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I would like to install Windows using non-standard directory names, e.g C:\Foo for Windows folder, or C:\Foo\Bar for the System folder.

In theory, it should work as applications should ask the actual path for Windows and System folders with specific APIs (GetWindowsDirectory, GetSystemDirectory, SHGetFolderPath).

I would like to avoid any kind of folder redirection or hardlinks.

Basically, I have two goals:

  1. Test applications to avoid dependencies on hard coded paths
  2. Use nicer folder names, especially System64 for 64 bit stuff instead of System32
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See Raymond Chen's Old New THing here and here – kinokijuf Dec 9 '11 at 17:06
I know you can make Windows install onto a different drive letter than C:\, but I'm unsure whether the Windows directory can be different. – Andrew Lambert Dec 9 '11 at 18:42
It is almost certainly not possible to rename the system32 subdirectory. – Harry Johnston Dec 14 '11 at 0:00
@HarryJohnston: why? It is hardcoded everywhere? – Wizard79 Dec 14 '11 at 12:42
Perhaps not; I suppose in theory it should be relocatable, but there only has to be one bug in the millions of lines of Windows code (not to mention whatever third-party apps are present) to break something. Bottom line: MS decided not to rename it, is it really a good idea to second-guess the people who wrote the OS? :-) – Harry Johnston Dec 14 '11 at 19:07

No. Windows must always be installed to drive:/Windows/. This is for app-compatability reasons - i.e. many applications hard-code the path and so Microsoft cannot change the path or allow the path to be changed for fear of breaking all of these legacy applications.

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Sorry, I had to downvote your answer because you're going off topic for two reasons: 1) You don't say why Windows can't be installed to a different path, you say why you shouldn't do that... 2) In my question I say that I would like to "Test applications to avoid dependencies on hard coded paths", which is exactly the side effect you mentioned in your answer. – Wizard79 Mar 6 '12 at 16:16
Well in that case I have to downvote your question, because it's a correct answer. The reason you can't change the \Windows and \Windows\System32 directories are because Microsoft have specifically fixed these strings to avoid breaking all sorts of user-mode applications. If Microsoft let you do this, you'd go complaining to Microsoft when all of your applications broke, and so Microsoft doesn't want this, and so has fixed \Windows and \Windows\system32 for the life-time of windows. For crying out loud, that's precisely the reason why they had to introduce SYSWOW64 in the first place. – SecurityMatt Mar 6 '12 at 17:11
SecurityMatt: Your downvote is just a childish revenge. How could a question being wrong? I specifically asked a way to workaround a limitation imposed by Microsoft, in order to achieve the result I very clearly specified; your arguments of breaking the compatibility don't apply here, I'm specifically looking for them in the question. – Wizard79 Mar 12 '12 at 11:27
I didn't downvote your question, although I notice that you've downvoted my correct answer. I told you that Microsoft don't let you change your windows directory and I told you why. Seriously, what is your problem? – SecurityMatt Mar 12 '12 at 17:21
You wrote "in that case I have to downvote your question". I have no problems. Again, your reply is OT, I just asked if it's possible to install Windows to a different path, you replied that it's not a good idea. I'm not interested if it is a good idea or not, I'm interested to know if it is possible, and how to do it (if it's not possible, why it's not possible, and not why it's not a good idea). Understood? – Wizard79 Mar 13 '12 at 10:31

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