I am going to set up a fresh install of Windows 10 (I'm getting a new CPU and using the opportunity to install Windows onto an SSD).
How much of my current Users/[username] directory will I be able to just copy? The contents of the Documents, Downloads, Music and Videos directories should definitely be safe, but what about AppData? I'd like to keep configuration files that some programs leave in there, but I'm afraid there may be other files that are specific to my current setup.

Which parts of the user directory are safe plain data and which should not be copied? (I will of course keep a backup, this question is just about dropping the files in the same location on the new install)

  • As much data as you want to copy? You can copy the contents of all those directories safely. – Ramhound Jul 13 '16 at 22:11
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    In the end, I always end up selectively restoring individual directories from appdata. its a pain to do it that way, but its the only clean approach. – Frank Thomas Jul 14 '16 at 2:40
  • Simply create a data backup and restore from it. – Rohit kumar Jul 15 '16 at 10:47

You're not supposed to manually copy AppData. AppData is designed for application internal data storage and end users are never expected to manually copy that. That said, in some obscure cases where your program has no backup or transfer features, manually copying all or part of its AppData may work. It could also cause potential bugs if the AppData you copied conflicts with other program settings that were not stored there, but in other places, for example, registry. You can set up your new system and wait to delete your previous until everything is working fine in your new one.

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  • This is what I ended up doing. I copied only the Downloads and Documents folders and cherry-picked what I needed from AppData and Desktop. With two answers that were essentially opposites, I just took the safer route even though it was more work. – erzet Jul 17 '16 at 16:59

You should copy the entire user directory. If you do not copy the hidden folders, like AppData, some program configuration data will not be moved to the new install. This means either you or the user will have to reconfigure those applications.

Obviously, if there are profile related errors associated with that user, you might end up transferring that as well. However, I would hope you would have fixed those beforehand.

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  • You're recommending to copy the entire user directory when doing a fresh install and replace the one created by the fresh install? I really have never heard this advice before and I don't think this is accurate. For one thing you would be copying a lot of waste, such as temp files and user data for programs that were on the previous system but will not be installed on the other system. Another, you could cause major conflicts, let's say the user had version 1.0 of an application on the old system but installs version 2.0 on the new system which uses a different format for it's appdata. – user576053 Jul 14 '16 at 11:58
  • Also, if the version of the new OS is not the exact same as the old OS, the system could be handling it's user data differently and cause conflicts. So I think your response is not solid advice here. – user576053 Jul 14 '16 at 11:59

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