I've got an application that has created some sort of filesystem directory link that I've never come across. It appears to behave exactly like a symbolic link to the directory, except that as far as I can tell it is not, and the software claims support as far back as Windows 95, and predates Vista anyway... However somehow Explorer knows it's not real and gave me the little shortcut icon you also get for sym links (I'm running Windows 7).

I created an application to show me all the file attributes. This object only has the FILE_ATTRIBUTE_DIRECTORY and FILE_ATTRIBUTE_READONLY bits set (a sym link or ntfs junction also gets FILE_ATTRIBUTE_REPARSE_POINT).

The application calls it a "Shell Link" however I was under the impression a "Shell Link" is just another term for the .lnk shortcut files you get, isn't it?

What exactly is this link thing, how can I detect it isn't a real folder (Explorer seems to), and also how can I create my own ones since it is seeming right now to give me what I want most often from symlinks, but in something that works pre-vista?

  • What's the size of this object? Does it use NTFS streams? Is there an application registered with that file type? – Ioan Jul 20 '11 at 11:15
  • It reports itself as a directory, so no size or file type that I can see. In using "dir" in the command prompt it justs shows up as "20/07/2011 09:56 <DIR> MyLink" – Will Jul 20 '11 at 11:34
  • Can you "cd" into it from a command prompt? Is it a "real" directory, or does it give you a virtual listing? – Luke Jul 20 '11 at 14:08
  • Hmm thats intersting. Gave me a folder with a desktop.ini and target.lnk whereas everything else I tried (Which I guess was using the MS provided folder navigation) ended up somwhere else. I guess some sort of desktop.ini magic with a CLSID, so i suppose "Shell Link" is the correct term? – Will Jul 20 '11 at 16:01
  • Apparently it is a special kind of folder shortcut; Explorer recognizes them and just takes you to the target directory. – Luke Jul 20 '11 at 21:47

NTFS supports symbolic links. I doubt Windows 95 support, but it will work fine under any version of Windows that runs under NTFS. I've done it in Windows 2000.


They're typically called "junction points" under Windows.

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