By Ivy / Last Updated June 17, 2021

Why can't I move program files to another drive directly?

Transfering files or folders to another drive is a piece of cake - just copy and paste them. But when it comes to moving program files, you may end up finding it's a totally different matter. Why is that? 

The two application folders, Program Files for 64-bit programs and Program Files (x86) for 32-bit programs, are hard-wired into Windows. Things can go wrong if they are not where they supposed to be. If you drag them to another location directly, most of the programs on Windows 10/8/7 may stop working or does not respond correctly. 

Can You Move Program Files to Another Drive

At this time, you may wonder how to move program files to another drive effortlessly. In addition to taking the right approach, another key is to make a system image backup, so that you can get the PC back to normal without reinstalling Windows. Then, check the anchor text below to find the solution.

When need to move program files to another drive?

Most programs are installed in C: drive by default. As time goes by, the system partition may run out of space owing to increasingly programs, and the PC may slow down as well. The situation could be more severe if you install a large amount of software on the computer, and if you don't want to uninstall them, the remaining method might be moving program files to another location.

Take it a step further, you may face the following situations:

Situation 1: Move program files to another drive on the same disk

In this case, you may be bothered low disk space warning and performance but only one internal disk. You could consider moving program files and program files (x86) from C drive to D drive or other partition with enough space, then save the newly installed software to new partition instead of C drive.

Situation 2: Move program files to different physical disk

In this case, you usually have one or more spare physical hard drive, and already migrate OS to smaller SSD in Windows 7/8/10. To retain better experience, you may want to free up the disk space of your SSD and move program files and program files (x86) from SSD to HDD. 

Backup the system just in case

All operations involving system drive are risky, e.g. a misused registry can cause your computer to crash. And since moving programs files from C to D or moving program files from SSD to HDD is not just a "copy & paste" problem, you must be extra careful. Otherwise all your apps might not work, and even your system will be affected.

To relocate program files to another drive safely, you need to backup system in advance, and AOMEI Backupper Standard is a wise and reliable choice to do that. 

It can back up your operation system (Windows 10/8/7/XP/Vista) for free with several clicks, and help you restore system image from external hard drive or other devices.

You can even restore system image created on dissimilar hardware (another computer) with the "Universal Restore" feature in advanced editions like AOMEI Backupper Professional.

Without further ado, let's get started to create a system image for your computer and then move program files to another drive in Windows 10/8/7.

Step 1. Download the free backup software - AOMEI Backupper Standard, then install and launch it on your computer. You will see its deep-blue interface 

Download Freeware Win 10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Step 2. Then, click System Backup under the Backup tab. After that, it will automatically choose the C drive and boot-related partition(s) required to boot Windows, such as, system reserved partition, EFI system partition. Also, it will backup recovery partition, program,& program files, personal data on it. 

System Backup

Step 3. Here, you only need to select destination partition to store backup image and then click Start Backup

Select Destination

Wait for a while, and you will have a system image backup of your computer. Then, it's suggested to create a bootable USB, so you can restore computer even when it refuses to boot. You can use CD/DVD, USB drive or directly create an ISO file.

Tip: If you want to perform backup & restore and even disk clone on multiple computers,  you can use the Create Portable Version tool (available in Tech and Tech Plus edition) to make a portable backup software on removable device. It can be used on any target Windows PC without installing.

How to move programs files to different drive?

Give up "copy" and "paste", here are 3 ways to help you relocate the program files to another drive. Please remember to create a system image backup first whether you are currently using Windows 10, Windows 8, or Windows 7. It can help you restore system from backup in a very short time. 

Method 1: Migrate program files to another drive using Registry Editor

Before you use this method, there are two things you need to do.
① Create a folder named Program files (x86) on another drive (eg: D: drive)
② Copy "Program Files" and "Program Files (x86)" directories to the new location first. Just run CMD as administrator, type the following command prompt and hit Enter.
     • Robocopy "C:\Program Files" "D:\Program Files" /mir
     • Robocopy "C:\Program Files (x86)" "D:\Program Files (x86)" /mir

Now, continue to see below. Please note that this method works at the moment of clean install Windows.

Step 1. Press “Win + R”to summon the Run window, then type Regedit.exe

Step 2. Find the following path on Registry Editor and change drive letter from C: to D:

To Windows 7/8/8.1:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion

Program Files Path

To Windows 10:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion

Method 2: Move program files to different drive using mklink

The second method is to create a symbolic link using Command Prompt. A symbolic link is a bit like the shortcuts to programs, folders and websites which attach to the desktop. When Windows or any program tries to access the folder, the symbolic link redirects it to the new location. To put it simply, this method change program files location for Windows 10/8/7.

Step 1. Move “C: \Program Files” fodler to “D: \Program Files”.

Step 2. Type cmd in the search box, click it and run as administrator.

Step 3. Create a symbolic link with soft link mklink/D link target

To move the whole "C: Program Files" folder to “D: Program Files” folder, you need to type the following in the command prompt window. Then, you can use the C:\Programs Files as the default install path but all the installed files will be stored in D:\Program Files.  

mklink /D “Program Files” “D: Program Files”

“Program Files” is the name of your new symbolic link name.
“D: Program Files” is the path your new link refers to.

Mklink

Note: If you do not know how to use it, you can directly type mklink in the command prompt window. You can get some information concerned to create a symbolic link.

Also, you can use mklink /J link target (called hard link) to makes the files or folders appears as if it actually exist at the location of the symbolic link. Based on the above example, you can type as mklink /J “Program Files” “D: Program Files”. 

If you want to delete the old program files, you can use “mklink /j” link together with the full drive letter and path of the old and new locations of the program files.

Tip: The same is true for how to move program files from SSD to HDD, you just need to connect your HDD disk to your computer. Aside by that, you still can use disk cloning software to clone entire system drive or hard drive to your HDD. It’s much easier.

Method 3: Move installed program to another drive using “Move” feature

This feature not only move program from C drive to D drive, but also can relocate program files. Just tri it yourself.

Step 1. Go to start menu > Settings > System > Apps & features, then you will see a list programs.

Apps Features

Step 2. Select an app and hit the Move option under the specified app, and then select a location on another drive.

Step 3. Click Move again.

Step 4. Repeat Step 2and Step 3 until the last program is moved to a new drive.

How to move Steam Games to another drive?

Except for entire program files folder, some users just want to move the steam games in the program files, just like the following case. And the migration method will be included later, please scroll down to check.

"I'm on windows 10, and I need to move that folder to my D drive. I have been told that copy pasting it won't work, and I will need to delete and redownload it. This is a probelm because the file is over 36 GB, and most of them are my steam games. Is there any other way to do this?"

Step 1. Go to the location of your Steam library. If you aren’t sure, you can check this infomation at the Properties of the Steam shortcut.

Step 2. Shutdown the Steam games, then copy and paste the entire Steam Folder to the new location, here is D:\Steam\ folder. 

Step 3. Wait until the process completes, you can start to rerun Steam.exe from the new location.

Tip: It's suggest to reinstall the Steam.exe first, which will will update all your shorcuts. You can go to steampowered.com, then click Install Steam at the upper right corner to download the installer and select the new location as destination folder, here is D:\Steam\, at last, please rerun the Strean.

Install Stream Destination Location

Conclusion

With the help of free backup software - AOMEI Backupper Standard, you can rest assured to move program files to another drive Windows 10/8/7. It greatly reduces the risk of system crash or data loss, and gives you a chance to restore computer without reinstalling Windows. And it will keep everything as it were. 

Also, you can use it to schedule automatic backup Windows 10 later by its daily/weekly/monthly schedule settings or advanced settings like USB plug in AOMEI Backupper Professional.

To move program files to different drive, you can get three useful methods, namely, using Registry Editor, mklink, or Move feature. If you just want to move the Steam Games that take up much disk space of your C: drive, you can still change it location to a new one and rerun the Steam.exe application.