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I have discovered that some important Windows system files are not where they should be, and I'd like to know if I can move them.

My system runs (I thought) from my D: drive, which has the usual \WINDOWS directory. However, ntldr resides on my C: drive, which otherwise contains only data (photos, music, etc). msdos.sys and boot.ini reside on C: too.

This is a big surprise to me, and not a welcome one. I suppose it has to do with the fact that I installed Windows (some time ago now) to D: while I had my C: drive attached; and maybe Windows can't cope with that unconventional set-up.

Is there anything that I can do about this, short of re-installing Windows? I am praying that a re-installation of Windows is not the only solution; it would take me days to return my computer to normal operating status.

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Is this something that is bothering you right now? If the OS is working ok, why not just leave the files there? I can't really see why you would need to reinstall the OS now. – alex Sep 26 '09 at 5:22
It bothers me for two reasons: a) If I ever remove the drive currently assigned C:, my computer won't boot; and b) I cannot perform system encryption with TrueCrypt – user10604 Sep 26 '09 at 7:02
Because of (b) you'd better reinstall. While at it you can also consider using Hidden System feature. – Bender Sep 26 '09 at 7:12
up vote 1 down vote accepted

A reinstall is not the only solution, but it would be the fastest and cause you the least problems. Windows is used to having the C: drive as the main partition holding the Operating System files. Some applications likely have this hardcoded, hence the appearance of files like ntldr in the root of C: when its running from D:. A big problem you will run into is that all of your software is now installed and configured to use D:. If you move everything over, there will likely be a ton of programs that will break since they cannot find configuration folders and files. If you want to save your data, I suggest using the Files & Settings transfer Wizard or Windows Easy Transfer (depending on your current version of Windows). Make backups before doing anything drastic though.

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Aaargh! I was afraid you'd say that. Thanks for the tough love, though. – user10604 Sep 26 '09 at 7:04

I suggest that you do nothing about it. There is nothing wrong with the files being in the C:\ . And I don't think that the values are hard-coded. It just may be that C:\ is physically the first partition of you Master Hard-drive & hence Windows is dumping the boot files on it.

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See my new comment on the question (above). The C: and D: drives are separate physical drives. – user10604 Sep 26 '09 at 7:03

I have a wild idea, which would require good imaging backup of D because it can potentially be destroyed:

  1. Repartition your disk D to make it a bit smaller and move it towards the end of the disk.
  2. Create a new partition at the beginning of D. This will be your new C disk.
  3. Format and transfer all system files to the new partition,
  4. Take out the old C drive and replace it by the D drive. Keep the old C aside.
  5. Boot from this drive. Or use the Windows restore disk to repair the installation on D if required.
  6. Reboot with the old C drive in the drive bay where the old D drive used to be and call it E.
  7. Erase the system files from E.

I take no responsibility whatsoever and do not guarantee that this will work nor how much time you will spend trying to make it work.

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this is is perfectly normal, while you can install the operating system on any drive you like, windows will always install certain boot files (such as NTLDR, BOOT.INI) on c:\

you want to remove the original C:\ drive? no problem:

How to restore the system/boot drive letter in Windows

Changing the "system" partition

How can I change the System partition drive letter in Windows XP?

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I'm tempted, but scared by this statement from the first article: "Do not use the procedure that is described in this article to change a drive on a computer where the drive letter has not changed. If you do so, you may not be able to start your operating system." – user10604 Sep 26 '09 at 12:51
of course you may not to mess around with your system without a complete backup. then there is no reason to be scared. worst case scenario would be a re-installation (which may not be such a bad idea after all :) – Molly7244 Sep 26 '09 at 13:13

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