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I need something supported at least on Windows XP and not requiring any new user downloads hopefully.

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7 Answers 7

Have you looked at Junction? Also, Windows Vista introduced the mklink command line tool to create symbolic links. Scott Hanselman has a write-up on it at http://www.hanselman.com/blog/MoreOnVistaReparsePoints.aspx. If you're speaking solely about Windows XP, I've only ever used the Junction tool.

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Looks like another option could be the /J switch on mklink (like "mklink /J <JUNCTION> <DIR>"). Note that it isn't a separate executable, it is a command in cmd so if you're calling from PowerShell, you'll have to shell out to cmd (i.e. "cmd /c mklink /J <JUNCTION> <DIR>") –  David Mohundro May 10 '11 at 19:14
Wow junction works great. It creates a real symbolic link so even Cygwin will follow it. –  styfle Sep 19 '11 at 19:20
mklink was exactly what i was looking for. –  prolink007 Feb 14 '14 at 17:49

There is a tool called Link Shell Extension which makes it easy to create symlinks to files, as well as an older type of link called a "Junction" (basically, a symlink to a folder) as well as many more exotic types of links.

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Basic usage is simple: Navigate to the source folder, right click on the file or folder you want to link to, and choose the new "Pick Link Source" option from the context menu. Then go to the folder where you want to drop the link, right-click, and select "Drop As" and then either "Symbolic Link" for files or "Junction" for folders.


BEWARE: One reason Microsoft makes it hard to do this is that junctions and symlinks can make it very easy to accidentally DELETE CRITICAL FILES!

In some versions prior to Windows 7, deleting a junction or symlink in Explorer would automatically DELETE THE ORIGINAL DIRECTORY as well!

I believe that this problem has now been solved... but of course I make no promises... be particularly careful with third party file browsers (if you're to the point of needing symlinks, I'm sure you're painfully aware of how hard the Windows 7 Explorer blows.)

But I digress. My point is: be careful, do your homework and read the LSE documentation to find out how junctions and symlinks really work, and for gawd's sake BACK EVERYTHING UP before you start messing with junctions and symlinks!

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the referenced directory should work as if it had actually been added to %PATH%, right

No, if you had C:\bin added to your %PATH% and inside c:\bin you created a Junction called c:\bin\anotherDir\ to point to c:\anotherDir\ so that you could run some.exe from the command line like:

> anotherDir\some.exe

This would not work since the %PATH% variable does not work with sub directories (symlinked or not)

you would need to create a hardlink directly to some.exe, so the hardlink c:\bin\some.exe points to c:\anotherDir\some.exe

So in summary I don't believe you can do exactly what you are asking. That said I do recommend Link Shell Extension for creating Junctions and hardlinks. It offers more capabilities than most junction tools in a very easy to use windows explorer extension

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Try Symlinker a GUI tool to create Symlink in Windows works on all windows Versions

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Can it create symlinks on Windows XP? –  Sebastian Godelet Dec 11 '12 at 8:20

I don't think the version of NTFS that comes with XP supports symbolic links. NTFS6, which ships in Vista and Windows 7, supports symbolic links with the mklink command. The XP version of NTFS does support hardlinks, but these cannot span volumes.

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Junction is a great utility but one thing to watch for is that junction points look exactly the same as ordinary folders in Windows Explorer.

Use 'junction.exe -s' on the command line to list all junctions in folders and sub-folders.

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I used and recommend Junction tool from Microsoft SysInternals: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896768.aspx

Example using cmd.exe:

junction c:\Program-Files "c:\Program Files"
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