Windows 7 AppData

Windows 7’s Users Folder Replaces XP’s Documents and Settings

The purpose of this page is to help you locate Windows 7’s new Users’ folders.  This is important because under C:\Users is the AppData folder where Windows 7 stores Application Data and Local Settings.

Topics for Windows 7 AppData


Overview – Storage of Personal Folders and Settings

The biggest change in the personal folders is that in Windows 7 the old Document and Settings has been to the C:\ Users folder. In terms of ‘need to know’, all depends whether you are a user who has lost their files, or a developer planning to save your program’s settings in a user’s profile.

What we are comparing in the screenshots below is the structure of a user’s local profile on XP, with the same local profile on Windows 7.  As you upgrade from XP to Windows 7, so you will see that Microsoft has downgraded the importance of the Documents and Settings folder.  As a result Windows 7 has new locations for the storage of AppData, Local Settings and all those old ‘My Documents’ folders.

The Users Folder in Windows 7 -v- Documents and Settings in XP

Windows 7 AppData LocalXP - Documents and Folders

Important Note: If you cannot see the Windows 7 AppData folder it could be because it’s hidden from view.  Check by launching Windows Explorer then click: Tools (Menu), Folder Options, View tab, ‘Show hidden files’.

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Important Second Opinion

It always helps to gain perspective when you have two people explain the same concept, and here is a view of the Users folder kindly sent in by Richard.

The key to understanding this folder structure is to focus on the My Documents folder.  Those other ‘My’ folders, which were under My Documents in XP, are now one level higher in Windows 7.  It would have helped if Guy had expanded the ‘guyt Documents’ folder in the XP side of the above screenshot.  This is because when you look in XP,  you see My Music, My Pictures and My Videos under My Documents,.

Problems arise when a Windows 7 user wants to inspect, or delete their data; unlike in XP, they can’t just make one grab of ‘Documents’.  Now instead, they MUST grab each of the Windows 7 Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, confusingly, these folders are now one level higher in the tree than they were in XP.

Another source of irritation is that you cannot double click the ‘shortcut’ in Windows 7’s links.  This is because they are symbolic links, or junction points and consequently, you are DENIED access.  See also SolarWinds SAM

AppData -v- Application Data

In Windows 7, the biggest change in the arrangement of a user’s settings is the creation of the AppData folder.  Furthermore, this AppData folder has three important subfolders, AppData Local, LocalLow and Roaming.  As with Local Settings, a folder called Application Data exists in Windows 7 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.  Application Data is not an actual folder, it is a Junction which redirects files and programs to the C:Users\username\AppData\Roaming folder

What helps my understanding is practical investigation of Junction Points, 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 that you may wish to do this because of low diskspace, or to speed up access to these files.  Observe that only special folders have a Location tab; ordinary folders only have 5 tabs.

How to Move Document Folders

  1. Launch Windows Explorer.
  2. Navigate to the C:\ Users Folder.
  3. Right-click on the folder you wish to move.
  4. Select Properties
  5. Find the Location tab.
  6. Click Find Target and decide which volume to house the folder; it is also possible to move to another computer.

Summary of Windows 7’s AppData Local

The key point is that Windows 7 has changed the location and directory tree for ‘My Documents’.  To understand the new organization, seek out the C:\Users Folder, which replaces XP’s Documents and Settings.  The most important subfolder is AppData with it’s three sub-folders.  Windows 7 does provide shortcut links to the old XP folders such as Local Settings and Application Data, while I can see the benefit for backwards compatibility, the new structure creates complexity, and with it confusion. 

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Microsoft Windows Version 7 Configuration Topics