Change default Program Files installation directory location in Windows

In Windows OS, by default, software get installed on your System Drive, usually C drive, in the Program Files folder. The typical path is normally in Windows 32-bit is C:\Program Files and in Windows 64-bit is C:\Program Files and C:\Program Files(x86).

Microsoft recommends the C:\Program Files for default installation destination. It’s a convention that ensures proper inter-operation between your program and the OS’s application and security models. So, once software programs are installed they go by default to C:\Program files on the computer.

This can however be changed by selecting another folder or location or partition.  To change the default installation folder, the data must be modified in the ProgramFilesDir key and a new path must be chosen for the installation folder.

Windows uses the System Disk for installing any new applications, That is, if your Windows is installed on the C Drive, the default folder where all the applications you install would automatically show up as C:\Program Files, unless of course you change in manually while installing the application’s locations.

Do note that Microsoft does not support changing the location of the Program Files folder by modifying the ProgramFilesDir registry value. It states that if you change the location of the Program Files folder, you may experience problems with some Microsoft programs or with some software updates.

Change default Program Files directory

If you almost always prefer to NOT install on the System Disk, but instead on another partition, say, the D drive, then rather than changing the default location every time, you can edit the registry as follows:

Open Regedit and navigate to the following key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion

change default program files directory

Now in the right pane look for the value ProgramFilesDir and/or ProgramFilesDir (x86) depending on whether your Windows 8 is 32-bit or 64-bit.

Double click on it and in the box which opens up change its Value data from C:\Program Files to say, D:\Program Files.

Click Ok. Exit.

The default directory for installation of all you programs shall now be D:\Program Files. If you are using Windows 64-bit, you may want to change the value of ProgramFilesDir and ProgramFilesDir (x86).

Go here to learn how to change the default location of the Documents folder or profile personal files or change default install location of Windows 8 Store Apps or how to change default download directory in Internet Explorer.

Windows 10 make things easy. You can easily move Windows 10 Apps to another Drive and change its Install location.

Posted by on , in Category Windows with Tags
Anand Khanse is the Admin of TheWindowsClub.com, an end-user Windows enthusiast, & a 10-year Microsoft MVP Awardee in Windows for the period 2006-16. Please read the entire post & the comments first, create a System Restore Point before making any changes to your system & be careful about any 3rd-party offers while installing freeware.

23 Comments

  1. hackerman1

    From what I´ve read Microsoft programs might have problems with another location.
    There should not be any problems with third party programs.
    You can also install all programs, both 32 & 64-bit, in the same programfolder if you want.

    I´ve done that on a non-default location (E:Programs….) for years on: Vista, W7, WS2008 & WS2008-R2,
    and i´ve not had any problems at all.

    If you want to change the default location just for installation of a single program, then:
    1. open regedit is instructed above and change the path, but keep regedit open
    2. install the program
    3. restore the path in regedit, then close it

  2. smilencetion

    excellent

  3. garfguy

    Well, you’ve got me beat. I had a problem, once, in 1983. I sheared the head off of a bolt. I defer to your better record…

  4. ElmerFudd666

    Do not forget to also change the environment variables %ProgramFiles% and %ProgramFiles(x86)% in both user-environment and the SYSTEM env. Other places too maybe?

  5. sajjad

    I did this but my windows 8 is broken!!! be careful

  6. If you followed he instructions properly, this cannot happen. Maybe something else broke your Windows. In any case, I suggest you go back to a good system restore point.

  7. T11

    I did this, but my files are still not showing up in “E:Program Files” as I have directed them.

  8. T11

    Could the issue be that I am using Windows 8.1?

  9. I am using this tweak on my Windows 8.1 too – even now. 🙂

  10. T11

    The only place that I can currently see my programs and applications is the “AppData” folder within the “Users” folder on the C: drive.

    I can’t find them in the “Program Files” or “Program Files (x86)” folders of the C: drive. I also cannot find them in any folder on the E: drive. Thoughts?

  11. DarkflameQ

    Hmmm, i applied these setting and programs are still trying to install to c: drive 🙁

  12. Roy

    Drag your program file + 86X into ur wanted partition.. should work.

  13. saurazul

    I did as said here. Nothing has changed. Programs that I download and don’t let me choose the installation directory keep installing on my C:/ drive instead of my D:/ drive, which is where I want them to be installed.

  14. cjgl63

    is this working on windows xp SP2 ?

  15. savage25rcracer

    Changing the Default directory in newer builds of windows 8.1 will make your computer “broken”. Microsoft has changed something in newer builds. I don’t think it will effect machines that have changed it pre update though.

  16. Kevin

    Will this keep the existing programs in the old folder and still have them functional? I don’t want to move the programs necessary for windows, but I want all new programs to be installed elsewhere. Would you recommend this tutorial for this situation?

  17. sam

    if we change the default program files diretory ,where will the new windows updates will be installed??new location or C drive only??

  18. Pal

    Did this in windows 8.1 Computer not broken

  19. I mix this tutorial with other (http://www.howtogeek.com/136404/how-to-install-windows-store-apps-to-an-sd-card-or-another-drive/). There’s some changes with the SD Card type (format for NTFS system, and not FAT) and with the permissions that are need to do.
    IT WORKS! But for the programs already installed, occurs a problem with the icons in desktop. Go to “properties” and changed the read programs for “C:”, and not for the SD.

  20. no you didn't

    jesus wtf wus that

    going through this for just 1 programme?

  21. Philip Karlsson

    I tried this tutorial when trying to install single softwares, and only did as the tutorial said, word for word, letter for letter. Now i can’t open files nor can i regain acess to regedit to change settings back to where they were. -.-*

  22. Dusty Water

    Doing this broke my start menu and all “modern” apps in Windows 10.

  23. Hugo Gagné-Croteau

    I got the same problem, you found a solution ?

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