Long-time subscriber Richard Fuller to ask about My Documents and other folders as he is upgrading from his old Windows XP PC to a new PC running Windows 7…
While using a file synchronising application I’ve come up against an issue that might well concern others who’ve transferred their files from an XP computer to a new Win7 PC. I simply copied mine to the new machine as uncompressed files from backup disks.
As you know, under the XP OS files were located in folders named "My Documents", "My Pictures", and so on. On my Win7 PC, however, Windows Explorer shows the "My…" folders as sub-folders of their respective "non-My" folders—see WE image below. So I have, for instance, \Documents\My Documents\Finance, but on some other file structure trees (notably that of the Sync application and certain backup programmes) the "My…" folders are not shown, the various sub-folders of the main documents folders being displayed directly under the main "non-My" folder, eg. \Documents\Finance.
Quite apart from being confusing to the user (me) this seems to be causing the Sync application some confusion, since it appears to dither over how to handle the "My…" folders. So my question is, should I just move all the sub-folders (eg. /Finance) to the main Documents folder and delete the old "My…" folders? I hesitate to do this without seeking your advice in case the whole kit and caboodle throws a tantrum. Frankly I’ve never liked the way Windows, ever since Win95, has displayed users’ files in several different places in Explorer. I imagine it’s supposed to make life easier for the uninitiated, but I just find it unnecessarily complicated.
What would you advise? Frankly it would be a lot simpler if the old "My…" folders could be dispensed with.
I wrote back to Richard to explain that Windows uses a file concept called a symbolic link, which has been in the Unix/Linux world for ages, to handle the My Documents file. We’ve seen symbolic links on the Windows Desktop for ages as a Shortcuts.
A symbolic link appears to be a file or directory- but it really is simply a link, or shortcut with a different name, that automatically redirects any attempt to access the file by the symbolic name to the true file.
My Documents at one time was an actual folder. Actually, it could be one today…
You can actually create a folder (or a sub-folder, for that matter) and call it My Documents. But, Windows has a special way that it tracks the folder that it considers to be "My Documents" for the current user. The default My Documents folder is found, in Windows 7, as the directory C:\Users\[userid]\Documents\
You can set the My Documents folder to point to the folder you want to use that way. In Windows 7, open Windows Explorer, right-click on My Documents, select Properties, click on the Location tab. That will let you select the location in which the My Documents folder will be placed.
Windows 7 uses a similar symbolic links concept to create its Libraries.
As far as your question about moving your folders from My Documents to the parent Documents folder, they’re already there — My Documents is just the Documents folder viewed in a different manner (note the Windows 7 and Windows XP didn’t treat this the same way).
Sure, you can store some of your data outside the My Documents directory. I have some of my data in My Documents. I also have a lot of my files stored under E:\Data.
The real issue is that a lot of programs that are written to help you manage your files and to migrate them to new computer expect that you are storing ALL of your data in My Documents. You have to remember and handle anything else.