By Ivy / Last update May 18, 2022

Can I move program files to another drive? Is it safe?

You may know most programs are installed in C: drive by default, and usually, Program Files for 64-bit programs and Program Files (x86) for 32-bit programs. Both of them are hard-wired into Windows and things can go wrong if they are not where they’re supposed to be. If you drag them to another location directly, most of the programs on Windows 10 or other systems may stop working or do not respond correctly. Thus, it's not safe to move program files to another drive. 

Can You Move Program Files to Another Drive

Need to move program files to a different drive

If possible, it's not suggested to move program files to a different drive. You can check if you are in the following situation and then decide if you have to do so. 

Situation 1: low disk space warning pop up several times

As time goes by, the system partition may run out of space owing to increasing 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. 

In this case, if you don't want to uninstall them, try to move 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: SSD does not have enough space

Nowadays, it's not rare to migrate OS to smaller SSD and use it as storage. But the problem is SSD can be fulfilled quickly if you install multiple programs on it. Thus, some users may want to free up disk space of SSD or directly move program files and program files (x86) from SSD to HDD. In this case, you have enjoyed both advantages of SSDs and HDDs.

How to move program files to another drive safely 

If you are in one or two situations above,  you may want to use a relatively safe method. Then, how to make it easily? You can choose to make a system image backup (if you want) with a free backup software, AOMEI Backupper Standard, for example. Thus, you can get the PC back to normal without downtime.

AOMEI Backupper Standard

Afterward, you can feel free to try the following 4 methods to move program files to different drive, namely using Registry, mklink, Move, or App mover.

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

The first method is to change program file location from C to D or other partition and works at the moment of clean install Windows. In the beginning, you need to do two things in the following: 

Create a folder named Program files (x86) on another drive (eg: D: drive)
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

Then, open the Registry Editor and change program location from C to SSD. 

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. To put it simply, when Windows or any program tries to access the folder, the symbolic link redirects it to the new location.

Learn how to move program files from C to D securely as follows. Also, this applies to moving program files from SSD to HDD.

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

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

Step 3. Copy and paste the following command and hit Enter. Type mklink in the command prompt window and learn necessary parameters if you are not familiar with this command. 

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

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.  

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.

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

Method 4: Transfer program files from C to D with App Mover

Besides, you still can try AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional to move your program and program files from C to D or SSD to HDD safely. It's a disk management software for Windows 11/10/8/7/XP/Vista.  Please download it on your computer and then install it. 

 Step 1. Launch AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional. Then, click All Tools and select App Mover under the Other Tools tab.

App Mover

Step 2. Select the C drive and hit "Next".

Select-C-Drive

Step 3. Tick the name of applications you want to move and choose D drive to receive it. 

Select Program and Destination

Step 4. Click on Move and then OK, it will start the program files transfer process.

Move Program Files from C to D

Tip on 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

Before rerunning the Steam.exe it's suggested to reinstall it to update all your shorcuts. Download the the installer in the steampowered.com and select the new location as destination folder, here is D:\Steam\folder, at last, click Install to reinstall the Steam.exe.

Install Stream Destination Location

Protect your OS before moving programs to another drive

As mentioned earlier, moving program files from C to D or moving program files from SSD to HDD may cause your program not working, thus it's necessary to backup system and data on it. The widely used free backup software, AOMEI Backupper Standard, is a good choice.

You can easily make an exact copy of your system with its System Backup feature, and then restore system image from external hard drive or other devices if something goes wrong. In addition, it still supports creating a bootable USB or CD/DVD, so you can boot your computer even if it fails.

To protect your OS, please download this software and install it on your computer. This software only applies to Windows 11, 10, 8, 7, XP, Vista. For server users, try AOMEI Backupper Server

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Step 1. Launch AOMEI Backupper Standard, you will see its deep-blue interface. Click System Backup under the Backup tab. It will automatically choose all the boot-related partition(s) for Windows including programs and program files on it. 

System Backup

Step 2. Here, you only need to select destination partition to store backup image and then click Start Backup. to backup everything on the schedule partition. 

Select Destination

Wait for a while, and you will have a system image backup of your computer. If you are worried about boot failure due to moving program file, you can create a bootable USB or CD/DVD. 

Click Tools and go to Create Bootable Media, then select bootable disc type (Windown PE or Linux) and storage device (USB, CD/DVD or ISO file). Remember to click Next in the each step.

Create Bootable Media

How to fix boot failure after moving program files

If your computer fails to boot after moving program files, follow the steps below to fix it:

1. Restart your computer to BIOS and set the bootable USB as first boot option, save changes and boot from it.

2. Choose Restore and Select Image file to locate backup image, select Restore this system image and destination path, finally click Start Restore

Select Image File Winpe

Advanced backup settings you may need

In addition, you can still use it to backup system after moving programs to another drive in Windows 10 or other systems. In this case you may want to make this task hassle-free, especially for long-term tasks. You can set the following features during backup process:

 Backup Options: You can enable email notification to confirm if your backup task runs smoothly, set normal or high compression level, intelligent sector, backup service, etc. 

Backup Options

Schedule Backup: You can backup system based on different frequency, daily, weekly, monthly. Also, you can use Event trigger or USB plug in (to backup system to USB flash drive automatically when it's plugged in) feature and both of them are available on the professional version

Schedule Settings

Backup Scheme: You can change backup method from incremental backup to differential backup, which will not require all the backups to be intact for system recovery. Also, you can delete old backup images regularly to ensure your backup disk always has enough space for new backup. You may upgrade to higher editions to enjoy these features. 

Automatic Backup Cleanup

Conclusion

This article provides you with 3 helpful ways to move program files to another drive in Windows 11/10/8/7, you can try one of them or all of them. To ensure your system or programs always work, you still need to create a system image in Windows 10 or other systems. If something goes wrong, you can easily restore computer to an earlier date without reinstalling Windows and programs. 

Also, it can be a great helper if you want to protect your system continuously. It allows you to schedule automatic backup Windows 10 by its Daily/Weekly/Monthly/Event triiger/USB plug. The last two feature are available in AOMEI Backupper Professional. If upgrade, you can try more advanced features, such as, differential backup, backup scheme, etc.