By default Windows installs all programs into the C:\Program Files and C:\Program Files (x86) directories. If the hard drive you have the operating system installed on is running out of space though, or you just want to have the OS on a separate SSD, you might want to consider changing these default installation paths.

Be warned before you go on though! Microsoft does not officially support changing installation directories (see here). You are responsible for all consequences.

Furthermore, since we are going to edit the Windows registry for our causes, you should have that backed up first in case something goes wrong. Here's how: http://www.faqforge.com/windows/backup-your-windows-registry/

Now that you have been warned, let's get started: Open a Run... prompt and enter regedit. I will be referring to our new installation path as E:\Program Files and E:\Program Files (x86), so replace these paths with the ones you want to have (you can choose other names as well). Now browse the left registry pane for the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion key. Click on that key once to show its contents and locate the ProgramFilesDir and ProgramFilesDir (x86):

Screenshot (10)

Double click those values and change C:\Program Files to E:\Program Files as well as C:\Program Files (x86) to E:\Program Files (x86). Furthermore it might be safe to change all other paths directing to the old directories to point at the new ones as well. That's it if you are on a 32bit system, close the registry and reboot your computer.

64bit users have one more step to go. Close the registry and open another Run... prompt. This time, enter %systemroot%\sysWOW64\regedit. Another registry windows will open. Repeat the exact same steps here that you have done before. Afterwards, close the registry and reboot your computer.

Change default installation path in Windows 7
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3 thoughts on “Change default installation path in Windows 7

  • Avatar
    August 24, 2015 at 10:29 pm
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    I downgraded back to (a better) Windows 7/64bit from 10 and I have a bunch of file paths messed up. I can see pictures (that I want) but it has this message:
    \\?\Volume[9C531DF8-11E1-B7BB-806E6F6E6963}\MYFILES\4FB\mypic1.jpg The specified path does not exist, check path, and then try again.

    But of course they don’t tell you HOW to check the path or fix it. Do you know how? I ~think~ it’s related to my Library files but not completely sure. I can see the thumbnail so I know the file is there… Most grateful for any help!

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  • Avatar
    October 21, 2019 at 7:00 pm
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    Ok so let me try to explain what actually happens. Even though the actual program of whatever you’re installing(game, software, etc) is on your external USB/external drive, and you change the installation destination path to that USB/external drive, that’s all fine and good. But, the way programs work is you can’t just copy/paste programs from one hdd to another and expect that program to work because it wont(about 99% of the time). EVERY program installed also puts registry entries into the registry, usually C:\Windows\Users|(your name here). So, even though you installed whatever game and/or program onto another hdd or ssd the registry entries WILL be on the drive you are currently using. With that in mind you can’t hook that USB/external drive up to any other computer even with all the stuff you installed and have that program work. Even changing the default installation location even with regedit won’t solve much. The easiest way is just to do custom/advanced install for every single program.

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