If you right-click or press Alt+Enter on a shortcut, Windows normally displays the context menu or Properties dialog right away, even if the shortcut is broken and points to a file or directory that no longer exists.

I have seen this take some time for broken shortcuts to .exe files where Windows spends several seconds (in this case 15), presumably trying to resolve the shortcut, before it finally shows the context-menu or Properties dialog. Even deleting the files waits for 15 seconds before showing the deletion prompt. Copying or moving them does not seem to trigger the delay.

I thought perhaps it could be a network related setting, but it seems to apply to every (broken) shortcut regardless of where they point. I looked through TweakUI and found nothing. I looked through the registry for 15,000 (and 0x3A98) and found none that applied as well as 15 (and 0x0f), which had many hits, but none that were responsible for this.

Is there a setting that determines the timeout for resolving shortcuts?

  • Does it always timeout after 15 seconds? – iglvzx May 25 '12 at 1:17
  • 1
    Yup, exactly 15 seconds each and every time. Hmm, it seems it happens only for .exe files. – Synetech May 25 '12 at 1:18
  • I wonder if you could try searching in FILETIME units (i.e. hundred-nanoseconds). That would make 15 seconds equal to 150,000,000 hundred-nanoseconds. Worth a shot! – iglvzx May 25 '12 at 1:30
  • I’ve never seen any UI settings in that format, and not surprisingly, it was not present anywhere in the registry. :-( – Synetech May 25 '12 at 1:34
  • At least one other person has had this bug, but they do not seem to have fixed it. The next time that I'm there, I'll try running Filemon/Regmon to see what's happening with it. – Synetech May 25 '12 at 15:40

It turned out that in this case, it was a shell-extension.

First, I observed that when the broken shortcut was right-clicked, Explorer would try to open the executable file it pointed to once ever second for 15 seconds before giving up.

I then observed all the registry entries that were accessed when the shortcut was right-clicked and went through each of HKCR\.lnk, HKCR\lnkfile, HKCR\.exe, and HKCR\exefile, checking each one for anything unusual.

  1. I opened the registry editor and disabled all of the exefile extensions (by appending a ‘#’ to the beginning of each CLSID)
  2. I found that right-clicking was immediate. Wonderful!
  3. I then reenabled each extension by removing the ‘#’, right-clicking the broken shortcut each time

Voila! The offending extension was {F0407C3D-349C-42B9-B83E-821E31623DF9} which corresponds to CmdLineExt which sound innocent enough (there is already an extension that opens a command-line prompt at any folder), but it is not. This insidious and clearly buggy extension is in fact SecuROM context menu for Explorer by Sony DADC Austria AG, and it seems that this extension is nothing but trouble.

I’m not sure how or when it got installed (probably piece of some software), but Sony’s is known for their ‘rootkits’.

Anyway, from what I can tell, Windows does not have a delay for resolving shortcuts; it immediately detects broken shortcuts and eats the error (uses defaults).

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