Sunday, November 25, 2012

How To Relocate Windows 8's Users Folder to Another Partition

Whenever I perform upgrade on Windows, I always think about separating the data from system drive/partition. When I say data, I refers to the Users folder where you have your "My Documents", "My Videos" and whatever "My xxx" saved under it. Typically, it's under C:\Users\<your user id>. This is also the folder you should backup before the upgrade. It is kinda easy with registry hack in Windows 7 and prior versions. It's different in Windows 8. Fortunately there is always kind soul that discovered and wrote up the how-to steps for the benefits of Windows 8 community.

The best way to do this is during the installation/upgrade. For my case, I have C drive as system drive and D drive as data drive. Windows 8 installs Users folder to C:\Users and I want to relocate it to D:\Users. I also have to rename the existing D:\Users (from Windows 7) to something else before the new one is created. The method to do the relocation is called Audit Mode, using an answer file in System Preparation (or SysPrep). In summary:
  1. Install Windows 8 half way (until Personalize screen)
  2. Boot into Audit Mode
  3. Prepare your system i.e D drive and answer file
  4. Relocate the Users folder using SysPrep tool
  5. Exit Audit Mode and continue to Personalize screen

OK, shall we get started now?

As I said, the best way to do this is during the installation. Assume that you're half way installing the new Windows 8 and you reach Personalize screen...


STOP!!! DO NOT CLICK NEXT!!

LoL. I don't mean to yell. This is a critical step, everything starts here. No way back once you click Next (nay, pun intended).

Now step 2. Press CTRL SHIFT F3 to boot into Audit Mode. Your PC will be rebooted (calm, Windows 8 installation is not aborted but suspended). It takes a while to launch the Audit Mode. You're logged on using the default Administrator in Audit Mode. Open Desktop and click Cancel on the System Preparation Tool...


Step 3. If your D drive is not ready, this is the time to partition and format it. Right click on the lower left corner of the screen and select Disk Management...



I assume you know how to do this. Next is to prepare an XML script as the answer file to the remaining of the installation process. Likewise, right click on the lower left corner, select Run, type notepad and Enter.

Copy-paste the following script:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>

<unattend xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:unattend">
<settings pass="oobeSystem">
<component name="Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup" processorArchitecture="amd64" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" language="neutral" versionScope="nonSxS" xmlns:wcm="http://schemas.microsoft.com/WMIConfig/2002/State" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance">
<FolderLocations>
<ProfilesDirectory>D:\Users</ProfilesDirectory>
</FolderLocations>
</component>
</settings>
<cpi:offlineImage cpi:source="wim:C:/sources/boot.wim#Windows 8" xmlns:cpi="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:cpi" />
</unattend>

Change the highlighted line to fit your setup i.e. E:\Users etc. Save it. Make sure you select "All files", type in ".xml" after the file name and save the file to the root of either C or D drive...


Before you continue to Step 4, rename the existing Users folder if you've relocated Users folder in previous Windows installation. Like my case, the Users.OLD is the Users folder for Windows 7...


Step 4. Right click again on the lower left and select Command Prompt (Admin). Click Yes on the UAC prompt (User Access Control)...


Go to Sysprep folder and type in the command as shown above, or you can copy from below:
Sysprep.exe /audit /reboot /unattend:D:\relocate.xml
System Preparation Tool will start running, follow by reboot back into Audit Mode.

Step 5. Exit Audit Mode with the right selection like below and return to Personalize screen to complete the installation...


The rest of the process should similar to the usual upgrade/install process which I blogged here. The user account you create (it's now called Microsoft account) during the Personalize step will be automatically created in the folder you specified in SysPrep answer file. In my case, D:\Users.

The content in this post is a streamlined version of Kari's posting in EightForums.com (I also reused some of the snapshots), hit the link if you like to learn more. All credits go to Kari and thanks for his knowledge sharing. The target audience of this post is those who intent to perform clean install like me, and it's for my documentation sake if I need to reinstall Windows in the future.

Note: I moved the ProgramData in my trial installation. Like what Kari mentioned, some Metro apps such as Calendar and News did not work. 

Enjoy Windows 8!

p/s: check out my other Windows 8 related posts.