Windows Vista mysteries "Hands on"

Several readers have been puzzled by ‘Access denied’ messages when they try to open certain folders in Windows Vista Explorer or from an application’s File Open or Save dialogue. For example, complained E Jones, “C:\Documents and Settings is not accessible. I do not understand why access to my own documents should be denied.” Another reader […]

Several readers have been puzzled by ‘Access denied’ messages when they try to open certain folders in Windows Vista Explorer or from an application’s File Open or Save dialogue. For example, complained E Jones, “C:\Documents and Settings is not accessible. I do not understand why access to my own documents should be denied.”

Another reader was frustrated by her inability to add shortcuts to the Send to folder. “I’ve been using this since Windows 95 and very useful it is too – but how the heck do I open it?”

There are a number of these folders around that can’t be opened, and they are distinguished by faint folder icons with an arrow overlay. You only see them if you have both ‘Show hidden files and folders’ ticked and ‘Hide protected operating system files’ unticked in Folder Options, View.

Although Explorer lists them as File Folders they are not: they are junctions (also known as reparse points) that point programs to the correct locations. Many of the default locations have changed in Vista. For example, Documents and Settings in XP contains user profiles.

In Vista these are stored in Users, So, if an installation routine, for example, is looking for the XP location of a user’s Start menu to park a shortcut, the junction will point it in the right direction. However, junctions don’t work with Explorer – instead of whisking you to the correct location they just produce that annoying ‘Access denied’ message.

Either this is an atrocious piece of design or it’s intended as a punishment for those bold enough to ignore the warning surrounding ‘Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)’. So, though it may go against the ethos of hardened handsonauts, it may make sense to capitulate and hide the files unless you are on a mission that requires you to see them.

This will also get rid of those annoying desktop.ini files on the Desktop. If you want to know where the Sendto folder has gone, it’s buried down at Users \username \AppData\Roaming \Microsoft \Windows\
Sendto.

You can find out the targets of all the junctions in a folder by opening a command prompt in that folder and typing dir /al. If you read our Vista Essentials feature you’ll know that if you hold down the Shift key and right-click on or in a folder you get the ‘Open Command Window Here’ option.

There’s a much easier way to get to junction destinations, however. If you type ‘Sendto’ in the Run box, which worked in previous versions of Windows, this produces the annoying ‘Access denied’ message in Vista, irrespective of the Folder Options View settings.

Instead, type ‘Shell:sendto’, which will open the correct folder. This works with many system folders – see the box on the opposite page for some useful examples, and remember there should be no space either side of the colon.

Although these commands don’t seem to be documented anywhere on Microsoft.com, there’s a list on Ed Holloway’s site. Many of these commands, for instance ‘Cache’, also work with XP.

Another annoyance was voiced by several readers who were trying to network an XP computer with a Vista PC. Although the latter could access the former’s shared folders correctly, any attempt to access folders on the Vista machine from the XP machine was met with a request for a username and password.

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Windows Vista, Tips and Tricks, Knowledgebase