Windows 8 to allow alternate location for Windows installation files

With each new leak of a Windows 8 build, more and more features will be uncovered. It was just last week that Windows 8 build 7955 leaked to the Internet and previous to that was build 7850. Users have been poring over every detail of the latest builds and have uncovered many new things, one of which is the ability to alter the location of Windows 8 installation files. 

This image comes courtesy of Twitter user @AngelWZR and shows the new settings for "Specify settings for optional component installation and repair of operating system corruption". The idea behind this option is to allow users to set an alternative location for Windows installation files. When setting an alternative location you have the ability to specify more than one location if so desired. 

While the placeholder text does appear to be a bit unrefined, this new feature will come in handy for those who wish to move the Windows installation files. While many users will most likely not take advantage of this feature, it is a another option that is now included on the Windows platform. 

Windows 8 is far off from public availability and it is rumored that a public beta may be announced at PDC later this year. It is expected that Microsoft will launch Windows 8 in late 2012 with the latest rumors suggesting that retail availability will happen in early 2013.

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A similar option already exists in earlier Windows. Open gpedit.msc "Group Policy Editor", go to:

Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> System

In right-side pane, look for "Specify Windows installation file location" option.

The location of the installation files could always be specified in the registry, so why is this now News? I could do it in NT 4.0, Windows 2000 and in all other versions upwards.

Petvas said,
The location of the installation files could always be specified in the registry, so why is this now News? I could do it in NT 4.0, Windows 2000 and in all other versions upwards.

You're right, I remember doing this to install Windows NT 3.5 once. Definitely nothing new.

It would be great to create a partition with the windows setup files, but it would be great if Windows Updates and Service Packs would streamline with the install files for future re-installs

riding ourselves of the registry would lead to problems, as then everything would need to be rebuilt. the only thing that could be changed is that if you change or are forced to change hardware then windows should not need to be reinstalled. Windows should be able to adapt.

Windows will probably always have the registry, but we might see something like application-specific copy-on-write registries to prevent applications from running roughshod over the system settings, or even other applications' settings.

Essentially what AppV does, but for more than just the enterprise. Sure would make software deployment a lot easier...

I assume this is like creating your own recovery partition or OS partition to separate applications and personal data just in case something happens to the OS partition, all you do is reinstall the OS.

I would love this if it iincludes installing the user directory to a seperate drive. I have a 40 gig ssd and move the User directory to a seperate drive to conserve space.

Rudnartim said,
I would love this if it iincludes installing the user directory to a seperate drive. I have a 40 gig ssd and move the User directory to a seperate drive to conserve space.

I have a 64Gb SSD and I literally moved all User/paging and temp folders and everything else to a separate drive moding the registry as much as possible.

Rudnartim said,
I would love this if it iincludes installing the user directory to a seperate drive. I have a 40 gig ssd and move the User directory to a seperate drive to conserve space.
Indeed, is possible already, but a nice UI to make it easy is needed.

Rudnartim said,
I would love this if it iincludes installing the user directory to a seperate drive. I have a 40 gig ssd and move the User directory to a seperate drive to conserve space.

I already dump/move my user/home directory from c:\user\username to e:\
With ever install I move Documents,Music,Video,Favorites, & download from to a Removable HDD. This helps if a) OS drive gets Messed up, b) saves me from forgetting to back them up before I install/Format a fresh copy of windows.

zeta_immersion said,

I have a 64Gb SSD and I literally moved all User/paging and temp folders and everything else to a separate drive moding the registry as much as possible.

I do as well, but I would love for the option to make these changes during install.

Val Thе Awеsome said,
Make an option to move winsxs directory!

Or give us a way to manage the damned thing.

Or give us a way to manage the damned thing.

Agreed. But the winsxs directory is not just located in C:\windows\winsxs - the files are spread throughout the HDD - or that's what people keep telling me - but virtually appear to be in the winsxs folder. I would rename the winsxs directory to something that doesn't sound like "Win Sucks" - lol.

Val Thе Awеsome said,
Make an option to move winsxs directory!

Considering that WinSxS directory mostly consists of symlinks to files outside it - what would that move achieve?

Futurix said,

Considering that WinSxS directory mostly consists of symlinks to files outside it - what would that move achieve?

you said it. WinSxS is nothing but symlinks to file locations. WinSxS do not actually store any file them self. Just links to locations to were the real file lies. If you WinSxS read 9 GIG for folder size don't be fooled. Its really not using 9GIG of real HDD space

Windows Home Server V1 & V2 are famous for useng symlinks.

ProChefChad said,
Will this help, at all, with viruses and such that try to find system files and mess with them?

The virus will probably just scan for registry entry or it will be a new thing in the win32 api which easily returns path to new equiv of C:\WINDOWS kinda like the "%PROGRAMFILES%"

ensiform said,

The virus will probably just scan for registry entry or it will be a new thing in the win32 api which easily returns path to new equiv of C:\WINDOWS kinda like the "%PROGRAMFILES%"

Windows already has that for years now... Go ahead and try %SYSTEMROOT%

I would expect it's more to help in situations where disk space is at a premium. Fitting Windows 8 into an 8GB tablet would be an extraordinary challenge if it were to keep a complete installation and update rollback cache like Windows Vista/7 do.

Renato456 said,
This might come in Handy! I love new features in Windows 8!
Will 100% for me. Makes backing up much easier.

Sir Ali said,
I wish they would get rid of Registry as well. Seems impossible though.

why get rid of it? that doesn't make any sense maybe make it more organized and faster.

Sir Ali said,
I wish they would get rid of Registry as well. Seems impossible though.

Give me a break. Something tells me you're not into Windows app development.

KavazovAngel said,

Give me a break. Something tells me you're not into Windows app development.

I may not be that experienced when it comes to Windows app development but isn't the AppData folder responsible for storing programs' settings? What's the use of the registry then?

Again excuse my noobism, but does Mac OS X have something similar?

Sir Ali said,

I may not be that experienced when it comes to Windows app development but isn't the AppData folder responsible for storing programs' settings? What's the use of the registry then?

Again excuse my noobism, but does Mac OS X have something similar?


Should be no, all configurations are stored in *.plist files. (I said "should be" because I didn't look at the details of the system when I was still a Mac OS X user)
But from my experience, those *.plist may spread to different directories in the system, so I usually use AppCleaner to uninstall applications.

Sir Ali said,

I may not be that experienced when it comes to Windows app development but isn't the AppData folder responsible for storing programs' settings? What's the use of the registry then?

Again excuse my noobism, but does Mac OS X have something similar?

Mac OS X doesn't have a registry, but I guess the terminal does play similar to it? I dunno.

Sir Ali said,
I wish they would get rid of Registry as well.

Oh yes, random text files scattered all over the file system are sooooo much better than a unified database with an easy to use API.

Sir Ali said,

I may not be that experienced when it comes to Windows app development but isn't the AppData folder responsible for storing programs' settings? What's the use of the registry then?
Again excuse my noobism, but does Mac OS X have something similar?

That AppData is for apps that don't use the registry, and have problems dealing with UAC.

Also, imagine going through many directories, to find the file that has the setting, and then search the file to find the exact setting you want. Then, imagine starting Registry Editor and just searching for the setting.

Sir Ali said,
I wish they would get rid of Registry as well. Seems impossible though.

yeah, you have no idea what you are talking about, the registry is a database, which supports concurrent users, transactional changes, and is redundant..... do you get those with an ini or plist file? no thats why they went with a database engine for it... all you registry haters need to actually see what the registry is and how it works first... stop beleiving all the bs that the older OS registry haters started years ago

Sir Ali said,
I wish they would get rid of Registry as well. Seems impossible though.

(edit) could an admin please delete this. Thanks

Edited by somethingelse, Apr 30 2011, 4:26pm : Accidentally pressed post button before I'd typed the message.

Sir Ali said,
I wish they would get rid of Registry as well. Seems impossible though.

I will never understand how everyone thinks it's a great idea to get rid of the Registry...

Sir Ali said,
I wish they would get rid of Registry as well. Seems impossible though.

They should definitely make regedit look nicer. At least get rid of the win3.x style icons

Sir Ali said,
I wish they would get rid of Registry as well. Seems impossible though.

Can somebody explain to me what the difference is with PC and MAC in terms of registry, I've heard that Mac doesn't have one? Why?

Xxgreatestever said,

Can somebody explain to me what the difference is with PC and MAC in terms of registry, I've heard that Mac doesn't have one? Why?


Because OSX follows the 70s way of storing settings: writting them in config-files. Whereas Windows has a central database to store all configurations…

MFH said,

Because OSX follows the 70s way of storing settings: writting them in config-files. Whereas Windows has a central database to store all configurations…

Oh, than that fellow "Sir Ali" is a fool to want to get rid of the registry. It's more efficient if everything is stored in one central database isn't it?

Luis Mazza said,

Mac OS X doesn't have a registry, but I guess the terminal does play similar to it? I dunno.

Terminal to OS X and Linus is what Command Prompt is to Windows. Sort of.

Xxgreatestever said,

Oh, than that fellow "Sir Ali" is a fool to want to get rid of the registry. It's more efficient if everything is stored in one central database isn't it?

Indeed.

It does need a UI overall though.

Sir Ali said,
I wish they would get rid of Registry as well. Seems impossible though.

Related question, why do Apple fanboys always complain about the Registry when they complain about how "inferior" Windows is?

The only 3 things I see get mentioned are

1. The Registry
2. .DLL files
3. Viruses

Jen Smith said,

Oh yes, random text files scattered all over the file system are sooooo much better than a unified database with an easy to use API.
The registry can be such a great tool when used correctly in app development. Nowadays, many developers choose to use the AppData and ProgramData folder to store their configuration or settings, which is annoying because the registry is much more organized and easier to backup than scattered files as as you just said.

I support text or binary files to store settings if the application is portable, but if it is not why avoid the registry like so many others?

This is off topic, but...

Xxgreatestever said,

Can somebody explain to me what the difference is with PC and MAC in terms of registry, I've heard that Mac doesn't have one? Why?

Mac OSX is Unix and use the Unix way of saving settings. Formatted text files, .plist for MacOSX.
Each application create it's own, and go read/write through is via dedicated API. This create indeed lot's of small files on the system, and because uninstaller are not part of the MacOSX way of life, when you delete an application (select application and press Delete), .plist are kept on the system. You can browse the /Library folder and read/edit/delete them.

Windows use a registry since Win3.1, it's a database today split in different files because of access rights (user level, root level, and more to keep it simple). Programs access it via API too, and can read/write/delete keys in the registry as well.
Uninstaller should be able to delete theses entry in the registry, but it took a long time before devs would do so, and even today, lots of app just don't bother and just delete the minimum of data (the files).
So this is a problem that MacOSX and Windows share in my opinion. Windows technically have a better way to deal with this problem, but devs just don't care.
The registry is more difficult to parse than .plist files in my opinion, so when you need to do some cleanup or remove app settings for different good reasons, search is your friend, and it can be sort of longer than just delete a .plist.

I tend to disagree with the general comments there about performances of both solutions. Having lot's of small files can impact the system or not. It depend of how the system and the filesystem. HFS+ on MacOSX handle that very well. And MacOSX have a whole set of API that make the system aware of theses .plist files and treat them as a database.

Windows on it's side optimized the database structure of the registry to help the performances.

The pro of the registry approach is the supposed gain of performances that can become a bloatware with big registry database, and the centralized approach that can tend to pretty bad experience on some failing hard drive. In the past, the structure of the registry could be destroyed because the database file was partially on an invalid block of the hard drive. Today, with caches and replication, this shouldn't happen to much.

The cons is when you want to export all of the setting of an app. With the registry, well, you can't. You have to export the values, find the right registry entry, or have an option on the software that export the values in a file for you and is able to import them later.
As .plist files are separated files for each program (you can still have the cons of multiple files for the same program), you can export your .plist on an other system, or when you need to restore your system after a pretty bad crash or hardware failure. MobileMe, which is the Apple sync solution very close to what MS seems to be including in Win 8, rely on that since few years to sync settings across multiple computers. To implement this solution, MS certainly have to convert something from the registry to the cloud and import it back, and maintain via API a registry like approach. ActivDirectory network already have a similar approach with the AD server sending the configuration of the registry to clients and the clients adapting the registry when logging in.
MacOSX today do not have to restore the whole "registry" settings on the new machine (and so the low level settings, or machine specific). Windows have to restore a specific part of the registry to accomplish that. Note that the need of ActivDirectory helped MS a lot to come up with something to solve the initial vision of the monolithic database.

This is 2 different approaches. I wouldn't say one is better than an other, but in a connected world with multiple device, the registry can become a problem. But MS can maintain the database appearance because of the API approach. So programs deal with the API that redirect the orders to the right database / file.
MS-fanboys would say the registry is the best approach, Apple-fanboys say it's crap...

And just to add, for the few devs in this thread that if you followed MS dotnet change, the registry is not the right way to do things in dotnet. XML files are where you are supposed to store your files, and this go to the AppData folder today. You still have API to connect to the registry of course, but MS want us to go to the XML way. And the system is optimized to treat this files fast now (it wasn't really the case with Windows 2000 and XP)
So no, .ini files are not the solution as they are difficult to parse. XML files are easier to parse, so moving away from the registry would be to go to XML files, and it will be because of dotnet becoming more and more the mainstream technology.

Sorry for the long post... just thought it would be useful.

Mkvos said,

Terminal to OS X and Linus is what Command Prompt is to Windows. Sort of.

I would compare terminal to the power shell. The command prompt really doesn't compare. Powershell is a great alternative to bash.

Sir Ali said,
I wish they would get rid of Registry as well. Seems impossible though.

Getting rid of the registry means getting rid of group policy and microsoft would have a riot on their hands if they got rid of group policy.

Sir Ali said,
I wish they would get rid of Registry as well. Seems impossible though.

If you don't want to use the registry simply don't install any third party applications using installers, and rely entirely on portable applications. For Microsoft to abandon the registry would mean they would have to essentially come up with almost an identical technology to replace it given how ingrained it is in Windows. There are parts of it that do need to be rewritten and, or optimized... though that kind of happens with every Windows release.

MFH said,

Because OSX follows the 70s way of storing settings: writting them in config-files. Whereas Windows has a central database to store all configurations…

The 70s are back then as that's how Microsoft recommends you do it.

testman said,

Why? Is there a better alternative?

They should look at the way the Commodore Amiga worked. Install in one folder, and delete that one folder and all traces were gone. Simple enough. However, MS have dug a whole so deep with using the registry and .DLL's that it's going to be almost impossible for them to migrate to something far simpler.

The registry and .DLL's have gotten far better after Windows 98...

Sir Ali said,
I wish they would get rid of Registry as well. Seems impossible though.

I don't know what else MS can come up with to replace the Registry - a database with security implemented on key-level. For IT, Registry offers powerful security option and yet easy to manage. For developers, it offers API for easy and quick access. I don't see a reason to replace this until they have something better.

The AppData are only for program to store files and its own database and its own setting files (not necessary INIs, Excel has its own setting file for its QuickLaunch buttons), supposedly a complement to Registry, not a replacement.

%APPDATA% is used to store more than just simple settings. It is used for User Specific data which does not belong in the registry. No one stores their 2GB worth of e-mail in the registry...

Benjy91 said,

2. .DLL files

I find .DLL complaints hilarious especially when they act like no other operating system has the equivalent of a .DLL.

I don't know what all this "the registry is the best alternative!" crap is about.

*nix distros have absolutely no equivalent and their app development is just as easy, if not easier, when it comes to settings and dependencies. While it is convenient for developers who have never touched anything but Windows to just make an API call and store some crap in the registry, unfortunately the consumer loses out because these app developers rarely ever clean-up the crap they spray everywhere in it.

I would probably be OK with the registry if it did not contain system configuration, which should exist on disk in files that are easy to backup, easy to transfer between systems, and contain detailed configuration in a UNIFIED FORMAT. The biggest complaint I have with the registry is that Microsoft themselves are not even consistent with the format of data they store in it; everything from strings to straight binary to hex. When working with system configuration you never know what you're going to get.

The registry unfortunately just stores far too much important information. Did you know it stores the passwords of the last 10 domain users who logged on your box? Yes, they're encrypted... but the decryption key is stored right along there in the registry as well. How about every wireless access point you connected to, complete with SSID, MAC address and geolocation data if it can get it? Maybe the exact time, the amount of times, and the network details of every time you have logged on to your PC?

People complain about the iPhone storing location data, but the amount of user trackable data stored in the average registry hive (which you can pull off a system in 30 seconds if you wanted) far outweighs any other privacy concern in any other system I have ever come across. There is no conceivable reason for the registry to store this much information that you cannot remove without manual editing; the reason is that these so called "professional Windows app developers" throw things in to the registry without any consideration if it should actually exist there. Unfortunately this category includes some of Microsoft's own developers.

Edited by ascendant123, May 1 2011, 2:13am :

For the record, for the few Windows app developers above who spouted the "you must not be an app developer!" rubbish... what is wrong with just using app.config which has an equally usable API? This makes your applications truly portable, easy to edit for every user without the risk of damaging something important in the registry that probably lies two clicks away from your mundane configuration, and easy to backup?

(For those writing in C# obviously.)

somethingelse said,

They should definitely make regedit look nicer. At least get rid of the win3.x style icons

I can imagine Windows 17 in the year 2030 ad we'll still be looking at 3.1 icons scattered about the place. MS have no idea about UI consistency.

The biggest problem with the registry as well as the Appdata folder is that they're like a rabbit hole that goes on forever. The amount of nesting is just insane and what's even worse is that there is no guarantee that you will find application x settings in location y. Programs usually have to be reconfigured when reinstalling Windows whereas in OSX I can be pretty sure that /Library contains my config plists that I can easily just copy and paste.

Sure, neither Appdata nor Registry is meant to be particularly human readable but it wouldn't be an insane effort to make them like that.

I hate how for games you often have to reinstall a game to get it working because the developers have decided to be *******s and require searching the registry when updating (how about offering a "oops game not found select folder" option?") or even starting the game. I've got my games on a different partition so even if I reinstall they're still there.