Windows 7 Shenanigans

…well, that didn’t go as planned.

What happened yesterday was completely different to what I actually thought (or had planned) to happen. My original, original plan was to move as much freshbytes stuff over to here as possible, but then I decided to use my time more wisely and play Dragon Age: Origins instead. πŸ˜€

If only that had been what actually transpired.

You see, I have this file system scheme with my Windows machine where as much as possible is moved off the OS drive. As I format my machines regularly, it just makes sense to dedicate a hard drive to Windows, and have two 1TB drives for storage – one for installed programs (okay, just Steam) and another for all my media, legally acquired or otherwise.

The way that it worked before I decided to play with it was that my User folder was on my OS drive, but the Documents, Videos and Pictures folders underneath that were moved to the Program drive. Truth be told, there’s nothing wrong with this setup.

However, I must make a special mention to those developers who think a special hidden folder in my User folder is an excellent place to store save games and other important info. Usually games store their save information, profiles etc, in either their own program folder, or under the Documents folder, or even under the My Games folder in the Documents folder. Such is the case with games like Dragon Age, BioShock, TrackMania, Rainbow 6 Vegas (1 and 2), and so on. There are certain games, however, that decide the hidden folder AppData is an excellent place to store this information instead, and without naming names, we’ll just say that a certain indie physics puzzler inolving Goo and a recent driving arcade game involving Paradise are the main culprits here.

But I digress. Maybe it’s my fault that I didn’t back up my user folder in the first place, maybe it’s the developers who aren’t following accepted filing conventions. In any case – the last time I formatted (couple of weeks ago?) I lost my Burnout Paradise save. Tens of hours driving around Paradise city, lost. I was only a little angry, multiplied by the fact that Criterion Games force you to signup to some online profile crap, which doesn’t do anything (far as I can tell, except pester you in-game). You can pretty much forget it storing your profile online, no, that would make far too much sense… Say what you want about Steam, but at least the Steam cloud works.*

ANYWAY, the point of all that was to illustrate a point – the fact that making the Documents folder reside on a separate drive was okay for most games, but not for all. Obviously, something needed to be done about this, and that something was moving my user folder entirely. I had read about a technique to move the steamapps folder and then symlinking it back to where Windows/Steam thinks it should be, and I saw no reason why the same technique wouldn’t work for my user folder.

My first attempt was a complete and utter failure. Well, not quite – it was going okay up to the point where I moved my Documents/Pictures/Videos folders back to their rightful place within my User folder – completely by accident, I managed to point my Documents folder to my user folder. This resulted in a time-and-space warp which was completely convoluted, which lead to multiple copies of pretty much everything including the desktop. Β Moving it back only complicated things further, as it tried to move critical user-profile-related files as well, which would have resulted in total and utter failure. Oh, and I also tried to move my user folder while I was still logged in – but we’ll just keep that one quiet, eh? πŸ˜‰

Having gained some experience (both on what to do as well as what NOT to do) I decided the only way to clean up my mess was to nuke my current install from orbit and start again. One quick reinstall of Windows 7 later, I created a new user account, moved my user folder across to the separate drive, symlinked it back to where Windows thought it should be, and rebooted. When I logged back into my user profile I breathed a sigh of relief, and proceeded to install all my programs and stuff. Total downtime? Roughly two hours, including time taken to get my system back up to speed.

All that resides on my OS drive now is the OS itself, as well as by programs I use – anything of real importance is on my Terror-byte (sic) drive. I’m actually starting to question why I have a 500GB drive for a <10GB operating system, but that’s for another time. It can’t be time to upgrade to an SSD already, can it? πŸ˜‰

At the end of the day, I did manage to get some Dragon Age in. I started at about 2:30, and went all the way till roughly 10 – not bad, but still a mere fraction of the absolutely epic storyline that is Dragon Age. Here’s hoping I’ll get some more hours in in the next week or so πŸ˜€

* Interestingly, the Steam cloud didn’t work for Torchlight – I had to restore my save from the AppData folder once again. Sigh.

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