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How to boot off a SSD but have another disk be primary

Last response: in Storage
July 15, 2011 7:32:41 AM

So I want to get a small SSD and use it ONLY to boot off of. I want everything else (programs, docs, media etc) be on other internal drives. Probably just one other drive but lets assume it is. Is there a way to get windows to default all of its other locations (program files user folders libraries etc) to be on the second drive? I want to go to express install things and have them default to the D: drive instead of the C: drive (which I presume will be this 32gb SSD I am booting off of).

Does anyone know how to do this or can you direct me towards someone (or a guide) of how to do this?

Or perhaps it is not possible in any simple sense, I do not want something that will be finicky and cause problems.

More about : boot ssd disk primary

a b G Storage
July 15, 2011 8:38:51 AM

I cannot answer your question directly, but I would like to recommend you not to change the default location. You may install all your apps on C:, and when use them, select to save the media files on D: drive. You will have word installed on C, but the docs stored on D for example. You can do this with every application.
a c 277 G Storage
July 15, 2011 1:41:37 PM

Well, I wouldn't do it myself. However, if you really want to try, this may work for you.

First, read up on "junctions" in Win7. This feature allows one directory to serve as a pointer, or link, to another storage area entirely. You can't tell the system to put "My Programs" in another location. You can, however, do that with my documents.

So, off the top of my head:
First, install Win7 on the SSD, while the HDD is not attached to the system. Apply all updates except SP1, which will not fit on your drive. Create your non-Admin login.

Second, attach the HDD. Create a storage directory for My Documents on it, and then right-click on My Documents, My Music, and so forth, and change their properties to be under the storage directory you created on the HDD.

Third, and iffy. This step can be done globally (probably a bad idea) or on an installation-by-installation basis. For globally, copy My Programs to another directory on the HDD, then replace My Programs with a junction that points to that directory. You will not be able to do this while Windows is running; you will need some live boot CD that can create junctions. I don't know of one.

The alternative is to create a junction for each app that you install from now on. If you install Facepalm, and it installs to C:/My Programs/Facepalm, you first create a junction inside My Programs that points to a directory named Facepalm on the HDD, probably under My Programs on the HDD. Then the install will write to the HDD.

Either way, this is a high-risk approach. It will probably work, but it will be finicky and may be hard to back-up properly.

It would be nice if all software installations prompted for an installation location, but it seems that very few do this. For the ones that prompt, you just specify a place on your HDD and the rest is taken care of for you.
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a c 256 G Storage
July 15, 2011 7:46:59 PM

DptBear - Which version of Microsoft Windows are you using? Do you know how much space your version of Windows requires?

Last month I installed Windows 7 Pro 64 plus all of the updates, patches, and fixes. I did not move anything over to my hard drive disk. Right now Windows is using a little over 19GB of space. That's fairly close to what others have been reporting. With a 32GB ssd there's no reason to move any of the Windows files and folders to a hard disk drive.

When you install your software programs you can choose where you want to install them. It is very very easy to specify installation onto a hard drive. No muss! No fuss! No bother! :) 
a c 277 G Storage
July 15, 2011 7:58:47 PM

JohnnyLucky said:
When you install your software programs you can choose where you want to install them. It is very very easy to specify installation onto a hard drive. No muss! No fuss! No bother! :) 

HowHowHowHowHow? Some apps prompt for an installation directory; easy. But how do you do it if the app's installation doesn't offer a choice? The only way that I have found is with junctions.
a c 256 G Storage
July 15, 2011 8:43:17 PM

There are several scenarios.

1. An installation Wizard will have a "browse" button you can click on and choose which drive and/or folder to install a program.

2. Another Installation Wizard gives you a choice of either a "recommended install" or "custom install" Choosing custom install usually lets you specify which drive and/or folder.

3. Third Installation Wizard just has a form field showing the installation path and nothing else. Usually you can change the installation path in the form field by simply replacing the C with a D or other drive letter.

4. Fourth Installation Wizard was poorly designed and does not have any method for changing the installation path. The author incorrectly assumed an indivdual would want to install the software on the default drive. In Windows the default drive is C:.

There is a Windows solution for the 4th scenario!

You can change the Windows default drive from C: to D: or any other letter

Open the Windows registry and go to:


there is a string called ProgramFilesDir

The default value is C:\ProgramFiles.

Change the value to D:\ProgramFiles.

Save the change.

Reboot your computer.

Install your software.

In Scenario #4 the software will be installed on the D: drive. The other scenarios will suggest the D: drive

After the software is installed you'll probably want to go back into the Registry and change the default drive back to C: just in case. :) 

a c 277 G Storage
July 16, 2011 7:53:49 PM


I'm going to test that out (after a full system backup). Such an easy solution to a common problem.

And most of the installs I've done are category 4.
a c 256 G Storage
July 17, 2011 1:56:37 AM

I forgot something -

Windows 7 has two strings - C:\ProgramFiles and C:\ProgramFiles (x86)
August 5, 2011 4:14:57 PM

changing the directory in Regedit works BUT some of the programs installed prior to the switch wont work like IE and some windows features
August 10, 2011 5:25:21 AM

JohnnyLucky said:
I forgot something -

Windows 7 has two strings - C:\ProgramFiles and C:\ProgramFiles (x86)

So which string does one change according to the procedure you mentioned? Both?
a c 256 G Storage
August 10, 2011 5:21:50 PM

Change both! Both file paths are correct. Which file a software application is installed to depends on the type of software application. The C:\Program Files is for 64bit software and C:\ProgramFile(x86) is for 32 bit software.
a c 256 G Storage
August 11, 2011 2:22:20 AM

mezo mezo - I recommend a clean install of Windows 7 and Internet Explore. I also recommend installing IE on the ssd boot drive. Compared to Windows 7, IE does not take up very much space.