System and Personal Partition

Discussion in 'backup, imaging & disk mgmt' started by ErikAlbert, May 5, 2006.

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  1. ErikAlbert

    ErikAlbert Registered Member

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    For the record, this is the plan :
    System Partition [C:] of harddisk #1 will contain :
    winXPproSP2 + MS Applications + Third Party Applications, including Security Applications.

    Personal Partition [D:] of harddisk #2 will contain folder "My Documents" with several subfolders, like
    My Music, My Pictures, My Word, My Excel, My Notepad, My eBooks, My Movies, etc.
    So this partition contains all my hard work and time, I ever spend on my computer and that's the most important partition.

    The only thing that bothers me, is the system partition [C:]

    Software settings
    Most softwares have settings that allow you to personalize the software.
    These settings are all stored on the system partition [C:] and they aren't a problem IMHO.
    It only takes much time and screenshots to do it for each softwares, but it's a ONE time job if it is well prepared.
    It requires screenshots, because I have to remember these settings when I have to reinstall my harddisk from scratch in case of the worst scenarios. I don't have a problem with that and it can be done.
    I will include these settings in my very first system backup, because I don't want to lose these settings and these settings will hardly change.

    Registry
    The registry is also stored on the system partition.
    Registry is an area, I'm not sure of anything.
    Nevertheless, I'm trying to understand something and I will explain it with an example.

    The very first SYSTEM backup will be as safe and clean as possible, including the REGISTRY.
    This backup happens on 2006.01.01
    Between 2006.01.01 until 2006.03.31 I create many .doc files with MS Word, all stored on [D:]
    and daily backuped on my external harddisk.
    I also assume that the registry of "MS Office 2000 Pro" has been changed in the period between 2006.01.01 and 2006.03.31.

    On 2006.04.01 I zero my harddisk and restore my SYSTEM backup with a registry of 2006.01.01 (reason isn't important).
    My assumption is that I still can work with my .doc files, created between 2006.01.01 and 2006.03.31, in spite of the fact that my registry is dated on 2006.01.01.

    So why do I need a daily registry backup? I can still work with my files, stored on partition [D:] even when the registry is 3 months old. What worked on 2006.01.01 will still work on 2006.04.01.
    I just don't understand why registry is so important. Is my reasoning wrong?

    Personal Software Databases
    I'm not sure this is the right name, but that doesn't matter, an example will explain it immediately.
    All your personal email-addresses are stored in a database of Thunderbird.
    All your emails are stored in another database of Thunderbird.
    As far as I know both databases are stored in the hidden folder "Application Data" under "Documents and Settings".
    In other words that folder is also stored on the system partition [C:]
    I didn't create these databases, the software itself provides these databases, where I can store personal data.
    That's why I call them "Personal Software Databases".

    Back to my previous example :
    If I wouldn't know this and I would restore my system on 2006.04.01, I would have lost all my email-address and emails between 2006.01.01 and 2006.03.31 and that's a problem.

    So these Personal Software Databases, stored on partition [C:] are a REAL problem and require a special daily backup IMO.
    Thunderbird was easy to discover, but I'm worried about other softwares : which files and where are they.

    SUMMARY
    As you can see :
    1. I'm planning to backup my personal partition [D:] every day and that's not the problem.
    2. I'm not planning to backup my system partition [C:] every day, only when absolutely necessary,
    like Windows Update, a periodical upgrading of all my softwares.

    Personal Software Settings isn't a problem IMO, unless somebody can prove it with a practical example.

    Registry isn't a problem IMO, unless somebody can prove it with a practical example.

    Only Personal Software Databases, stored on system partition [C:] need IMO a special treatment.

    What do you think of all this, any practical experiences, ... ?
     
  2. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

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    Erik

    I can tell you what I do, and that might help. I don't use partitions, but I think that is a small issue.

    1) I image the whole system weekly. That covers System,Registry, etc

    Here let me tell you I use two programs from a company AJC Software
    http://www.ajcsoft.com/index.php

    One is Active Sync "Sync"

    2) Recognizing that like you mentioned, I have my doc's spreadsheets etc in a folder under my doc's, but also Outlook stores it stuff in the local settings folder under Documents and Settings, and to top it off Quickbooks stores it's files under the Program Files folders. So I setup a task in Active Sync that picks up all the files in all the various folders and sync's them to the same folders which I've created elsewhere. That way I can bring them back in or use them to synchronize my laptop.

    3) Recognizing the "joy" of overwriting a doc file or spreadsheet by accident I also use another program by AJC, Active Archive. What this does is everytime you save a specified type of file in specific directories, it also silently archives them. That way you can go back and either inspect or retrieve a prior version of the files. Another lifesaver.

    Hope this helps.

    Pete
     
  3. SpikeyB

    SpikeyB Registered Member

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    As a Deep Freeze user I had to consider similar issues. The only things I had to do was change the default store for my e-mails to the D: drive and change My Documents to point to the D: drive. I also used a tweaker to change the location for My Favourites.

    All the software that I use gives you the option to change the paths where you store things. I've never had any problems with things not being saved in the Documents and Settings subfolders.

    If I recall correctly, Rmus mentioned there may be problems with Photoshop and the way it stores things. I don't use it so I can't help any further on that one.
     
  4. ErikAlbert

    ErikAlbert Registered Member

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    In theory, I don't like to do this and I explained why, but since I don't have any practical experience with my theory, I keep it in mind. :)

    I don't know Quickbooks, but I assume that you are talking about files, you created yourself with Quickbooks.
    If that is the case, than you found a good example that belongs in this thread.
    Question : does Quickbooks have a setting that allows you to change the path (drive, folder, subfolder), where these files need to be stored when you created them (MS Word and MS Excel allow you to do this.) o_O
    If not, than Quickbooks is an old software OR Quickbooks made a serious mistake to store created files, in the software folder or a subfolder of the software folder. Created files belong in a subfolder of the folder "My Documents", like most softwares do.

    I will study "Active Sync" and try it, because that is an interesting software and could be a solution for me too.
    I assume this is a file backup and not an image backup ?


    FYI,
    1. Open MS Word
    2. Click on Tools/Options.../Save tab.
    The option "Always create backup copy", seems to do a similar thing.
    I never tested this, but I assume when you open a .doc-file that MS Word will automatically create a backup copy of the .doc-file you just opened.

    BUT don't change your method, because if you open MS Excel, you won't find that function under Tools/Options, the Save tab doesn't even exist, a M$ mistake IMO.
    Why make a difference between MS Word and MS Excel for making a backup copy or not ? I don't see the logic of it and I never will.

    Personally, I don't really need this software, although I respect your reasons, it probably fits in your style of working and I agree that is can be a lifesaver. :)
     
  5. Notok

    Notok Registered Member

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    I'm not entirely sure what you're getting at with the registry, Erik, but the reason to back up the registry is in case it gets corrupted or you install something that messes up your system. If you use the XP System Restore, you shouldn't have to worry too much about it.

    You won't be able to install everything to the D:, but the more that you can the better. I try to use portable apps as much as possible. The other things I just use backup software to back things up to the D: frequently. I do believe that you can choose what directory to keep the email profile in Thunderbird. I use PocoMail, which makes this very easy, and also has a built-in backup function so you can save your email and settings to another place whenever you close the program after a specified number of sessions.

    As far as documents and things, I just create my own directories on the storage drive and keep shortcuts on the desktop, toolbar (I use ObjectDock), or use a dual pane explorer replacement (I use xplorer2) and create toolbar buttons for those directories. With just about any app (Office, Photoshop, whatever) you should be able to easily choose where you want to save your documents, and keep them on the D:. Since the folders are in the root directory of the storage drive, this actually makes things a little easier, depending. I also use Enhanced Dialog from Stardock, which lets me choose what's in the places bar on the left of nearly every "Save As.." or "Open" dialog. A similar freeware program is PlacesBar. (In case my explanation doesn't make sense, just see the screenshots on that webpage.) I generally don't bother with the "My Documents" folder at all.. re-mapping it or otherwise.

    You may not be able to get everything on the D: without a lot of effort, but it's still very much worth it. You'll be glad you did the first time you have to reformat :)
     
  6. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

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    Hi Erik

    I've explored Quickbooks. You can set where you want it to back up data, but the actual company files have no setting, the program just creates them. Not the greatest, but with Active Sync I get them.

    Active Sync uses a copy function, so it is just copying files. But it makes sure the target directory matches the source. So it adds new files, updates old ones with new ones, and deletes those no longer on the source.

    On the Active Archive you are right about the difference between MS Word and Excell. But the beauty of AJC's Active Archive, it can be any file, where you save, and resave. Any software. You just specify the directory, and file extension. Then if you want to look at a previous revision you can either use the program, or right click the file in explorer. This one is right up there with FDISR/Rollback

    Pete
     
  7. ErikAlbert

    ErikAlbert Registered Member

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    Notok and Peter,
    Many thanks for your answer, I have to think about this first and try things first, before I make a final decision.
    I'm only sure about one thing : system and personal partition are a must and it has nothing to do with security, I would do the same if my computer wasn't connected to the internet.

    How much I can move to my personal partition [D:] is still a questionmark and it will certainly influence my decisions for image and/or file backup. BUT it has to be a SIMPLE solution.

    Windows is developed for just ONE harddisk and in spite of the improvements in hardware, where more than one harddisk is possible (I can go upto 4 internal harddisks), Windows never changed its structure to make the use of more than one harddisk possible in a NORMAL and EASY way.

    Bill Gates don't think about glass windows in winVISTA, think about more than one harddisk and I have another list to think about too. :rolleyes:
     
  8. securityx

    securityx Registered Member

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    We haven't always agreed (as you well know), however, I think you are very close to being right on the mark with your partition setup. As for terminology, I see that you basically have two partitions that I would call your "system partition" and your "data partition." -or- "Os/Apps" and "Data/Files" - basically your "c" and "d" drives.

    Naturally, you'll want to spend a lot of time setting up your initial system partition. Making all the settings right, pointing all of your application default folders to your data partition (very important), all of that fun stuff.

    As for your mail databases, this will be very easy, as all of the major email programs have an option to change the default location of your data store. On my data partition, for example, I have a "Firefox Profile" folder, an Outlook Express folder (I actually use Thunderbird now - same thing, I just have a folder with my mail database), "GS Notes" folder that holds my Golden Section Notes database (personal organizer/outliner), a "Roboform" folder that contains all Roboform individual data files, a "Recently Downloaded Apps" folder.....you get the idea. All of my personal files and data.

    So, simply, all of my data (excepting multimedia - my mp3's and video's) is on a 3.7gb partition. The size makes for an easy and quick backup of all data to a DVD for safe storage. I also make a copy to my external hard drive.

    Here's where I do something a little different - and keeps all my data safe. My data "partition" is not a partition at all, it only becomes a drive letter when I open the Truecrypt volume file that becomes my "D" drive. After a Windows boot, Truecrypt is open and waiting for my password to open my 3.7gb volume-file that, when given the passphrase (or key) becomes my "D" drive (data partition) with all my data. It is a drive letter ("d") just like any other. When I backup my "D" drive (data partition) with all of my data to DVD, I am actually copying only one single Truecrypt Volume. It is fully encrypted on the DVD. I have done things this way now for almost two-years without a single problem. It just works.

    So, I think you are definitely going in the right direction. It will make it easy for your system partition to be imaged and/or used with Shadowuser (preferably both). You'll always have a fresh "C" drive or "system partition" ( a perfect secure image) and you will always have an encrypted partition (Truecrypt Volume) with all of your data in one place - and always secure.

    Good luck!

    -----securityx-----
     
  9. tlu

    tlu Guest

    Erik, you might consider moving the Documents and Settings folder to another partition as described on http://support.microsoft.com/kb/322014/en-us . I think it can also be done with TweakUI.
     
  10. ErikAlbert

    ErikAlbert Registered Member

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    No, it cannot be done.
    You cannot move the ENTIRE folder "Documents and Settings" to another partition.
    TweakUI allows you to move a few folders under "Documents and Settings", like "My Documents", ... but you cannot move the hidden folder "Application Data", which is the most important one after "My Documents", because this folder keeps variable data of many softwares, like address-books of email-softwares, ...
    The software "Folder Mover" of HDS is even more limited than TweakUI.

    This guy describes a procedure to move the ENTIRE folder "Documents and Settings" to another partition and it worked for him :
    http://www.dennislazo.com/cgi-bin/waterwheel/index.pl?case=win&sub=mds
    Do you want to do this in practice? You have to go through the entire registry and change "C" into "D" manually and you can't do this with a simple replace command, because the drive letter "C" is sometimes separated from the folder "Documents and Settings". You have to do this very carefully and attentive from top to bottom.

    What bothers me the most in this link : there is no aftermath. The guy describes the procedure, tells it works, but doesn't tell how long it worked, because this is quite a 'dangerous' operation and it can work for awhile and suddenly you are in trouble.
    Maybe the guy had problems after awhile, but doesn't like to tell about it. Not everyone likes to admit his mistakes.
    After all you have to do this on your own risk. Even TweakUI warns you one time, when you try to move folders with it.

    I wanted to try this, but my external harddisk is still missing and I'm not going to install winXPproSP2 from scratch over and over again.
    I takes 20 minutes to zero my system harddisk and another 60 minutes to install winXPproSP2 + Drivers. My freetime is also limited.

    I blame Microsoft for this, to make this separation so difficult, risky and INCOMPLETE.
    Instead of making Windows attractive with visual effects, gadgets and exaggerated security, M$ should better take care of a number of PRACTICAL problems for users.
    Of course, if you put everything on drive "C:", you don't have these problems and that's what M$ expect you to do. That's why drive "C:" is the most favorite target of hackers.

    Just re-read this thread and what members have to do, to put as much as possible on partition [D:]. If you call that "normal", well I have another definition of "normal", but we users are forced to do it this way.
    In fact the users are more inventive than M$. :)

    EDIT:
    These are the 13 subfolders of "C:\Documents and Settings\Erik"
    Italic = hidden
    Red = can be moved with TweaKUI.

    01. Application Data
    02. Cookies
    03. Desktop
    04. Favorites
    05. Local Settings
    06. My Documents
    07. My Recent Documents
    08. NetHood
    09. PrintHood
    10. SendTo
    11. Start Menu
    12. Templates (I'm not sure, TweakUI calls it "Document Templates")
    13. UserData
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2006
  11. pvsurfer

    pvsurfer Registered Member

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    Hi Erik~

    The 'plan' you have laid-out in your first post represents my personal HDD configuration and essentially my backup procedure. I create a disk-image of my C-drive twice per week (my C-drive is also protected by Rollback Rx Pro). I typically create a disk-image of my D-drive every day, with the exception of days where I have not done anything to add/change personal files (docs, data, photos).

    I've been operating that way over the past few years and it has worked out extremely well.

    ~pv
     
  12. Notok

    Notok Registered Member

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    Keeping your data on another drive really isn't as hard as you might think. How easy or hard it is really depends more on the third party software you use. Just install any programs to the C:, and keep the D: just for your personal documents and such. Personally I don't change the location for My Documents or anything. I tried once and found it complicated things more, because I ended up with a bunch of programs storing their data files in the folder I kept reserved for my downloads. With the My Documents folder on the C:, apps can store all the extra crap in there that they want, and I never have to deal with it.

    This is what I would do: Just start with the basics. Install all your programs to the C:, any time a program offers to let you keep the data somewhere else, do so. Create your downloads folder, a programs folder for apps that don't need to install, backup, and so on. Then just use it as it is for a while, rearranging things as you think of them. Eventually you'll see things that you want to change, and most importantly you'll see things that you thought you wanted changed previously that you'll see are better off the way they are.

    Just take things one step at a time, otherwise you're likely to get overwhelmed with all the "what if..."'s and end up frustrated before you even start. There's lots of good ideas in this thread, but I wouldn't try to take them on all at once.
     
  13. securityx

    securityx Registered Member

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  14. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

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    Very Sound advice Notok. I've read all the stuff about partitioning using other disks etc., and it all sounds like good idea's, but I've managed to work with two computers using only 1 partition on each on, and external drives for backup. So simple can and does work.
     
  15. Notok

    Notok Registered Member

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    And I agree with SecurityX on that point.. just point your email to the D: on install. Don't worry about the rest, most of the other programs that keep data there are just log files and other minor things that wouldn't do you a lot of good to keep anyway. And if you're going to blame anyone, blame the third party vendors that don't keep settings in their own folder in Program Files. The point isn't to keep everything on your D:, just the important stuff. I tried installing everything on the D: a long time ago, and found no real benefit. You just end up moving all the same clutter, making it no more convenient than before, and you end up having to reinstall all those apps the next time you format anyway. Just keep the data files there, it's a lot easier in the long run.

    Indeed :) There's a million different ways of doing it that will all work. Try to do all of them all at once and it'll just get over complicated.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2006
  16. pvsurfer

    pvsurfer Registered Member

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    Pete~ When there's only 1 physical drive on a system it does make good sense to place Windows on its own partition. That way, should Windows ever need to be repaired or reinstalled, it can be done without endangering docs, data-files, etc. (which would be on another partition). However, with more than 1 physical drive, the only valid reason for creating multiple partitions on any physical drive is if it's a large drive and (for whatever reason) the file-system of choice isn't NTFS. ~pv
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2006
  17. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

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    pv

    Thanks for explanation, and in a way I it makes a lot of sense. I've just dealt with that issue by backup strategy. I don't worry about windows needing repair or reinstall, as FDISR/Rollback eliminated that as an issue. Backup is a 2nd religion to me, so data,doc's etc are back'ed up with over kill. Without FDISR and backup no doubt the partitioning would save lots of folks.
     
  18. pvsurfer

    pvsurfer Registered Member

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    Right, I understand where you are coming from - my remarks were directed at those who might not have your level of protection.
     
  19. EASTER.2010

    EASTER.2010 Guest

    Excellent discussion and exchanges! Thanks fella's for this one, worth every review 2 times over and then some. Sure is an ambitious read and interesting indeed. (*steps on aside) :thumb:
     
  20. ErikAlbert

    ErikAlbert Registered Member

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    OK Guys, I know enough to start with.

    I fully support three ideas :

    1. Separating OS from personal data by creating at least two partitions :
    1a. System Partition [C:]
    1b. Data Partition [D:], as securityx calls it, which is a better and shorter name.

    It sounds so logical to me that this is the only way to do it right.


    2. Separating both partitions from one another on two physical harddisks.
    2a. Harddisk1 - System Partition [C:]
    2b. Harddisk2 - Data Partition [D:]

    Which is even safer than having both partitions on ONE physical harddisk.


    3. Backup both partitions on an external harddisk.

    I wouldn't trust my harddisk backup to DVD's or CD's, too risky and too slow.
    I use DVD's and CD's only for music, photos, movies, ... things that belong on DVD/CD,
    because you can use them on other hardware, like a DVD/CD recorder, Music players, ... whatever.
    Using another internal harddisk for backup is also less safe, because it's constantly on-line.

    Unfortunately my external harddisk is still missing, but I'm not going to wait anymore.
    Temporarily, I will reorganize my two harddisks :
    1. Harddisk1, containing
    1a. System Partition [C:]
    1b. Data Partition [D:]

    2. Harddisk2, containing
    2a. System Backup [E:]
    2b. Data Backup [F:]

    This was my original setup, before I decided to buy an external harddisk.
    This way, I can start doing my experiments with separation/backup and get familiar with all these new softwares. :)
     
  21. tobacco

    tobacco Frequent Poster

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    Yes ErikAlbert

    You must be really excited to finally be able to test out FD ISR,Rollback RX, etc?.
     
  22. ErikAlbert

    ErikAlbert Registered Member

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    FD-ISR, RollbackRx, DeepFreeze, ShadowUser, ... are a part of the plan, but I don't have any preference yet and I have to take care of other things first, that are not as sensational as FD-ISR, but nevertheless as important as all the rest.

    1. I needed a tool to ZERO my harddisk, installed on a CD and that ZERO CD is the very first CD I use when I want to install winXPproSP2 from scratch OR I want to restore my SYSTEM backup.
    That problem is solved and tested and I'm very satisfied with it, because I choosed the RIGHT and MOST PRACTICAL tool.

    2. After installing winXPproSP2, I've to install all my softwares, I need for my job/hobbies.
    Installing is alot easier than uninstalling, because most software companies have a bad uninstall program. So I wanted to get rid of that problem once and for all.
    That's why I need "Total Uninstall", which does a much better job than all these bad uninstall programs.
    Because "Total Uninstall" isn't perfect either, I needed a registry cleaner to remove possible leftovers.
    So I choosed "TuneUp Utilities" to do that job.
    "Total Uninstall" + "TuneUp Utilities" = 99% solution for installing/uninstalling softwares and keeping my registry clean from the beginning.
    That problem is solved and tested, but I need more time to see how good both really are.
    Right now, I don't trust both. I'm already a member of the "Total Uninstall" forum, just in case I have complaints.

    3. After installing winXPproSP2 and softwares, I needed a software to backup all my installation work and later on all my personal data. I like to work hard but only ONE time for ONE job.
    I first figured how to do this : hardware, partitioning and possible softwares to execute it.
    The almost perfect ideas are there, but I have no practical experience in executing it.

    4. After that encryption is on the list, defragmentation and snapshots softwares like FD-ISR, etc.

    BACKUP is a NECESSITY, you cannot work with a computer without BACKUP, that is stupid. Period.
    SNAPSHOTS aren't necessary, but they are very conventient to work with and that's why I'm going to use them too.

    I prefer to solve my problems systematically, one-by-one in a logical order and I need to be satisfied and when that doesn't happen, I usually contact the author to fix it.
    I don't care how long it takes, I'm very patient and the longer I wait the better, because the software market is changing constantly.
    I'm usually satisfied with softwares I need for my work and hobbies, but I'm NOT satisfied with security softwares.

    I don't have a problem with buying softwares, like "Total Uninstall", "TuneUp Utilities", "BootIt NG" and FD-ISR, because they aren't security softwares.
    When you ask me to buy KAV, Prevx1, ProcessGuard, ... I will hesitate as long as possible. :)
     
  23. tlu

    tlu Guest

    OK, you are right - it cannot be done with TweakUI.
    But after some research I found another relatively easy solution that should work:
    1. Download the "Windows Server 2003 Ressource Kit Tools" from http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=9d467a69-57ff-4ae7-96ee-b18c4790cffd&displaylang=en - they contain a lot of hardly known goodies, among them linkd.exe that enables you to create symbolic links (or junctions). An alternative is Junction from http://www.sysinternals.com/utilities/junction.html .
    2. Boot with a BartPE CD.
    3. Move the complete "Documents and Settings" folder from c:\ to, say, d:\.
    4. Create a symbolic link with linkd "c:\documents and settings" "d:\documents and settings"
    5. Restart your system.

    Result: Any application accessing "c:\..." would in reality access "d:\...".

    I have to admit that I haven't tried it myself. But I think any user with some experience with symbolic links should confirm that this should work.
     
  24. ErikAlbert

    ErikAlbert Registered Member

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    Thanks for suggesting another possibility. I keep everything in mind. It's good to have other possibilities in the background.
    First I'm going to try methods WITHOUT moving folders.
    Tomorrow I will create a test environment to do these experiments.
     
  25. tlu

    tlu Guest

    Erik, just some more ideas regarding moving folders and backup strategies.

    First of all, I mentioned symbolic links which are quite common on Unix systems but hardly known by Windows users. You can find more information about symbolic links on http://shell-shocked.org/article.php?id=284 . They can be quite useful indeed for what you are planning to achieve. For example, you can also move your "Program Files" folder to another partition and create a symbolic link. This is worth considering since many applications save their settings and data in their installation folder as mentioned by you. Aside from that, this keeps your system partition "slender".

    You might argue that this wouldn't make a backup necessarily easier. Well, there is also a solution for this problem: Another hardly known goodie in the "Windows Server 2003 Ressource Kit Tools" is robocopy.exe, an extremely versatile and flexible tool. With the option /MIR you can very well synchronize source and target folder.

    Let's say, partition F: is on your externel USB drive and you want to backup your data to a folder "Backup" on that drive. You could write a batch file like this one:

    robocopy.exe "c:\Program Folder" "f:\Backup\Program Folder" /MIR
    robocopy.exe "c:\Documents and Settings" "f:\Backup\Documents and Settings" /MIR

    ... and so on. The /MIR option means that all files in the source folders are backed up if you run robocopy the first time, but only changed/updated/added files/folders on subsequent runs (and deleted files in the source folder will also be deleted in the target folder!!!). This makes regular backups with robocopy very fast and efficient. More information can be found on http://www.ss64.com/nt/robocopy.html
     
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