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The "vista" folder structure - in all its insanity

Posted on 2009-07-04
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Last Modified: 2012-08-13
Can somebody explain it to me? How are the major important files in Vista laid out? What folders are the most important data in? And how is it different from the way that XP does it.

In particular, I'd like these confusing points addressed:

- The "Documents and Settings" folder seems to exist alongside the "Users" folder, and most of the time it isn't accessible. When you try to access it, it appears to contain the same data as the Users folder. Duplicated data?

- In addition to the "All Users" user profile, there is also a "Public", "Default" and "Default User" profile, which seems to be redundant?

- The "Application Data" folder exists alongside the "AppData" folder.

- ..and if that wasn't confusing enough, there also seems to be a "C:\ProgramData" folder.

- The "Users\[username]\Documents, Pictures, Videos" etc. folders seem to be some kind of symbolic links to the "Documents and Settings\[username]\..." folders

- The recycling bin folder has changed. It has a dollar sign in it now?



What on earth is going on here? Is this supposed to be some archaic attempt at changing the folder structure and still maintaining backwards compatibility with XP?
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Question by:Frosty555
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by:
qz8dsw earned 800 total points
ID: 24778874
1) "When you try to access it, it appears to contain the same data as the Users folder. Duplicated data?"
Not duplicated, more symbolic links.

2) "there is also a "Public", "Default" and "Default User" profile, which seems to be redundant?"
Depending on your flavour of Vista they are not redundant. Default User was used under XP and any new user created took on the default users profile (as it was copied). Mainly for start menu, desktop etc type icons.
But your right, depending on your use of Vista the public profile can most definately be redundant.

3) Yup and Yup.
Think of AppData replacing Application Data and ProgramData is sort of system wide setting for programs. (As opposed to user settings).

4) Yup, correct. (read my answer to number 6).

5) Yup, it does.

6) "Is this supposed to be some archaic attempt at changing the folder structure and still maintaining backwards compatibility with XP?"
I don't think they are trying to maintain backwards compatability, BUT there are still sloppy programmers who hardcode the directories. As an example, Using %appdata% would take you to the application data directory under your profile.
HOWEVER the way I see it they needed a way to try and make sure programmers who didn't use the % variables available for they settings or registry keys could still find a way to their data on an upgrade.
So symbolic links would have seemed the easiest way rather than re-writing the registry keys.
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Assisted Solution

by:Darr247
Darr247 earned 120 total points
ID: 24778957
> ..and if that wasn't confusing enough, there also seems to be a "C:\ProgramData" folder.

I believe that one is linked to the "C:\Users\All Users" folder, too.
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LVL 12

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by:John Griffith
John Griffith earned 1080 total points
ID: 24783460
Hi -
Yes, c:\users\all users = c:\ProgramData
Here is a MSDN piece on Vista Junctions and the folder to which they re-direct (some XP folders are now Vista Junctions) - scroll about 1/2-way down the page - http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb756982.aspx
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LVL 12

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by:John Griffith
John Griffith earned 1080 total points
ID: 24783634
I obtained this listing from the registry - (hope it helps) -

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders
   
    AppData        %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming
    Cache          %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files
    Cookies        %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Cookies
    Desktop        %USERPROFILE%\Desktop
    Favorites      %USERPROFILE%\Favorites
    History        %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\History
    Local AppData  %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local
    My Music       %USERPROFILE%\Music
    My Pictures    %USERPROFILE%\Pictures
    My Video       %USERPROFILE%\Videos
    NetHood        %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Network Shortcuts
    Personal       %USERPROFILE%\Documents
    PrintHood      %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Printer Shortcuts
    Programs       %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs
    Recent         %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Recent
    SendTo         %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\SendTo
    Startup        %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup
    Start Menu     %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu
    Templates      %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Templates
   
	%USERPROFILE% = c:\users\username

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