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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Game File Management

Time to discuss something non-controversial. If like me you play many games, and like to have them installed even when taking a break from them, sooner or later you will run into hard drive space constraints. It's a fundamental law of hard drives. No matter how large the drive, within about a year it'll be 80% full. That's why last year I bought a new 256 gigabyte (GB) Solid State Drive (SSD) and mode it my new system drive.

But true to the law, a year later I find myself space constrained. This happened when I started playing The Elder Scrolls Online. The install program requires 30 GB of available space. My "new" 256 GB didn't have 30 GB free space remaining. Oops. I removed some older programs and made the space, but it pained me to remove programs I might want to use again. I ended up re-installing some programs into the platter drives. This is an untenable situation, unless I'm willing use the two platter type drives for programs. I am not. Once you load from an SSD, you never go back.

Fortunately for me I still had the 75 GB SSD my system originally shipped with over three years ago. It was the original system drive, and back then it was amply large. Unfortunately, it is no longer large enough (witness 256 GB SSD being 80% full) to hold everything. However, it is more than large enough to be an OS only drive. That would free at least 60 GB on the other SSD for programs. So my plan was hatched. I'd move the OS (Windows 8.1) back to the smaller SSD, reformat the larger SSD and move all my games (and other programs) to it.

The first step in such a process is a daunting one. How do you move your OS to a new drive without having to do a complete re-install? I have no interest in rebuilding my entire configuration. That's worse than any grind you can do in any MMO. Fortunately there is no reason to undertake such a mistake. What you need is a program named Paragon Migrate OS to SSD™ 4.0. You can purchase it here. It is $19.95 and worth every damn cent.

[caption id="attachment_2363" align="aligncenter" width="675"]Migrate OS to SSD Select Screen (post migration obviously) Migrate OS to SSD Select Screen (post migration obviously)[/caption]

It automates the entire process of moving an OS partition from one hard drive to any SSD of sufficient size. All you have to do is select the SSD you wish to move the OS partition to. The software takes care of everything else. It took me less than 15 minutes to migrate my OS partition to the old SSD, after I'd moved all the games off it, which is what I'll cover next. The only "manual" thing I had to do was go into my UEFI BIOS and set the smaller SSD as the primary boot device. That was it. It booted right up and my system configuration was the exact same as it had been on the larger SSD.

Now, about moving those game files. There's a reason I like to use Steam. Steam makes it fracking easy. Ever since steam started allowing multiple install libraries, moving games installed via Steam as been as easy as one, two, three, four.

  1. Create a new Steam folder structure for a library on the new drive. The only path you need create is "\\Program Files (86)\Steam." To do this click on Steam at the top of the Steam client and click Settings, when Settings opens click on Downloads, then click on Steam Folder Libraries. Add a new library at the path you just created as I've done below. You can have as many as you like.

    [caption id="attachment_2348" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Steam Library Creation Steam Library Creation[/caption]

  2. Copy all the folders under "\\Program Files (86)\Steam\SteamApps\" common into the same directory on the receiving drive. That's a copy, not a move.

  3. Once all folders are copied, delete the local files using steam. This will delete the old folders and revert the game to an uninstalled status.

    [caption id="attachment_2347" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Steam Uninstall Steam Uninstall[/caption]


  4. Re-install your Steam games into the new library.

    [caption id="attachment_2349" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Steam Re-install Steam Re-install[/caption]

That's it. All your Steam games are now moved to the new drive and Steam has preserves all your configuration settings. Other game managers like Origin can do the same thing. You just need to go into their settings and change the default installation folders. For Origin it's Origin --> Application Settings --> Advanced, but you'll need to create the new folders first.

[caption id="attachment_2352" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Origin Advanced Settings Origin Advanced Settings[/caption]

I've had good luck with games that store user settings on their servers. For example, I have absolutely no problem removing SimCity 2013 and then installing it elsewhere as above. All my settings are on EA's servers. It's no big deal. Perhaps it will be if you play in offline mode all the time, but I don't do that. I've never had an issue with needing a full-time internet connection.

League of Legends is another easy migration. Configurations, logs and screenshots are all left in the original Riot Games folder on the old drive. All you have to do is install the game again and copy those folders to the Riot Games folder in the new location. Also, and very importantly, you need to save your <account name>.properties file (mine is in \Riot Games\RADS\projects\lol_air_client\releases.0 .1.17\deploy\preferences. This file contains your Item Set associations and is not saved when the game is uninstalled. You will need to copy this file back into the folder once the re-install is complete.

Other programs pose a bit more of an issue. The process is similar, though the results are not always as good. For instance, you must install EVE Online into an empty folder. I've tried making a copy of the old files in a third location, then uninstalling EVE Online so I can install it in the new location. After it's installed in the new location, I overwrite the install with the copy of the old install I'd saved. That doesn't work, at least it never has for me. I end up re-configuring my overview and video settings regardless. And the option they allow you to un-check to preserve your user settings and cache seems to do absolutely nothing.

[caption id="attachment_2350" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVE Online Un-install EVE Online Un-install[/caption]

I guess I'm missing something, but it's not important enough for me to pursue further. I can reconfigure my overview in 5 minutes or less now. I've done a time or twelve.

Games like Elder Scrolls Online and Starcraft II you just have to uninstall and re-install in the new location. There aren't many settings to adjust regardless so any effort to save them just adds time to the migration. If you are playing the campaign game in Starcraft II your current progress is saved to so you don't have to worry about it. If you are playing in offline mode all I can say is... why? It could be you're on a submarine or something, but Starcraft II really is best when played against others - just saying.

Anyway, I hope this run down on how to migrate your OS and game installations to other drives is helpful. Even with knowing all the tricks, and having done it a few times already, it still took about 8 hours total to complete everything. However, most of that was taken up by just downloading and installing the non-Steam games. In fact, as I post this I am still only 75% of the way through The Elder Scrolls Online re-install. Woof, that is one big install. I hope I don't have to do it again anytime soon. And for those who have stuck with this all the way through, I give you this as payment.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="381"]XKCD - Old Files XKCD - Old Files[/caption]


1 comment:

  1. EVE settings are saved under C:\Users\\AppData\Local\CCP\EVE\ (for win7 anyway). The syntax for the install_folder name is driveletter_folder_folder_(as many folders as you have). You can find the individual character settings in the settings folder.


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