Vista’s Users (Folder) Replaces XP’s  Documents and Settings

Vista’s Users Replaces XP’s Documents and Settings

The purpose of this page is to help you locate Vista’s new Users folders.  It is here in the AppData folder, where Vista stores a user’s Local Settings and Application Data.

Topics for Vista’s Users and AppData


Overview – Storage of Personal Folders and Settings

What we are comparing below is the structure of a user’s local profile on XP, with the same local profile on Vista.  As you move from XP to Vista, so Microsoft has made changes in layout of personal folders.  Vista has new locations for the storage of Documents, Local Settings and AppData.

The biggest change is that XP’s Document and Settings folder has been moved in Vista to a folder called Users. In terms of ‘need to know’, all depends whether you are a user who has lost their files (see screenshot below), or a developer planning to save your program’s settings in a user’s profile.

Users in Vista -v- Documents and Settings in XP

Vista Users and AppDataXP - Documents and Folders

Important Follow-up

It often helps to have two people explain the same structure, and here is a view kindly sent in by Richard.

The key to understanding this folder structure is to focus on the (My) Documents folder.  When you look in XP, under My Documents, you see My Music, My Pictures and My Videos.  In Vista, those other "My" folders that were under My Documents in XP, are now one level higher.  [It would have helped if Guy had expanded the ‘guyt’s Documents’ folder in the above screenshot.]

Problems arise when a Vista user wants to wipe their data; unlike in XP, they can’t just grab "Documents".  Now instead, they MUST grab Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, which are one level higher in the tree than they were in XP.

Another source of irritation is that you cannot double click the "shortcut" links.  Because they are symbolic links or junction points you are DENIED access.

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AppData -v- Application Data

In Vista, the biggest change in the arrangement of a user’s settings is the creation of the AppData folder.  Furthermore, this AppData folder has three subfolders, Local, LocalLow and Roaming.  As with Local Settings, a folder called Application Data exists in Vista for backwards compatibility with XP.

If you look closely at the icons under the Users folder, you will notice that some subfolders have a shortcut arrow.  These arrows indicate a Junction point or Symbolic link.  For ordinary mortals stick with the idea that these folders represent shortcuts, for example, the ‘All Users’ settings are now actually stored here –> C:\ProgramData.  As far as Microsoft’s technical explanation of Junction Points and Symbolic links, it was a case of ‘Guy is reading, but Guy is not understanding’.

What Guy does like is practical investigation, therefore I challenge you to try this:

  1. Launch a cmd prompt. 
  2. Type: cd c\users
  3. Type: dir
  4. Now for the coupe de grace:  dir /ah
  5. Observe <JUNCTION> and <SYMLINKD>

Junction Points and SYMLINKD (Symbolic Links)

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Move Your Document Folders – Location Tab

The key to moving your personal files to another drive, is to find the Location Tab.  The reason is that only special folders have a Location tab; ordinary folders only have 5 tabs.

How to Move Document Folders

  1. Launch Explorer
  2. Navigate to the Users Folder
  3. Select the folder to move
  4. Right-click the folder you wish to move
  5. Select the Location tab
  6. Decide which drive to move the folder
    (It is also possible to move to another computer, or another folder on the same computer)

Summary of Vista’s Users and AppData

The key phrase is, change in location.  Vista has a new Users Folder which replaces XP’s Documents and Settings.  Within the new folder structure, Vista has a folder called plain ‘Documents’, which replaces XP’s ‘My Documents’ folder.  The most important new subfolder is AppData.  Also to maintain backward compatibility, Vista has shortcut links to the old XP folders such as Local Settings and Application Data. 

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Configuring Windows Vista Topics:


     Vista Tools and Extras


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