The “Documents and Settings” thing in Windows computers may never become clear to me, but - how do things get in there, and what might I need them for?
When Windows came along I never started using “Documents and Settings” because I always used too many kinds of software that choked on the fake names or on the spaces in the names, or didn’t handle the real gibberish names underneath them. And every time I need to update my main everyday computer at work, I worry about this and it seems to turn out OK, but maybe some of the little problems arise here.
The thing is, I have never consciously used anything in “Documents and Settings” or in the “napier” folder that always seems to appear in it. I always use another folder under C:\ that I name when I move into the computer. Yet, now that I am preparing to move out of this laptop and into the next one, I find that there are, according to Windows Explorer, 734 megabytes of files in 7537 folders inside of “Documents and Settings
apier”. The dozen or so top level subfolders in here each have less than 5 MB, says Explorer, mostly a KB or so, and there are 6 MB of top level files. Altogether I can find about 15 MB of stuff in here, none of it anything I think I created or saved. So, where are all these megabytes of stuff? What are they? Who created them? Why can’t I find them if Explorer can count them? What can go wrong when I shed them?
You probably aren’t looking at the default hidden (system) folders there (From explorer, Tools | View | Show Hidden Files and folders).
There are several hidden folders, that contain application information, user data, and other settings that you configure. They can grow large, but mostly can be ignored if you are going to be re-installing software on the new machine.
Documents and Settings is exactly what it says it is. It’s your personal folder.
Say you have multiple accounts on one computer. At the login screen, you can choose whether to log in as Napier, NapierMom, or NapierSon. Whichever name you log in as, Windows pulls from that user’s Documents and Settings folder. Things like My Documents and individual program settings are contained in there. That way, your My Documents folder has only your documents and you don’t see NapierSon’s documents at all, and even though you all might use Word, Windows loads your particular settings for Word even if NapierSon wants or needs different settings.
A lot of programs are designed to put personal content in the D&S folder by default, which is how it all gets in there without you realizing it. iTunes, for example, goes to the My Music folder in D&S.
A non-techie user should never need to look in Docs&Settings. It is Windows’ way of keeping your stuff separate from any other users who log onto that machine. For example, when you are logged in, it looks like you have a top-level folder called “My Documents”, and when someone else is logged in, it looks like they have a top-level folder called “My Documents” also, but they clearly have different files in them. The “top level”-ness of these folders is only an illusion which Windows provides for novices who find “My Documents” and “My Music” and “My Scans” to be simpler than organizing it all yourself in C: like you did.
There’s lots of other stuff in Documents and Settings as well, such as program settings. When I choose settings for a program, and you choose different settings, Docs&Settings is how Windows keeps them organized. I have no “napier” folder, nor have I ever seen one. I’ll bet that you have some software manufactured by Napier Inc. (or something similar), and that folder is where that software keeps its settings.
Bosstone nailed the “napier” question. I didn’t notice that that’s your own name.
Docs&Settings has a folder for each user (such as “napier”, “keeve”, “bosstone”, et al) and some special ones like “Administrator” and “All Users”.
Each of those has some obvious folders like “Favorites” and “Desktop”. There’s also a few hidden system folders, like “Application Data”, and that’s where your program settings would be.
I’d advise you not to mess with any of that stuff unless you’re confident that you know what you’re doing. Moving your stuff from one computer to another is the sort of situation where you would want to do this. Just be careful.
Nitpick: it’s the top level directory for every user’s profile. These include personal settings and data - hence the name. The Napier directory contains all your own settings and data. Many of the files and folders within are hidden by default. A lot of junk gets stored there, including Internet Explorer’s Temporary Internet Files, which you can clear out from within IE.
I forgot to mention, I always show hidden files and folders. Whatever funny business is going on, that isn’t it.
And it changes. I just looked again, and the subfolder with the most stuff in it has 1.2 MB, the next biggest has 200 KB, the next has 8 K, according to Explorer when I right click the folder and left click Properties. The total of these is 1.4 MB. But this method says the folder itself contains 6881 files in 856 folders totaling 752 MB. The total folder hierarchy is complicated and I have not looked in every corner, but I have yet to find many files, certainly not dozens, let alone several thousand.
I have had a conversation with the IT folks about this, and they say it isn’t a real folder, more like an application or an extension of Explorer. They say it appears to have all these things in it because they are links (though I don’t find the links in there either). But the conversation kept growing more complicated, and I’m not much of an IT person myself - it’s beyond me.
If I look at the folder where I actually DO put my data, it has 47,765 files in 2,010 folders for a total of 15.7 GB. That is about what I would expect. Certainly, the “Documents and Settings
apier” folder does not contain links to all of these.
Hey, thanks, this IS a handy tool. I’ve wished for something like this.
Most of the mystery is solved. I have four folders inside C:\Documents and Settings
apier\Local Settings\Application Data that each contain 100 to 200 MB of whatever. The file C:\Documents and Settings
apier\Local Settings\Application Data\Adobe\Reader 9.4\Setup Files\Data1.cab alone is over 100 MB.
I guess the next question is whether I need to copy anything inside C:\Documents and Settings
apier\Local Settings\Application Data, or will it get rebuilt during software installations? I see attributes of Hidden and Read Only on this stuff, so I’m figuring I probably shouldn’t try to keep any of it.
You’re right. It will be rebuilt when you reinstall the software.
Also, one thing that I haven’t seen anyone else mention: My Documents and all the other special folders (including your Desktop) are actually in C:\Documents and Settings
apier, unless you’ve changed their location.
If you got a later version of Windows, you’d find that the folder was renamed to C:\Users, which makes a lot more sense.
If you run Outlook and download your emails to your PC, they will be stored deep within your Application Data folder, along with your contacts and calendar information. A search for “outlook.pst”, or better “*.pst” will turn this file up. It can be huge. There can be some stuff in there that you don’t want to lose.
I was going to mention that there were some programs for which it mattered, but the examples he gave aren’t those. I don’t know if anyone knows why Adobe puts so much stuff in AppData, especially for something as simple as Reader.
and, really, any backup programs that won’t include email in their backups is not very good.