Moving Windows Help .hxw files ain’t easy

After all these years, wouldn’t you think all the system-generated data could be easily moved away from the boot partition?

Let’s say your C: drive gets full. Windows Vista and beyond make repartitioning a snap, but it only helps if said disk has space available on another partition. If not, you’re in for some exercise in freeing some space.

Using WinDirStat, you’ll quickly find some culprits. If you’re a developer, the C:\Users\All Users\Microsoft Help directory usually springs up. Said directory contains the Microsoft’s Help system’s built indexes, and if you have some Windows SDKs, SQL Server Books Online collections and whatnot installed, quite a few megabytes are sucked into maintaining the help index.

More out of perfectionism than practical need, I tried moving them out. But as hard as I Googled and Binged (or “bang” perhaps?), I couldn’t find out how to do it (surprisingly little has been written on the topic!). The Help system simply doesn’t seem to have a switch for the job. Oh well. What about moving the whole C:\Users\All Users then?

That’s actually an alias for C:\ProgramData. It would appear that I can move it by moving the files and then changing the paths in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\explorer\Shell Folders, but the numerous shortcuts in the ProgramData folder make copying stuff quite complex. And, of course, there is the somewhat scary KB949977 which isn’t heartily recommending the move (and even if it did, the article itself wouldn’t help unless you were re-installing). TweakVI supports moving parts of the ProgramData, but not the whole thing.

So after delving a bit into the ProgramData move path, I decided to drop it. I might have succeeded, but the risk to gain a few gigs wouldn’t be worth it. If you need space on your C:, move the most of your swap file out (not all if you want to get memory dumps on crashes), read up on the Installer directory and move the other profiles if they have significant data on them. Wasting time on moving your Help files isn’t worth the effort.

As usual, I’d be delighted to be proven wrong by a comprehensive set of instructions on the matter.

June 23, 2009 · Jouni Heikniemi · One Comment
Tags:  · Posted in: Windows IT

One Response

  1. Paul - February 10, 2012

    Glad I found this and save myself the time of trying to move those stoopid files…
    Unreal how msoft still hard codes stuff and sucks space out of the root drive.

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