Tuesday, September 15, 2009

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Easy Ways To Move Shell Folders And Its Contents

Shell folders are special folders that Windows uses to indicate the default location for many types of settings and data. These shell folders may be moved in a bewildering variety of ways: by a right-click Move Here in Windows Explorer, by a registry key edit, or by using TweakUI for XP.

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Change The Default Location Of My Documents Folder
Be certain that no documents are open before you start a move process, otherwise the move will be incomplete and your old folder will not be deleted. You will have to close open processes and then manually move any files that were not moved in the move operation. Best to do this right after a logon.

You can just go to My Documents and cut all its content and paste it to  your new location. However, it is not the best idea to move My Documents.  

One way to move My Documents is to right-click the My Documents folder under Desktop in Windows Explorer and select Properties. Move the folder with the Move button. This is the only shell folder that can be moved from its properties tab. 
Be careful to enter the path to the new "My Documents" folder, not to its parent. 
In other words, if you want the new "My Documents" folder to be D:\My Documents, then you must enter that string in the Target box.

To change most shell folder locations immediately and move the contents, right-click the shell folder in Windows Explorer, drag the folder to the new location, release the mouse button, and select the Move Here item. If Windows Explorer complains, then you must use the registry to move the folder location and manually move the contents.

The default user shell folders location In Windows XP is in %USERPROFILE% which is "C:\Documents and Settings\user".
  • Administrative Tools system utilities folder (Shell Folders)
  • Application Data location for applications to store user settings
  • CD Burning location for temporary storage of files for ISO burn
  • Cookies IE cookie folder
  • Desktop desktop shortcuts
  • Document Templates default location for application new document templates
  • Favorites IE URL links
  • My Documents Application default document folder
  • \My Music default music file folder
  • \My Pictures default graphic file folder
  • \My Videos default movie file folder (Shell Folders)
  • SendTo right-click context menu item
  • Start Menu user All Programs menu
  • \Programs user All Programs shortcuts
  • \Startup user logon startup folder
The shell folder locations are in the Registry at HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders and/or in \Shell Folders. Edit the key in User Shell Folders if present. If not, edit the key in Shell Folders. There is no need to edit both keys if both keys are present.

Changing these keys will change the shell folder location but will not move contents. The Administrative Tools and My Video shell folders are located at HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Folders and are not present in User Shell Folders.

Recent (My Recent Documents) cannot be moved in Windows Explorer, but must be moved in the registry. It is best to leave the Local Settings shell folders alone or change the location in the registry at User Shell Folders. The Temporary Internet Files can be moved in the Internet Options control panel.

The following shared shell folders are located in the All Users profile and are in the Registry at HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders or \Shell Folders. These shell folders are available to any user, but are not network shared. The path is %ALLUSERSPROFILE% and is "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users" by default. Some of these common folders may be moved in Windows Explorer.
  • Common Admin Tools (Shell Folders)
  • Common AppData
  • Common Desktop
  • Common Documents cannot be moved in Windows Explorer
  • \Shared Music cannot be moved in Windows Explorer (Shell Folders)
  • \Shared Pictures cannot be moved in Windows Explorer (Shell Folders)
  • \Shared Video cannot be moved in Windows Explorer (Shell Folders)
  • Common Favorites
  • Common Programs
  • Common Start Menu
  • Common Startup
  • Common Templates
To change the location of some fifteen shell folders without moving contents, use TweakUI for Windows XP; go to My Computer>Special Folders, select the shell folder, and change the location. Contents may then be copied or moved in Windows Explorer.
  • CD Burning
  • Desktop
  • Document Templates
  • Favorites
  • Installation Path Windows Installer default install folder location
  • My Documents
  • My Music
  • My Pictures
  • Programs
  • SendTo
  • Shared Documents
  • Shared Music
  • Shared Pictures
  • Start Menu
  • Startup
Probably the easiest way to approach moving shell folders is to try to move the folder in Windows Explorer. If that doesn't work, then try TweakUI and if it isn't available in TweakUI, then edit the appropriate registry key. Don't forget to move the contents manually if you use TweakUI or the registry to change the location.

Windows Explorer puts special labels on the "My Documents" folder for each user account. For example, if an account full-name is "Marion Robertson" as displayed on the Welcome Screen, the My Documents folder is labeled "Marion Robertson's Documents".

The path for each "My Documents" folder is controlled by account-named keys in HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\DocFolderPaths. Windows Explorer also special-labels the account Recent folder to "My Recent Documents", but I have been unable to find the registry key that controls this behavior in order to restore this special status to Recent folders that have lost the magic.

Remembering the Shell Folder locations
If you move your user shell folders, you should save the registry keys in case you need to re-do the changes after a reinstall. The following commands can be used to save these changes to .reg files that can be right-clicked and "merged" into the registry after a reinstall. The following command will backup the current account user shell folders:

C:\ reg "HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders" UserShellFolders.reg and to backup the common shell folder locations:
C:\ reg "HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders" CommonShellFolders.reg

After a re-install, your user shell folders will be in their default location and empty. You need only merge these .reg files to repoint the shell folders to the location where the files are. No files are moved, nor need to be moved.
Taking Ownership of Folders after a re-install
When you reinstall XP, new accounts are created and you may need to "take ownership" of the old shell folders with the new account(s). This is another KWE help file and more information is available in the XP Help and Support Center. You may need to take ownership of your shell folders before you can access the files.

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Haja Peer Mohamed H, Software Engineer by profession, Author, Founder and CEO of "bench3" you can connect with me on Twitter , Facebook and also onGoogle+

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