Where's My Software?

I often work with multiple users on a single computer. When I create a new user or log onto a different user account I may find some of the previously installed software missing. Technically it's not missing; it's just missing from the desktop program files or quick launch bar. Windows protects modern users from accessing and accidentally destroying program files primarily by placing shortcuts for them to access. Where the shortcuts are placed depends on the software vendor.

When a program is installed it can be installed for the current users or all users on a computer. If the software is installed only for the current user any new user will have to reinstall or otherwise create a shortcut to use that software. In some cases where the software is to be personalized a new installation may be the preferred method. If the software is installed only for the current user simply by design or as a design flaw of the installation you can manipulate the shortcut files in order to access the missing software.

This is where a background in DOS can be useful. Creating shortcuts is a simple matter of copying them from other users' Profiles or Start Menus depending on the version of Windows in use. But before you get started develop a plan. The program icons in a current user's menu may be in his profile or in the "All Users" profile. If you want an items to default to be added to a new users programs then move it from the current user to the All Users profile. If you just want to make a copy of a shortcut for a new user without adding it to All Users profile COPY it to the new users folder.

The way I handle this is to open two separate Windows Explorer windows. Put the destination window on the same side all the time to avoid getting confused. (I use the right) In one window navigate to the Documents and Settings window then the name of the user from which you want to copy/move the programs. In the other window navigate to the name of the user you want to copy programs to. In most cases you will want to move the files to the All Users profile so everyone has access. Otherwise COPY them to the destination profile.

Now let me be specific.

First the folders you want to do the copying and moving are the Start Menu and the program links in the Programs folder inside the Start Menu folder. This is the Start Menu that many people have all of their programs. These are found in C:\Documents and Settings\username\Start Menu

The program icons and folders that appear on the Desktop are located in the folder in C:\Documents and Settings\username\Desktop Often this includes only a few of the programs that they have installed. The Desktop could also have data files that you may or may not want to copy/move.

And finally the Quick Launch icons which is primarily what I use to execute programs are located in C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch

The quick launch icons seem to be user specific on my computer since there is no similar folder in the "All Users" profile.

In earlier versions of Windows the location of the folders will be different. In one version you need to look for Profiles instead of Documents and Settings. In some versions of Windows the All Users profile is only used to copy those shortcuts to the new user's profile. Subsequent installs may only be done placed in the current users profile. You can play with it to see how it works on your version.

I got a reminder of how to do this when I was rebuilding a number of computers loading the software from an administrative account and then creating a new user for the person to receive the computer. Using the above knowledge you could also do the reverse by moving programs from All Users to your profile thereby not providing access to them for other users of your computer.

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