"My Documents" (now called "Documents" in Windows 7), My Music, My Videos, Downloads and all those special folders where user data is supposed to live: how do you use them? Do you use them? Ignore them? Remap them to other locations?
Starting from Win95, Microsoft have been gradually expanding the scope of these folders. In Win95 I basically ignored them completely. In XP I couldn't just ignore them anymore, because a lot of apps want to use them all the time for all kinds of data. Now Windows 7 adds more of those folders and includes them in the new "libraries". Together with the stricter permissions regime, this means it's harder than ever to avoid those folders or not use them at all.
As to why one would avoid them, here's one fine reason: data safety and your backup strategy. Every respectable backup guide these days will tell you that the most robust scenario, and one that will minimize the chance you will one day cry, is to keep your data well separated from the system and software. Good advice is, at minimum, to keep the OS and all software on your system partition, and keep all your data on a separate partition on the same disk. This is no good in case of a hardware failure, so to be safer, make it separate disk drives, not just separate partitions.
This is what I do. I feel this is the safest solution, barring a remote colo server to store backups at. It has also made it extremely quick and easy for me to go from XP to Windows 7 and back in two days, since I had exactly zero worry about my data.
(Okay, a slight exception: I also backup and restore some apps' configuration, such as Firefox bookmarks or EmEditor settings. This is a gray area somewhere between software and data, and typically you don't have much control over where it is stored, especially if it's the registry. But losing my syntax highlighting schemes wouldn't really make me cry, so let's omit that for the moment. Also, the appdata folders can be remapped, too, though I've never done that.)
Now, what does Microsoft do? Why, exactly the opposite! Microsoft creates all the specially designated folders where everyone is supposed to keep their data, and these folders are always on the same partition as the system! Who needs best practices anyway? Now nearly all applications use those folders, and meanwhile, all these years Windows has never once asked you where YOU want to keep your data. I could praise MS for improving how the folders are designed and organized, but instead I'm going to berate them: you are forced into a little pen, the pen is dangerous for you, and it takes much effort (or at least some orientation and tweaking) to escape it. With each new version of Windows, it's getting harder.
In XP I have My Documents remapped to my secondary drive, and it mostly works well - except for some rare applications where the path location is hard-coded. I've seen such apps, but I couldn't give an example right now, so I guess they're not even on my radar anymore. OTOH, I have never remapped "My music" or "My videos", and prefer to store these types of files where Windows doesn't know. Reason: any media player these days will want to continually scan and index these locations, and I don't want to have three or four or five such indexes on my system. Also, I have seen a media player that, upon first run, not only indexed mp3s, but started pulling online data and **updating tags in my files** with it, all before I had a chance to say no. (I had to restore a lot of files from backup, thanks a lot.) So I keep my media where these applications won't find them until I manually point them to the folders.
That has worked well for me in XP. But during my short-lived foray into 7, I began to wonder. Is remapping still a good idea? Do the new libraries make any difference? I thought they might make remapping obsolete, since you can just add your "real" personal folders to the default libraries instead. Yet having done that, apps would still write data to C:\users\username, and I'm not going to allow this.
So what do you do with regard to these folders? What did you do in XP or Vista, and are you doing anything different in 7? Or planning to? What's the smart thing to do?