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My Documents

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Subject: Windows Shell namespace, Windows shell, My Music, Adobe Digital Editions, System Restore
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My Documents

My Documents is the commonly recognized name of a special folder in Microsoft Windows, allocated to help users store their personal data files. The actual name of the folder might be different, depending on the version or language of the installed copy of Windows. In Windows XP, it contained other subfolders such as "My Pictures", "My Music" and "My Videos". Starting with Windows Vista, these subfolders were moved out of My Documents and were made its siblings.


Microsoft first introduced the "My Documents" folder in Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2, as a standard location for storing user-created files. The folder—located under the root of the hard drive that Windows is installed on—is displayed (but not stored) directly on the user's desktop.

Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 set up the "My Documents" folder (by default) in the user's profile folder, as \Documents and Settings\[user name]\My Documents\ (alias %USERPROFILE%\My Documents\) on the same hard drive that Windows is installed on. "My Documents" in these operating systems is one of a number of Special Folders—a concept introduced in Windows 2000 to add a layer of abstraction between the user interface's presentation of the folder and its physical location and contents. As such, "My Documents" in file load/save dialogs (and in Windows Explorer) doesn't appear as an absolute path. A user can change the physical location of "My Documents" by right-clicking on the "My Documents" icon, selecting the Properties option, and entering a new folder location (path) in the Target tab.[1]

Windows Vista changes the way My Documents and its siblings (My Pictures, My Music and My Videos − see below) are stored on the disk. Regardless of the Windows language, four folders called "Documents", "Pictures", "Music" and "Videos" are created in the user profile root (%USERPROFILE%). Windows Explorer, however, shows a different display name for each, depending on the chosen language. For instance, an English copy of Windows shows "My Documents", a French copy shows "Mes documents" and a German copy shows "Eigene Dokumente" (changed from "Eigene Dateien" in Windows XP).[2][3][4][5][6][7]

In addition to translation, the display name might change depending on owner of the folder. For example, if a user who has logged on to Windows XP and later with user account A look at the personal folders of user account B via Windows Explorer, instead of "My Documents", he sees "B's Documents". This customization is achieved using desktop.ini file.[8][9]

An application can programmatically convert environment strings in a user-supplied path (e.g. %USERPROFILE%\My Documents\ or %USERPROFILE%\Documents in Windows Vista and later) to an actual path using Windows API.

Other "My" folders

Windows 98 introduced two additional special folders with a "My" prefix: "My Music" and "My Pictures". "My Music" and "My Pictures" are not present in Windows Server 2003 by default unless enabled using the Start menu customization. Installing Windows Media Player 10 or 11 on Windows XP adds a "My Videos" folder which Windows Media Player uses to store video files that are shown in its media library. Windows 7 added a new feature called Libraries to help users have several instances of these folders anywhere on a computer and aggregate them.

Many other applications have adopted the "My" naming convention when placing folders in the user's "My Documents" folder:

  • Windows Messenger and Windows Live Messenger create a "My Received Files" folder when used for the first time.
  • As of 2010 "My Saved Games" (or just "Saved Games" since Windows Vista) is becoming an increasingly common place for games (especially those published by Microsoft Game Studios) to store a player's saved game and settings files. This practice aims to make it easier for users to keep their saved games if they uninstall a game, and if they eventually migrate their files to a newer computer (using the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, for example). For networks with a shared "My Documents" [see Group Policy below], computers that have copies of the same game installed often can not run the same game at the same time. Microsoft's TweakUI does not include the ability to re-path the "My Games" folder.

Windows Vista and later add additional personal folders that do not have "My" prefix, including Contacts, Downloads, Links, Saved Games and Searches.[10][11]

Group Policy

On Windows machines which operate as part of a Windows Server domain, administrators can configure the location of "My Documents" (and other Special Folders) through Group Policy. Corporate desktop deployments commonly redirect "My Documents" to a folder on a file server.[10]

See also


  1. ^ "Configuration of the My Documents Folder". Support (3.4 ed.).  
  2. ^ "What happened to My Documents?".  
  3. ^ "Qu’est devenu Mes documents ?". (in French).  
  4. ^ "Was ist mit "Eigene Dateien" passiert?". (in German).  
  5. ^ "Folders: frequently asked questions".  
  6. ^ "Dossiers : Forum Aux Questions". (in French).  
  7. ^ "Ordner: Häufig gestellte Fragen". (in German).  
  8. ^ "The Desktop.ini file does not work correctly when you create a custom default profile". Support (1.5 ed.).  
  9. ^ Grainger, Brian (2 April 2006). "Unintended consequences (1) or just what are those desktop.ini files?". Independent Computer Products User Group. 
  10. ^ a b "Folder Redirection Overview".  
  11. ^ Thurrott, Paul (2008). Windows Vista Secrets: SP1 Edition.  

Further reading

  • Redirect My Documents to the home directory based on security group membership
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