In my 'Documents' folder (Win7) I have two folders with names that appear in Explorer to be identical, though their contents are different. I can rename them both to something else (eg: 'Test') and Explorer doesn't complain. The dir listing that cmd.exe and powershell gives me only lists one of them, but also lists this suspicious entry:

20/04/2010  12:16 PM    <DIR>          ????

Even if I rename the folders to have unique names, one of them still shows up as ???? in cmd.exe. Desktop.ini in my Documents folder doesn't contain anything out of the ordinary. Both folders appear to be read-only in their properties panel, and if I untick the read-only box it will ask me if I want to apply the action recursively, but either way when I close the panel and open it again the folder is once again read-only. They are both set to not inherit permissions.

The folder that shows up correctly in the cmd.exe dir listing is the "real" one, the other seems to be automatically created when a program tries to access it. How is this possible? This is driving me nuts!

  • haven't paid much attention yet to win7 but it does do wierd things within the users folder. I think it tries to create links that are used for compatiblity issues. I haven't fully investigated this yet! – user33788 Jun 9 '10 at 14:55
  • Do you have any clues as to what program is creating/accessing the folders? – Velociraptors Jun 9 '10 at 16:38
  • For more information about the strange behavior of the read-only box, see Folder keeps changing back to read-only. What permissions setup causes this in Windows? – Bavi_H Jun 10 '10 at 1:07
  • Bavi - wonderful UI design there :-) The program is a bit of agricultural software we paid to have developed in 2004. The developer isn't around any more and we don't have the source code. – R. A. Chaucer Jun 10 '10 at 4:19

Backup the content of these folders then run a check disk using the following command:

chkdsk /x /v /f c:

The check will start at the next boot.

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  • chkdsk found no errors. Should have mentioned that in my original post. – R. A. Chaucer Jun 10 '10 at 4:01

Maybe somehow , something made two folder with the same name, but with different case. Like Doc and DOc. NTFS supports case sensitive filenames, but its disabled in Windows.

Your best bet if you get a Ubuntu livecd. Burn it out or put it on a pendrive and boot. You'll be able to spot the alien thingie there for sure like this.

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I'm a total newbie to Win-7, but I've seen this problem on other OS's. When I've seen it, it has to do with a non-printable character in the file name. I can't ever remember seeing it on a windows machine. I've seen it in UNIX, and MS-Dos. The "?" character is a MS-Dos specific character for deleted files, this is also propagated to windows. I'm not sure if you're trying to say the "?" shows or it's a place holder.

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  • The ???? actually gets printed; the dir snippet I posted is a direct copy-paste. Unless there's something really weird in the way that explorer handles renames, I don't think the issue is with non-printable characters because I've renamed them both. – R. A. Chaucer Jun 10 '10 at 4:05
  • The "?" is also a windows wildcard. – Dave Jun 10 '10 at 16:31

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