We recently examined the difference between the Roaming and Local AppData folders in Windows. One commenter wondered further what the difference between the AppData and ProgramData folders is. Let’s take a look at these two folders and find out how their roles differ.
As we discussed before, AppData is a folder inside your user directory. It contains data that is specific to your account. Usually, this includes configuration settings that are particular to your instance of an installed program.
The ProgramData folder is located at the root of your C: drive. Like AppData, it’s hidden by default so you won’t see it unless you show hidden folders. ProgramData is “used for application data that is not user specific,” according to Microsoft.
For instance, if you install a photo editing tool that contains built-in clip art, it should store these in ProgramData. It wouldn’t make sense to have multiple copies of common data spread across multiple user folders.
All user level custom skins and languages should be in %programdata% for shared things on a machine or %appdata% for user selection
— Russell Kay (@RussellKay) September 7, 2017
So as a contrast, Google Chrome should use AppData to store data about your settings and extensions. An antivirus program would use ProgramData to store definition information. The former lets multiple computer users all work with their own Chrome profile. And the latter lets all users benefit from the same information without wasting space duplicating it.
That’s all there is to AppData and ProgramData. They’re both folders that you shouldn’t need to touch under normal circumstances.
Did you know the difference between these two folders? Be sure to share this with your friends to educate them about Windows, too!
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