Reusing user data from separate drive


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A client of mine had an overnight Windows update roach her machine entirely. I spent major time on it trying to revive the boot information with zero success.

I can't reinstall Windows 10 on her drive without wiping all her user information, and I don't trust her backups.

Her machine has an unused smaller drive in it on which I could install a clean Windows 10. Then I would just have to tell the system somehow that her user file area was on the original drive.

I've found a number of sources on the web that explain how to get Windows to MOVE an existing user to another drive, but what I need to do is tell Windows that the user is ALREADY THERE, and just to adopt her user folders.

Is there a way to do this?
 
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There's nothing wrong with the drive hardware, the system areas are just corrupted, and Windows doesn't let you do an update over a system that won't run, or a fresh install that doesn't wipe out all the user's data.

I'm talking about her photos, files, bookmarks, and so on. The stuff under Users and wherever else Windows squirrels things away.
 
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Unless changed the data files for a user by default will be in C:\Users\USERNAME\ and subFolders. In a similar situation as described I boot to a Linux LiveDVD and use simple file management to locate then copy or move to an External USB drive of sufficient capacity to hold those subFolders. The process does not involve Windows running.
 
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I'm sorry, but I don't see how anything you have written actually answers my question. I know where the user data files are by default, and I know how to move files, but nothing here tells me how to make Windows use user files that are NOT in the default location.
 
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I got the idea that recovery of the files was important and gave a possible solution.

However, file management within particular programs installed on Windows relies upon those programs' Open feature, being a separate file management feature, ability to navigate to where the files needed actually reside. The file management in those programs use File Explorer or the older Windows Explorer in a more limited way to locate those files, that's been true of Windows for quite a few years going back to Windows 95 [1995] and somewhat in Windows 1.0 through 3.11 [I began with Win3.10].
 
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I think we're talking past each other.

The files don't need to be "recovered." They're sitting fat and happy on a drive that isn't the system drive. I don't want to move them anywhere. I would like to just tell Windows to use them there, i.e., "I want to create a new user and her home folder is already over HERE, just use it."
 

Trouble

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Since I, generally as a matter of procedure maintain all my user data on a drive other than my system drive this is how I generally do it.
I create the same data structure on my "D" drive a folder and subfolders that basically replicates C:\Users\MyUserName\SubfolderName as D:\Users|MyUserName\Subfolders
AND
Then when I do a clean install on my system drive and everything is updated and running smoothly, I simply go to the default locations on C:\Users\MyUserName\A sub folder
Right click it and choose properties and then from the location tab I select "Move" and then browse to the exact folder on D:\
And since the new installation contains nothing, I always choose not to copy anything to the alternate location.

Since you already have the data structure on the alternate drive it seems like you're half way there.

I've used this same technique over multiple clean installs without fail, for things like documents, downloads, desktop, music, videos, etc.
It will do absolutely nothing however to restore any programs properly as those will need to be registered in the Windows registry.
 
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"I select "Move" and then browse to the exact folder on D:\
And since the new installation contains nothing, I always choose not to copy anything to the alternate location."

Ah, there's the secret. So "move" moves only the reference... not the actual file tree, which you can explicitly choose not to copy.

Thanks for teaching me the secret handshake. I'll be trying it as soon as I can get my "squeaky clean install" of Windows 10 to get past the version 1803 update without freezing (and who knows how many subsequent).
 
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A client of mine had an overnight Windows update roach her machine entirely. I spent major time on it trying to revive the boot information with zero success.

I can't reinstall Windows 10 on her drive without wiping all her user information, and I don't trust her backups.

Her machine has an unused smaller drive in it on which I could install a clean Windows 10. Then I would just have to tell the system somehow that her user file area was on the original drive.

I've found a number of sources on the web that explain how to get Windows to MOVE an existing user to another drive, but what I need to do is tell Windows that the user is ALREADY THERE, and just to adopt her user folders.

Is there a way to do this?


Pull her drive and put in your dock or on a bridge and backup her data to another drive. Now run Crystal disk info on her current hard drive to verify it's not the problem. Just because you can read from it and write to it doesn't mean the drive is good. If the drive passes it's test then do a clean install and reload her data to that drive.
When you log in to her drive from your PC and try to access her user data it will tell you that you don't have permission, tell it to do it anyway and then wait. If it fails just close the tab and try again. Generally speaking the update doesn't kill the machine. I have sen this happen a few times over the years but there was always something else that caused it to just not life though the update and it was going to die soon regardless. My personal desktop wouldn't even power on after an update in windows 7, but it was bad caps on the motherboard that I knew about and was expecting it to die
 
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Check the boot order in the bios, mine changed the other night due to a faulty power wire to the hdd. Check or change the power wire if thats the issue.
 
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I would boot the system from a Linux USB drive, xfer the User folder to the small drive, and look for any app config data that isn't in the User folders. Once happy that I got most of it, reinstall windows on the old drive.

While you are at it, this problem can be avoided in the future it you create a D: partition while you are doing the install. You can also reconfigure the drive after an install. You may need to rearrange the drive letters after you do that to make D your USER drive. I do it cause I like organization, but it doen't have to be D. Then relocate all the movable User folders to it. If it happens again, just reinstall windows by deleting the hidden and system partitions and recreating them, All your data is safe on the USER partition as long as you don't delete it in the process. It also makes it easier to back things up. Then you can image the C: drive to make life a lot easier. A clean install on my system takes about 1/2 hour and I am totally up and running - no program install necessary with an recent image. I use Macrium Reflect free for the image. It is SUPER simple.

The movable folders will have a LOCATION tab when you look at their properties. Select it, change ONLY the drive letter to D and click Move. It will be totally transparent to the User.
 
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I just reread your first post this is a clients machine what's a bet she tried to restart her computer while it was still updating when it was just displaying a black screen you would think microsoft would have a time gauge across the screen whilst an upgrade was giong on.
 
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I think we're talking past each other.

The files don't need to be "recovered." They're sitting fat and happy on a drive that isn't the system drive. I don't want to move them anywhere. I would like to just tell Windows to use them there, i.e., "I want to create a new user and her home folder is already over HERE, just use it."
Does this laptop have a "C:\ Hard drive" or is it the newer eMMC (really slow Dell) flash drive?
 
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If you change the user name won't you have to change all the permissions for all the folders. If you use Firefox sync all you would have to do is log in to sync and get all the user info in firefox updated just like all the other devices you use.
You could bu a win 10 upgrade that would install and save all your user files. you could use the ladies back up after you copy all the folders you want to another drive. then just copy them back so they are up to date. after you get windows running. Why not F1 i think it is and let the computer repair itself in safe mode.
If yo can get it to connect to the net because it was a problem with an upgrade Microsoft can remotely fix the computer for free as it was an upgrade issue. They have some very clever ladies and gents working for them.
 
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My PC has a 128GB solid state boot disk, on which I did not want to store user data. Here's what I did to change the location of my Documents library to a different drive (I did the same for Downloads and other libraries).

In Windows Explorer, right-click Documents and go to Properties. Click the Location tab and enter the new Documents location. In your case that's the location of the old Documents folder. Click OK.
 
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