Documents and Settings in Vista and Windows 7

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You don't know where Documents and Settings in Windows Vista and Windows 7 is? Here you will learn how you can access Documents and Settings.

Michael PietroforteMVP By Michael Pietroforte - Thu, February 8, 2007 - 21 comments google+ icon

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor of 4sysops. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with more than 30 years of experience in system administration.

You probably know that the C:\Documents and Settings folder doesn’t exist anymore in Vista. It was replaced by the C:\Users and C:\ProgramData. Vista uses symbolic links pointing to these new folders for compatibility reasons. However, many guides still refer to the old folder structure. There is a simple trick for using the old folder name in Windows Explorer, though. This way you can find configuration files easier.

If you want to see the symbolic links, you have to enable first “Show hidden files and folders” in Folder Options. To access the Folder Options you must press “ALT” in Windows Explorer to make the menu visible. You’ll find them under tools.

Now, you should be able to see Documents and Settings. But if you double click on it, you’ll get an error messages. Even administrators don’t have enough NTFS rights to navigate to this folder. It is not even possible if you change the rights by taking the ownership.

You can, however, navigate to subfolders of Document and Settings by entering the corresponding folder name in the address bar of Windows Explorer. For example, just type C:\Documents and Settings\%username%\ and you will see all of the user profiles’ subfolders, you know from Windows XP.

This also works if you use a language pack other than English. On a German Vista edition, you can type C:\Dokumente und Einstellungen\, for instance.

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21 Comments- Leave a Reply

  1. Michael PietroforteMichael says:

    Luke, you’re right, but many software vendors refer to the explicit folder names.

  2. Luke says:

    I guess the safest thing is to use environment variables then. I’m assuming Vista would probably expand variables such as:


    to their correct vista paths. Or am I wrong? I haven’t really had a chance to play around with Vista yet.

  3. Greg Muir says:

    Ugh. WHY do they have to keep changing things every version? Are they sadists or misanthropes?

  4. Kraig says:

    You can get to documents and settings by taking ownership. you just need to make sure that you remove deny from all users to documents and settings.

  5. David Lazarus says:

    I agree with Greg. they just seem to be changing for the sake of changing

  6. […] really? Hrm. Try this link: 4sysops – Documents and Settings in Vista I’d try the renaming skin folder renaming trick, first, though. Did that not work? […]

  7. Shelli says:

    okay. What window has to be opened when you press alt?

  8. Mike says:

    it can really be any window, but push and let go. Holding it down doesn’t change anything.

    the toolbar will show just above the organize, view, open etc toolbar that you see normally.

    clicking off the window also makes it collapse.

  9. Chang, Hyuk-Soo says:

    I appreciate your kindly explanation very much. It is very helpful for my job.

  10. cx420ns says:

    thank you so much!!!!

  11. WIZPS says:

    thanks for the tip! It really helped

  12. […] don’y have Vista, but I think that this article may […]

  13. Nico says:

    Hi!. Thanks for your valuable information about that folder. Today by accident i move a folder with 160Gb of files to the documts and settings folder and i was thinking all are lose because i can’t enter there, but again thanks to for your info, i recover all.

  14. Dan says:

    I transferred my old Windows XP “Documents and Settings folder” to my Windows Vista machine by simply doing a file dump of my XP machine to the Vista machine from an external drive. Based on the “last accessed date”, It appears that Vista is ignoring the old/XP Documents and Settings folder. And since Vista uses a different path than did XP, am I correct that I could/should delete the old XP Documents and settings folder without causing any problems for my Vista machine?

  15. Frank says:

    I have 2 windows 7 64-bit users, my issue is that one of them I can see the Document and Settings folder after you unhide it, the other one I cannot. Also you can change the ownership of the Document and Settings folder you just have to right click on the Document and Settings Folder select properties, then click on the security tab at the top, then highlight the user that you want to have rights to that folder, click full control in the check box, (but don’t know click apply) then click on the advanced tab you will notice that all of the check before it goes to the next box that pulls up will be grayed out, then you will hightlight the user again on the next window that pops up select change premissions for full control then click apply and now the user has full control over the documents and settings folder. I did that yesterday on one of the machine that was running Windows 7 64-bit, but my issue is with the other one. After I unhide hiden folders it will not show Documents and Settings, only users. Do you know where else it would be hiding?

    Thank you
    Frank Maree

  16. Random says:

    On windows 7 it can be accessed by opening



  17. Sunny Carrandi says:

    In Windows 7 the Documents and Settings is C:\Users\User name\AppData\Roaming

  18. Marc Joslyn says:

    Converting recently from Windows XP to Windows 7, I’ve still got programs I previously used in new Windows 7 paths namely C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs, and C:\Documents and Settings\Marc\Start Menu\Programs. If Documents and Settings no longer exists or is a ‘symbolic junction’, how come it can contain actual files?

    what makes this confusion especially troublesome, is the introduction of ‘Libraries’ with Windows 7. Presumably a ‘library’ is a ‘virtual file’ containbing shortcut-like pointers to actual files contained elsewhere on one’s hard drive. After converting to Windows 7, I found that my ‘Documents’ folder had become a Library containing actual files together with symbolic or virtual references to files located elsewhere on my hard drive. Presumably I have to move all the actual files out of Documents and locate them elsewhere in the system C:\ path. Of course I can create new folders on the C:\ path, but what happens to the Start Menu files in the ‘non-existent’ Documents and Settings folder?

    Please clarify this situation for me. Thanks.
    Marc (Dr. Marc Joslyn)

  19. alanwallace says:


  20. Steve Palmberg says:

    It isn’t correct to say that c:\Documents And Settings can’t be accessed by taking ownership (at least in Vista). Just use Grant/RemoveAdminFullControl.reg or one of the similarly named Registry hacks. They will place (or remove) a “Grant Admin Full Control” item on the Windows Explorer Context Menu. The Context Menu item will get you in most places Microsoft doesn’t want mere users to go (like documents And Settings) and will let you move, delete or rename most directories and files that Microsoft doesn’t want mere users to be able to affect. It’s not a master key to everything everywhere but It’s quick and easy and gets a user past 90% or so of Microsoft’s blocks.

    I’ve used GrantAdminFullControl for a little over three years and Vista isn’t affected at all by having to share it’s access and control. Vista can, of course, be severly adversly affected by what you do after you have access and control so be absolutely sure you know what you are doing before you do it.

    One Warning: It’s recursive. It can handle taking full ownership and control of large directories but it takes a long time to work through all those sub-directories and files. There’s supposed to be a non-recursive version out there but the last time I checked (a couple of years ago) it was only available from one of those “register with us or we won’t let you download” sites and I tend to stay away from that sort of website.

    Steve Palmberg

  21. nurdin says:

    Thanks, is very helpfull

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