Symbolic links to files and directories in Windows

To my shame, I thought that Windows still lives in the previous century without links in the file system. I knew about junctions, links to directories, which can be created, for instance, in FAR via Alt-F6.

But today, thumbing through “Windows Internals”, I came across a paragraph about it.

So, there is a little log from the console (Windows 7).


Microsoft Windows [Version 6.1.7601]

Create a file and a directory:

cd C:\Temp\links C:\temp\links>mkdir folder C:\temp\links>echo >file

Create a symbolic link to the directory:

C:\temp\links>mklink /D link1 folder
symbolic link created for link1 <<===>> folder

Create a junction to the directory (it isn’t possible to point it to a file):

C:\temp\links>mklink /J link2 folder
Junction created for link2 <<===>> folder

Create a symbolic link slightly differently:

C:\temp\links>mklink link3 folder
symbolic link created for link3 <<===>> folder

Create a symbolic link to a file:

C:\temp\links>mklink link4 file
symbolic link created for link4 <<===>> file


 Volume in drive C has no label.
 Volume Serial Number is C021-6C9F

 Directory of C:\temp\links

09/05/2011  18:26    <DIR>          .
09/05/2011  18:26    <DIR>          ..
09/05/2011  18:26                13 file
09/05/2011  18:25    <SYMLINKD>     link1 [folder]
09/05/2011  18:25    <JUNCTION>     link2 [C:\temp\links\folder]
09/05/2011  18:25    <SYMLINK>      link3 [folder]
09/05/2011  18:26    <SYMLINK>      link4 [file]
09/05/2011  18:23    <DIR>          folder
               3 File(s)             13 bytes
               5 Dir(s)  208,278,925,312 bytes free

Note the interesting types of files: <SYMLINKD>, <JUNCTION>, <SYMLINK>. The book says the first two are identical in functionality, simply <JUNCTION> is older mechanism available in older versions of Windows and supporting links within the same volume only.

Also, note that even link3 points to a directory, it doesn’t behave as a regular directory (in contrast to link1 and link2 which work normally as directories). FAR, by the way, also doesn’t see link3 as a directory.

In general, such simple task as links in the file system, solved in UNIX more than twenty years ago, has been solved in Windows in traditional for this operating system way - there are multiple solutions with different level of compatibility.

By the way, “Windows Internals” is bloody fantastic, strongly recommend.

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