In Windows OS, the term "physical path" appeared here and there.

Is "physical path" physical at all?

Is it related to the hard disk physical structure?

  • This is not computer science terminology, it's Windows terminology. (Which, based on David's answer, has been mostly but not exactly inherited from Unix terminology, so it's very widespread among relevant technologies. But it's still a question about a specific technology, not about science.) Hence I'm migrating this question to a site about computer technology. Aug 16, 2018 at 19:11

1 Answer 1


The "physical path" of an object is its actual location within the file system, as specified by a sequence of directories starting from the root and not including any shortcuts/symbolic links.

This is compared to a "relative path", which is a path beginning at the current directory, rather than the root, and which may involve shortcuts, or to a "logical path" which may, for example, be a path specified in a URL and which doesn't necessarily correspond directly to a path in the file system.

It's not related to the hard drive's physical structure, but only to the data and metadata stored on it. (Except that, at the most literal level, all data is stored physically by orienting magnetic fields or charging capacitors or burning into a disc with a laser.)

  • 2
    No, it does not make much sense to contrast "physical path" with "relative path". The antonym of "physical path" is "logical path". The antonym of "absolute path" is "relative path". So we can have all four combinations, "absolute physical path", "absolute logical path", "relative physical path" and "relative logical path".
    – Apass.Jack
    Aug 16, 2018 at 1:37

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