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I'm having a surprising amount of difficulty searching for an answer to this seemingly simple question. I came across an article on MSDN titled "Naming Files, Paths, and Namespaces", which whilst edifying, did not answer answer my question (unless I'm just failing to make the right connections).

Examples:

  • "My Documents" is a symbolic link/reparse point to any folder you specify. When using File Explorer to browse the directory in which the folder is contained, the folder is still shown as "My Documents" regardless of the actual folder name.
  • "iCloud Drive" is actually "iCloudDrive".
  • Within iCloudDrive, "Pages" is actually "com~apple~Pages".
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  • AFAIK, this is not related to the file/directory naming, but is a higher-level thing within Explorer itself. "My Documents" is not a symlink nor a reparse point, Explorer just shows it differently.
    – user1686
    Jun 22, 2015 at 11:55

3 Answers 3

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There are several things that can cause this. They include:

  • lnk files - These are a feature of Windows Explorer. Whilst Explorer treats these as a symbolic link, they are not and do not translate to other platforms. Explorer marks the icon with an overlay.
  • Junctions, Hardlinks, and Symlinks - These are features of NTFS, the Windows disk filing system.The first is Windows specific, the last 2 are standards and supported by all POSIX standard filing systems.
  • Libraries (W7+) - Introduced with Windows 7 to try to "simplify" the different locations you might have for common content
  • desktop.ini - As others have pointed out, the desktop.ini file can also define alternative names for folders, forgot that one.
  • Windows indirection - This is the murky area you are referring to I think. Definitions are hard to come by and generally buried deep in the OS. What I can say is that all of the indirection points are defined in the registry and you can search many of them out in there.

I don't know if that really makes things any clearer to be honest. If you need to know more about the indirection capabilities in Windows, you will need to learn (more than I do!) about the internals of programming Windows.

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This is due to desktop.ini customisations within Windows (most commonly used for folder icons).

The attribute you're looking for is LocalizedResourceName.

An extremely detailed reference to guide you: http://hwiegman.home.xs4all.nl/desktopini.html.

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It is a mistake to assume that Windows Explorer will show you actual file and folder names. There are numerous instances where it does not. Some of this nonsense is by Microsoft design, or as the result of third-party "extensions" that have been attached to Windows Explorer. The (usually "hidden") desktop.ini files in a folder are frequently involved in this sort of thing. If you need an accurate view of actual file/folder structure you should use the "dir" command in the Command Prompt facility.

"My Documents" in later Windows versions is a directory junction, not a symbolic link, which is very similar.

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