found, right click on ProfileImagePath, and click on Modify. (see screenshot above)

13. Type in the full path of the location (ex: E:\User account to move) that you copied the user profile folder to in step 7, and click on OK. (see screenshot below)
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14. Regedit will now look similiar to this with the new location now. Close regedit. (see screenshot below)
User Profile - Change Default Location-step7.jpg
15. To Verify that the User Profile has been Moved Successfully
A) Log off or Switch User, then log in to the user account that you moved the user profile folder of.

B) Open the Start Menu and open the user profile folder from this location. (see screenshot below)
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C) Right click on one of the user folders (ex: Desktop), click on Properties, and click on the Location tab. (see screenshot below)
User Profile - Change Default Location-log-2.jpg
D) You should see the new location (ex: E:\User account to move\Desktop) from step 8 as the now new default location. Click on OK. (see screenshot above)
16. To Delete the User Profile from the Old Location
NOTE: Once you have verified (step 15) that the moved user profile has been moved successfully, you can now safely delete the user profile folder from the old location (ex: C:\Users\User account to move) from step 4.
A) Log off of the user account that you moved if you are logged into it from step 15.

B) Log on to an administrator account that you did not move it's user folder for.

C) In Windows Explorer, navigate to the old C:\Users\(user-name) folder (ex: C:\Users\User account to move) that you had copied (step 4). Right click on it and click on Delete. (see screenshot below)
User Profile - Change Default Location-delete-1_uac.jpg
D) If prompted by UAC, then click on Yes (Windows 7) or Continue (Vista).

E) If prompted, click on Continue. (see screenshot below)
Name:  Delete-2.jpg
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F) You can now empty the Recycle Bin to finish deleting the old user profile folder from the old location.
NOTE: You will need to approve emptying the Recycle Bin.
17. The existing user profile folder has now been completely moved to the new default location where Windows 7 or Vista will now run it from when logged on to it.



Method Two
To Restore the Existing User Profile's Default Location
1. Repeat OPTION ONE, but move the new default User Profile folder (ex: E:\User account to move) and registry entries back to the original C:\Users folder location (ex: C:\Users\User account to move).



OPTION TWO
For All New User Accounts Created

Note   Note
This will change where all newly created user accounts will have their user profile folder created at in a default location of your choice instead of the old default C:\Users location.

Thank you to Alain for pointing this out.
1. To Change the Default User Profile Location of New User Accounts
A) Open the Start Menu, then type regedit in the search box and press enter.
B) If prompted by UAC, then click on Yes (Windows 7) or Continue (Vista).

C) In regedit, navigate to the location below. (see screenshot below)

Code:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList
User Profile - Change Default Location-new-1.jpg
D) In the right pane of ProfileList, right click on ProfilesDirectory and click on Modify. (see screenshot above)

E) Type in the full path (ex: E:\Users) of where you want new user accounts to be created at, and click on OK. (see screenshot below)
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F) The registry will now look similar to this. (see screenshot below)
User Profile - Change Default Location-new-3.jpg
G) When you create a new user account, it's user profile folder will now be created at the location you specified in step 1E.
2. To Restore the Default User Profile Location of New User Accounts
A) Repeat step 1, but type %SystemDrive%\Users at step 1E instead.
NOTE: This step only changes the user profile folder location of any newly created user accounts back to this default location, and not any existing user accounts.

B) If you wish to change an already existing new account's user profile folder location, then you will need to do Method Two in OPTION ONE above to change it back to C:\Users.
3. Close regedit.
That's it,
Shawn


Related Tutorials


27 May 2010   #1
karlsnooks

MS Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit
 
 

Shawn,
Glad to see this. I thought of cranking out a tutorial on this but never ended up with enough time and system to sacrifice for all of the testing.

From my experience in this area, a full system image backup prior to moving the user profile might be a wise decision.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 May 2010   #2
Brink
Microsoft MVP

64-bit Windows 8.1 Enterprise
 
 

Thank you Karl. I'm happy that you like it. Agreed system image would be best.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 May 2010   #3
WindowsStar

Windows 7 Enterprise (x64); Windows Server 2008 R2 (x64)
 
 

Brink: Please note that I have done this a few times and it is unstable. Sometimes it works and other times it does not. I have had these two problems start happening about a week later after the move.

The User Profile Service failed the logon. User profile cannot be loaded. - Vista Forums

User Profile Error - Logged on with a Temporary Profile - Vista Forums
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 May 2010   #4
Brink
Microsoft MVP

64-bit Windows 8.1 Enterprise
 
 

Hello WindowsStar,

Thank you for the notice. Strange, it has been stable for me so far.

Was it the same procedure that you used as in the tutorial? Did you notice any changes (ex: change user folder name or drive letter) or anything that may have affected the user profile to get this error?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 May 2010   #5
kucing13

 

I want to ask,any reason to change default location of user profile? I'm just curious. thanks
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 May 2010   #6
Brink
Microsoft MVP

64-bit Windows 8.1 Enterprise
 
 

Hello Rafe,

No problem.

You might would like to do so in order to make it easier to use the same user profile's data and files to copy over if you do a clean install.

If you are real low on available free space on the C: drive, this could save the space you need by having it moved to another location.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 May 2010   #7
WindowsStar

Windows 7 Enterprise (x64); Windows Server 2008 R2 (x64)
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Brink View Post
Hello WindowsStar,

Thank you for the notice. Strange, it has been stable for me so far.

Was it the same procedure that you used as in the tutorial? Did you notice any changes (ex: change user folder name or drive letter) or anything that may have affected the user profile to get this error?
Yes the basic steps are the same. I still have one machine at work that will not work correctly the machine always states it is loading a temp profile. I have not had time to get back to it and see if I can fix it. Everything worked well for a week or two and then I started having issues.

I moved the profile from C:\Users\<username> to D:\Users\<username>.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 May 2010   #8
Brink
Microsoft MVP

64-bit Windows 8.1 Enterprise
 
 

WindowsStar,

Was the one at work using a roaming profile, or part of a domain that you know of? If so, that may be a reason. I have only done this with a local user profile on a home computer.

I'll leave one setup like this on my system to see if it may become unstable as well though.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 May 2010   #9
WindowsStar

Windows 7 Enterprise (x64); Windows Server 2008 R2 (x64)
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Brink View Post
WindowsStar,

Was the one at work using a roaming profile, or part of a domain that you know of? If so, that may be a reason. I have only done this with a local user profile on a home computer.
The one that has had the most probems is at work, and yes is is on a domain. No roaming profiles. I did have issues on a non-domain machine but re-loaded Windows 7 and did not move the profile. No issues with it at all.

On a side note I move a profile on a Windows Server 2008 R2 machine (basically Windows 7 they share the same base code) and had the same thing happen before the server was added to the domain.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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