Modify Program Files Path?

Dennis Faas's picture

Over the weekend, Robert L. asked me a question about Disk Imaging.


If Windows stops working properly (due to error messages, programs suddenly stop working properly, or general lockups / system freezes / crashes), disk imaging can restore Windows to a previously healthy state: often within minutes. Previous to disk imaging, the only "fail safe" way to fix Windows was to reinstall it from the beginning. Disk imaging can also transfer an existing copy of Windows to another hard drive (commonly used to upgrade from a smaller hard drive to a larger drive).

Robert asks:

" During the last 2 weeks, I've had to install Windows XP 5 times, and I'm about to do it once more ... 5 x 3 hours each = 15 hrs of Windows installation and updates ... without [installing] any third-party applications. HELP! I read your article about Acronis True Image [disk imaging software] ... [and, now I have decided that I would like to set it up my system so that my C drive contains only Windows and my D drive houses all my programs as you suggest]. I am definitely planning to [get a copy of] Acronis True Image software, thanks to your article.

My question is this:

Because I want to put all my programs on the D drive, is there a setting I can change so that Windows will always install my program files to D: (by default) instead of the C: drive? ... For example: Program Files directory = D:\Program Files ... Is this possible? "

My response:

Before I go into detail, I need to fill in a few details with regard to Robert's question. In the disk imaging article he refers to, I recommend sectioning (partitioning) the C drive to create 2 separate drive letters: C and D. When an image of Windows is created, only essential system files are backed up; personal files are stored on another drive letter and are not included as part of the backup. This keeps disk image files relatively small in size and saves a ton of time in the long run -- especially if backups are made frequently.

For example: Most PCs today come equipped with a hard drive that is 60 gigabytes large (and more). If the drive was partitioned, one might section it so that the C drive is 10 gigabytes (which holds Windows only), and the D drive (the remainder) is set to store 50 gigabytes of user data (downloads, documents, etc).

With respect to Robert's question:

How do you make the D drive the "default" program install drive?

The setting Robert is referring to is part of the Setup.exe "Program Installer" (for lack of better words). Not all Setup.exe programs use the same installer / installation procedure, but most follow the same general route:

Click Setup.exe to begin the installation of a program

Choose a few installation options (complete / custom)

Choose the destination path where the program is to be installed on the hard drive

More often than not, the default [base] installation directory for a program begins with C:\program files\. As far as I understand, there is no way to change the default installation path (automatically), other than user intervention during the installation procedure. I have not encountered such software, nor am I aware of a Windows Tweak that can change this setting.

Is there such a program which can modify a "default" Windows application installation folder, from C:\program files to something else? Send me your comments (link below) and I'll include an update to this article.

Update 2003/06/11: This article has been updated. Click here to read!

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