I recently upgraded to Windows 7 which seems to want us to organize our files into "libraries" which are independent from the physical folder where the files are stored.

My data is stored on a separate drive from Windows so it is backed up separately. How do I make sure the library structure is backed up along with my data? When I re-install Windows (which I do periodically), I don't want to lose all my library organization.


The other answers suppose you want to backup the content of the libraries, themselves having files stored eventually in several directories, maybe stored on different harddisks.

I understood that you want to backup the list of folders that are defined in each library, not the content of these folders. Who is right?

If I am, here is my answer:

The configuration of the Libraries is stored in the following directory:


For each library defined on your system, there is a file with extension .library-ms .

The path to this directory is defined at

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Folders

value name is "{1B3EA5DC-B587-4786-B4EF-BD1DC332AEAE}".

Edit: In this question, I just found a mention to a new tool that can certainly be useful: Win7 Library Tool

  • Add network (UNC or mapped drive) and any other un-indexed folders to libraries.
  • Backup library configuration, such that a saved set of libraries can be instantly restored at any point (like after a re-install of the OS or for transfer between multiple computers).
  • Create a mirror of all libraries (using symbolic links) in [SystemDrive]:\libraries. This means you can reference all your files using a much shorter path, and also provides another entry-point to your files in many places in the Operating System (e.g. file open/save dialogs).

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  • You are correct. I have no problem backing up my data. It is the library structure I want to back up. Thank you for the answer. I will try and clarify my question. – Robert Cartaino Nov 3 '09 at 22:33
  • Followup - I wonder if there is a way move the .library-ms files so they are included in my data backup? Registry entry? Suggestions? – Robert Cartaino Nov 3 '09 at 22:35
  • I updated my answer – Snark Nov 4 '09 at 4:15

You can set the location for the folder to be your data drive. This article has some more information. Particularly:

However, we found that many users store files in a variety of places on their PC, not only in the "special" user profile folders, but also in various folders like c:\My Temp Folder, d:\Birthday2008\pictures, or even in remote storage. Storing files outside the users profile storage space affects the indexing, which hinders the search experience of users. We often find ourselves looking for a particular file that we worked on just a few days ago, forgetting where we saved it, and then discover that search is failing to find it because the file was never indexed.

With Windows 7, the concept of Libraries tries to address the problem of users storing content all over their PC by allowing them to have full control over their Documents Library folder structure. In other words, in Windows 7 users can define which folders to include in the Documents Library. Actually, this is true for any Library in Windows 7. We can say that Libraries are user-defined collections of folders that are logical representations of user content.

This seems to say that you can have your real folders anywhere.

Also, given that you have control over the locations of the library folders you can back these up using something as simple as your DVD burning suite.

  • The article led me to what I needed. What I was asking was a way to back up my library structure. Not the physical files contained in the library. But the article discussed where the libraries are defined, which is what I really needed. Thank you. – Robert Cartaino Nov 3 '09 at 22:47

Libraries are nothing more than a logical folder redirecting to 1 or more physical folders.

This being said, it's easy to keep your data intact. As long as your library is pointing to a folder on your data drive, you only need to change the directory the library points to after you reinstall windows.

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