How can I rename my user folder to set up a symbolic link in Windows 7?

Bill Earl May 2, 2011
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I am trying to implement some of the methodology in the “Stuff Happens” guide. I’m running Windows 7-64 bit. I set up another partition (D) and copied all of my profile files to it. Now I would like to rename C:\Users|{username} to C:\Users\{username}_old.

I log on using my Administrator Account. When I try to do this using “Windows Explorer” and I right click on the folder then select rename and rename the folder, I get an error that the folder or a file in it is open and it can’t be renamed. I repeated this process immediately after rebooting (no programs running) and I get the same result. I rebooted the computer then logged on as Administrator and opened a command window (as Administrator) and went to the C:\Users> prompt and tried to rename {username} using the rename command. I get an error that access is denied.

Is there some other way to rename this directory? I realize that I can’t set up the symbolic link to my D: partition until the directory (folder) in the C: partition is renamed.


  1. CReisman
    March 4, 2012 at 11:08 am

    The reason for your problem is that files are open inside your folder. Programs store information in your user folder and access it (including programs loaded automatically on normal startup). Paths cannot be changed while a file is open or it will break things, so the OS doesn't allow it. You can create a secondary admin account and log in as that account (without being logged into the first account) and it will work just fine.

  2. Bill Earl
    May 3, 2011 at 11:13 am

    I had the same thought late last night. So I tried it this morning. Interestingly enough if I booted in "safe Mode" and then tried to use Windows Explorer to go to the directory and change its name I got the same errors as before. I then tried to use the rename command from the command prompt and again was denied access. So, I decided to reboot in Safe Mode with Command line (or whatever the correct name is) and then I was able to change the name of the folder. Then I could go forward with the symbolic links, etc.

    By the way, for those who are unfamiliar with Safe Mode, you can access it by repetitively hitting the F8 key while your computer is booting up. If you get to the Windows logo you'll have to reboot again, hitting F8 and it should give you a menu of options for Safe Mode.


  3. Tina
    May 3, 2011 at 5:44 am


    I have to admit that I ran into the same issue when I tried to do this on a freshly installed Windows 7 on my laptop. For some reason this wasn't an issue on my Windows 7 netbook, which I used to write the PDF Guide.

    I solved it by booting into Safe Mode and logging in as Administrator. I could then rename the user folder and set up the symbolic link.

    Please let us know whether that works for you!