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Changing x64 default installation folder(s)

Last response: in Windows 7
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February 5, 2012 1:16:59 PM

I just upgraded from 32 bit to 64 bit windows 7, I have two harddrives, a 40 gig for my os (C:)  and a 1 tb for everything else (D:) . That's how it was on the 32 bit system, but now on 64 bit, there are more folders to mess with (Program Files and Program Files x86). How do I tell windows to install to the bigger D: drive and not fill up my small C: drive?

Also, the programs that were already installed on my D: drive, will they need to be moved to the x86 folder, reinstalled, or can I continue to run them from their current location?


Thanks for reading this, and I hope it makes sense. :) 
a b $ Windows 7
February 5, 2012 2:40:37 PM

Almost all of the programs that were on the D drive will need to be reinstalled. Program installation _usually_ makes entries into the registry and may write files into the Windows directory tree. So if you tried to run the old programs from the D drive, they would fail. Side note: Some programs are kind enough to be "portable," and can be run from their installation directory under any OS. But these are rare.

For installing to the D drive, there are two cases. Some programs have the good manners to prompt to allow you to change the installation directory; just create a tree on the D drive with a name like "Other Programs" and install in subdirectories under that.

Other programs are not so polite. There are two registry entries that allow you to repoint the default installation directories for 32-bit apps and for 64-bit apps. The procedure is to change those to point to your installation directory on D, do the install, and then set them back to the original setting for good luck.

I'm going to look for the registry entries. I accidentally deleted all my favorites, which lost me my links to all the great threads that I use as answers. I'll edit this post if / when I find the right one.

EDIT: Here's one, but it's got pictures of a toilet: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/21648-63-slimming-win...
If you google "programfilesdir" you will see some people who changed commonfilesdir and some who did not; my best guess is that it should be left alone.

BACK UP your OS before you try this. If it breaks anything, restore the OS, and you have lost nothing except some time.

EDIT squared: Here's the one I was looking for: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/271517-32-solid-state... . JohnnyLucky is one of the more reliable members.

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Unasked-for advice: 40 GB?? Kinda small; I am going to guess that it is an SSD. In which case, read some of the articles on the care and optimization of an SSD; you are going to need every megabyte that you can squeeze out of it. Some of the more obvious suggestions are to prohibit hibernation to get rid of the hiberfile, limiting or turning off system checkpoints (do frequent backups!), and purging the rollback files that are created when you install patched, hotfixes, and service packs.

Was your HDD attached to the system when you installed Win7 64-bit on the new drive? If so, much to your surprise, you system is actually booting from the HDD and then loading the OS from the new SSD.
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February 5, 2012 2:55:18 PM

The 40 gigs is a partition drive. My system is set up with a 1 tb drive and a 500 gig drive. I partitioned 40 gigs from the 500 gig drive to be used only for the os as I grew aggravated with having to install all my programs because of an os glitch or the odd virus that sometimes slipped through my av program. This set up worked well enough on the 32 bit system, but now i have more folders with the x64 bit system and I find it a tad scary to be completely honest. I poked in my registry and there are "C:\Program Files\Common Files", "C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files", and "C:\Program Files", "C:\Program Files (x86)". I don't recall this many folders on the windows 32 bit set up.
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a b $ Windows 7
February 6, 2012 12:12:30 PM

Well, there weren't that many directories on the 32-bit setup. Don't let it make you nervous. They simply split out the "main" Program Files, for 64-bit software on your 64-bit system, from a second one for older, 32-bit applications. The (x86) version is unique to a 64-bit OS. Each of the Program Files trees has its own Common Files subdirectory, where installation procedures place files that may be shared with other applications. As I wrote above, "Program installation _usually_ makes entries into the registry and may write files into the Windows directory tree. "

Now comes a great deal of unasked-for advice, based on my very successful experience. You will have to re-install all your apps and games for a rebuild anyway, so having them safe on a separate partition will do you no good.

First, expand that OS partition and install all of your applications into a single OS partition. It's simpler, and it will make something I will write later easier. To do this, first make a system backup so that you can recover if my advice breaks your drive. Then use a decent partition tool to enlarge the OS partition to a nice, comfortable size. This can also be done, with some effort, with Disk Manager in Windows. Or a clean install into a larger partition.

Second, have two or more external or removable drives on hand. I personally have an antistatic case with ten bare drives, four more stacked on my desk (for casual experiments), and two of these: http://kingwin.com/products/cate/mobile/racks/kf_1000_b... . Any of my bare drives can just be popped into a running system.

Third, have backup software that can backup and restore your system partition AND your boot sector and, in Win7, boot partition. This software should be bootable on its own. I have used Norton Ghost and EASEUS To-Do Backup, Clonezilla is free.

Back up your system as soon as possible, preferably after a fresh install. Number the backup. Keep at least four of your most recent backups. If you are ever hit by a virus or other glitch, restore your last backup and you go flying off as if it had never happened!

Because I keep my whole OS and only my OS in my OS partition, I actually restore backups pretty frequently. To install new software, I first reload the last backup, then apply all updates all over again, then install the new software, then backup. My system has been running for three years, but the elapsed time on my OS is probably a couple of months, since I set it back in time so frequently and never back it up without doing a restore / update / virus scan cycle first.

I really don't care if my OS gets busted - I boot from a thumb drive, restore one of the two identical copies of my last OS backup, and off I go. I take this to an extreme - during the installation process, when I do a build out, I back up every few hours. It's a pain, but if I get something wrong I don't uninstall and worry about registry bloat and leftover files and spyware.

OK, so I am a little extreme in my methods. But the basic advice of having a separate OS partition, and saved backups from your last known good state, will keep your OS protected and, if you restore often, keep bloat to a minimum. Just make sure that your restore procedure can restore the MBR and the Win7 boot partition (I back up the whole drive).
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February 6, 2012 4:08:16 PM

Wow, that is is a lot of info. My finances don't allow for that many harddrives, but I do get your point about installing programs to a separate drive being something of a moot point.

I really appreciate your advice, and asked for or not, kind, helpful advice is always appreciated. :) 
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a b $ Windows 7
February 6, 2012 6:15:49 PM

astor said:
My finances don't allow for that many harddrives,

I kind of accumulated them over the years. I've got a ten-year-old drive in there somewhere, and the old drive from my wife's computer, and one from a computer my office was throwing out. I didn't deliberately buy them all for backups!
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