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How Do I Change the Default Installation Drive?

Question: Leo, I did what you did (referring to replacing my hard disk on my machine with a Solid State Drive) two years ago. I’ve had a minor problem ever since I made the switch. All the software that I install wants to install and use the C: drive, which is too small to hold all of that information. How do I change the default installation location from C: to F: which is my actual one-terabyte hard drive?

What you’re doing is kind of tricky. There’s no global setting where you can tell Windows, “Install new stuff here.”

It also depends on the program that you’re installing.

The other issue is that you’re somewhat defeating the purpose of the SSD by not installing your software on it. This is the drive where your machine can load files and access programs more quickly than if they were installed on a traditional hard drive.

In your case, there are two things that I suggest you do.

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Installing applications on a drive other than C:

Install location is a per application kind of a thing. When you install software, always choose the Custom or Advanced option. That’s where you can specify to install software at a particular location if that program’s installer is set up to allow you to do so.

It’s important to understand that Windows will still install some things on the C: drive. Again, this depends on the specific program.

Why? Sometimes, it’s related to application sharing and complexity, but some programs have components that  get installed on C: no matter what.

Cleaning up C:

In your scenario, the real issue is your C: drive.  What I recommend you do is clean it up.

Installing programs on C: is what you want, but I would look at some of the other things that are going there. Start with my article, “Where’s my disk space going?” which will actually show you what’s taking up space on the C: drive and what might possibly be cleaned up. Depending on what you find, you can then remove data or perhaps move data if the programs involved can handle that. You might also use a tool like CCleaner to clean up files as well.

Moving temporary files

After you run the tools, I’m going to suggest that you move your temporary file folder. Now this is a bit controversial when it comes to an SSD because the point is to read files more quickly.

Unfortunately with temporary files, they’re being written often and may be taking up space. SSDs don’t necessarily write much faster than hard drives and temporary files can slowly end up taking a lot of hard disk space.

Next steps

Now, if you don’t want to move things to the other drive that you have, my only other suggestion would be to simply run CCleaner on a regular basis to make sure that things are cleaned up regularly, and perhaps uninstalling programs you don’t need. That way, you’ll be maximizing the amount of space you have available on your C: drive.

Other than choosing when you run the setup program on a per application basis, there really isn’t a way to do exactly what you’re asking to do. You just have to pay some attention to this as you install software.


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6 comments on “How Do I Change the Default Installation Drive?”

  1. > There’s no global setting where you can tell Windows, “Install new stuff here.”

    I have to disagree. The variable paths (e.g. %PROGRAMFILES%, %WINDIR%, etc) are all stored and editable in the registry (HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion). While not every single installer is guaranteed correctly to correctly use variables rather than hardcoded installation paths, I’d be very surprised to see one such that’s not at least a decade old.

    • The problem is that that’s not at all obvious for the average user to change, changing it after SOME programs have ben installed – even Windows itself – can cause issues, and I don’t share your confidence that all installers pay attention to it – even current ones.

  2. Some relief on your SSD you may get if you

    1. delete the hiberfile (if you are like most people that do not use hibernation). The command is powercfg – h off

    2. If you have 4GB or more of RAM, reduce the pagefile to 2 GB

  3. I had a similar situation, insufficient space on the C drive.
    I reinstalled Windows onto the new hard drive . This gave a dual boot system. During the normal boot process, I selected the D drive as my default operating system.Now when new programs are installed, they install by default into the D drive
    eg: D:\Program Files\Safari

  4. I get really fed up with the kind of attitude expressed in this article. I have good reasons for wanting to install my programs on a different drive to the operating system, and it is not because I have let my c drive become cluttered with rubbish – and as my d drive is a hybrid I will not be loosing the speed of a ssd by using it. Above all, it is MY computer and I really hate having Microsoft and others try to take control of it.

    • Micheal. I use a program called Application Mover from Fundac Software. I have used it in the past for moving programs from the “C” to the “D” drive. It will go through all of the registry and other locations where the program is located and will change it to the drive and directory of your choosing.
      There is a 32 and a 64 bit version of the program.
      I have not had a problem with this program. It will work for XP, Vista, Windows 7, 8.1 and 10.
      I found it to be a good program to use when you run into a program with a lazy programmer that won’t give you the choice where you want the program installed.


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