We were recently asked by one of our readers about how to change the location of the files he is downloading from the Internet. We thought it is a very good question and decided to answer it. In this article we will explain what user folders are (such as Downloads, Documents, Music, etc), where they are located by default and how to move them to new locations.
The Most Important Windows User Folders
Windows creates a collection of important user folders for each user account, under "C:\Users\User name". This includes but does not limit to:
- Contacts - if you are using Windows Contacts, this is the folder where all the data about your contacts are stored. Each contact has its own file, with the extension ".contact".
- Downloads - this is the default folder where files are downloaded from the Internet, in case you did not customize another location in your default browser.
- Favorites - the folder where all Internet Explorer favorites are stored.
- Links - this folder stores the shortcuts you can see in the Favorites section of Windows Explorer.
- Documents - this is the previously called My Documents folder from Windows XP - the location where your documents are stored by default.
- Pictures - the equivalent of My Pictures from Windows XP - the folder where all pictures are stored by default.
- Music - the equivalent of My Music from Windows XP - the folder where all music is stored by default.
- Videos - the equivalent of My Videos from Windows XP - the folder where all videos are stored by default.
- Saved Games - the folder where all games that are well integrated with Windows save your gaming data, so that you can resume playing from your last save. However, most games do not use this folder to store saves, even though they should.
- Saved Searches - this is where Windows stores all the searches you save for later use.
Changing the Location of Documents, Downloads, Music, etc
Changing the location of all these users folders is possible and can be done using the same procedure. For the purposes of illustration, we will use the Downloads folder as an example and show how to move it to another location, so that your browsers save downloaded files where you want to.
Open Windows Explorer, go to your user’s folder and right click on the folder you want to move to a new location. Then, click on Properties.
In the Properties window for that folder, go to the Location tab. There you can see its current location on your computer. Click on Move.
A new window called "Select a Destination" shows up. Browse to the new location where you want the folder to be moved and then click Select Folder.
The new location is now shown in the Location tab. To apply this change, click OK.
You are asked if you want to move all the existing files from the old location to the new. We recommend Yes, so that everything is moved and you don’t have issues finding old files that are kept in the old location of that folder.
The files found at the old location are now moved over. Once the process ends, you are done moving the selected user folder to a new location.
Watch Out for This Mistake!
When making a move operation, we made a very stupid choice: we asked to move the Downloads folder to the Desktop. When doing this, Windows warned us that we are about to move the Downloads user folder into another user folder. This means that Windows, from now on won’t be able to separate the two locations causing confusion for users and applications using those folders.
If you receive a similar warning, press No when being asked if you are sure you want to proceed with the folder redirection and choose another location. We pressed Yes and we ended up with a messed up system, having two Desktop user folders pointing to the same location and no Downloads folder.
The rule to remember is: when moving the location of a user folder, don’t utilize a location used by another user folder from the list we mentioned in the first section of this article. Make sure you move it to a location not being used by any of them.
As you can see, changing the location of user folders such as Downloads, Documents, Pictures, Music, etc is easy to do. Our recommendation is to move these folders to partitions not used by Windows so that, in case of a system crash, they have less chances of being affected by possible re-installs of the operating system.