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date 10.Feb.2013

■ Folder junctions aren't fit for the long haul

NTFS file system has a rich support for shortcuts/links/reparse points, which essentially serve to access file and folder items indirectly from many locations. All these filesystem objects originate from UNIX, the retro operating system that had networks when windows programmers were in arboreal state. NTFS eventually got support for all UNIX link types but always something seems to be lacking.

xplorer² can create all different link types (plain shortcuts, hard links, folder junctions and symbolic links). In the past I praised folder junctions (reparse points) time and again because they can be put in many a useful service. Symbolic links were considered inferior because to create one you need full administrator rights.

Folder junctions are very good for reorganizing local filesystem structure, but I recently stumbled on a major flaw: they cannot link to network folders — not even mapped drives! If you try to create a reparse point to a share using Edit > Paste special menu, the junction is created, but if you try to use it you will find it doesn't work:

	Location is not available
	C:\Junction to setup is not accessible.
	The data present in the reparse point buffer is invalid.

You can access the network folder if you press <Ctrl+L> to resolve the target address, but that's not how a link is meant to work — cut short in its prime! On the other hand, symbolic links to network resources do work. So if you value network shares you need to go in the trouble of elevating xplorer² using Window > Administrator menu to create a symbolic link.

If you have problems creating symbolic links, note that they were introduced with windows Vista so it won't work for windows XP or older. Also you cannot create any reparse point on a FAT partition (it is a NTFS feature) — but you can create a symlink to a folder on FAT!

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