Restoring Windows to its brand-new condition (an occasionally necessary job) generally involves losing everything on the hard drive system partition. That includes your documents, photos, and everything else we collectively call data. Moving your data to a separate partition therefore adds an extra layer of security and convenience.
Last week I explained how to do this surprisingly difficult task in XP. Now I'll tackle it in Vista.
Before you begin, make an image backup of your drive, just to be safe.
Now let's shrink the existing partition and create a new one. Select Start, type , and press . In the resulting Disk Management program, right-click the box for your hard drive partition and select Shrink Volume. Fill in the resulting dialog box. When the volume has shrunk, right-click the Unallocated box and select New Simple Volume and follow the wizard. The default settings will probably be fine.
Once you've got the two partitions set up, make sure that your PC shows hidden files and folders: In Windows Explorer, select Organize, then Folder and Search Options. Click the View tab, select Show hidden files and folders, and click OK. You can change this back when you're done, if you wish.
Then, just to be safe, back up your registry.
For convenience sake, I'm going to refer to the new partition, which is probably D: or E:, as X:. I'll also refer to your logon name as logon, as in C:\Users\logon\Documents.
Navigate in Windows Explorer to the data partition you just created (the one I'm calling X:) and create a new folder named with your logon name (which I'm calling logon). Then select Start and lick your logon name at the top of the Start menu to launch another Windows Explorer window, this one show your old C:\Users\logon folder.
Let's start by moving the Documents folder: Right-click Documents and select Properties. Click the Location tab. Enter X:logon as the new path. (By now you know what I mean by X: and logon, right?) Answer affirmatively to all of Windows' questions.
You may notice when Windows is finished that Documents is still visible in the C:\Users folder. Have no fear. That's just a pointer. The files are actually now on X:\. If you don't believe me, open up the Documents folder and click in the address bar, like this: