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How can I change the default program installation directory in Windows 7?

I'm toying with the idea of getting a SSD to replace my main drive. However, due to the relatively small size of these when compared to normal hard drives, I want to customize my Windows installation a bit more than the norm. I'm using Windows 7 Professional, 64bit.

When poking around the Windows registry, you can see there are keys which allow you to set the Program Files, User account directories, etc. However, once Windows has been installed, it's a little late to change these!

Essentially I want to install Windows itself on C:, and Program Files (both versions) on D:, along with user accounts. I can then manually install things on the SSD that I actually want there and hopefully cut down as much space as possible - I really don't need things like Windows Mail, DVD Maker and various other programs I never ever run cluttering up that precious space on the SSD... not to mention the AppData directory.

Can anyone recommend a way of doing this?

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marked as duplicate by MaQleod, Moab, studiohack Apr 8 '11 at 20:50

This question was marked as an exact duplicate of an existing question.

You can change the registry value, which will in turn change the environment variable that tells windows where the Program Files directory is. You however can't move everything out as Windows locks it. You will have to boot into a live CD to move anything that Windows has locked.

Here is a short walk-through on the registry portion.

You might want to read this caveat from Microsoft first. It is a bit outdated, but probably still applies to newer versions of Windows.

Another way, would be to create symbolic links of the Program Files directories and point them to another location. Again, you'll have to boot into a live CD to do this. This way Windows will not know the difference, so there will be no chance of instabilities in any later revisions that Microsoft makes to your version of Windows through updates.

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Thanks for the answer. I'd considered this originally (the setting of the key and moving the folder, never used symbolic links before) but I'd rather have this done during the install if possible rather than hacking it in after Windows is up and running. – Richard Moss Apr 8 '11 at 19:49
I believe I tried symbolic links for program files, and I don't think it worked for some reason. I can neither recall this for certain nor am I sure why it failed, if it did. – music2myear Apr 8 '11 at 19:56
There is no way to change it during install. – MaQleod Apr 8 '11 at 19:57

I've done this because I have an older Raptor drive as my C. The most effective way to do this while keeping the system stable is to simply change the install directory for all new applications you install to D:\Program Files\ or D:\Program Files (x86) (or whatever that is in the 64bit os). I'm running 7 x64 ultimate and this has kept the drive size usage low enough.

Other things to do are to make sure the page file is on the secondary drives, and move the user profile folders using symbolic links.

Acrobat programs really don't like being installed on secondary drives. I have Acrobat Suite CS2 and it refuses to work installed on the D drive in the x86 directory. But I understand this is a problem with the x86 directory more than the D drive.

All other programs work just fine.

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Doing it this way you still have Program Files directories on the C drive for default MS apps, but the file stays pretty small. – music2myear Apr 8 '11 at 19:52
Yes, this is what I have done at work where I've just installed a new machine with a 64GB SSD. There's a surprising amount of chaff installed into C however, even when manually telling applications to install things... my work drive is down to 16GB free and the only things I've "officially" installed to C is VS2010... everything I could I installed to D. – Richard Moss Apr 8 '11 at 19:55

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