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What Are These desktop.ini Files I Keep Seeing?

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Have you ever seen those weird desktop.ini files that seem to pop-up everywhere? The truth is that they do serve a purpose and Windows uses them to identify how a folder should be displayed, much like the .DS_Store files used in OS X.

When you create a new folder in Windows it is created with the standard folder icon, one common use of the desktop.ini file is to use to it set a custom icon for a folder, however this is not the only thing that it is used for. A typical desktop.ini will look like something like this:

[.ShellClassInfo]
ConfirmFileOp=0
IconFile=Folder.ico
IconIndex=0
InfoTip=Type Your InfoTip Here.

The desktop.ini file can contain alot of attributes but the following custom attributes are the most common:

  • ConfirmFileOp
  • IconFile
  • IconIndex
  • InfoTip

ConfirmFileOp
If set to 0, avoids the “You Are Deleting a System Folder” when deleting or moving a folder.

IconFile
Specify a custom icon file. You can use either a .ico, .exe or .dll file.

IconIndex
Specify the index for a custom icon. If the file assigned to IconFile only contains a single icon, the IconIndex should be set to 0.

InfoTip
A string of text that will be displayed when you hover over the folder.

As you can see the desktop.ini file holds folder customization information. They are hidden by default and will only be displayed if you choose to Display Protected Operating System Files by unchecking the checkbox.

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You can customize your folders by creating your own desktop.ini folder in Notepad. Make sure to change the type to Unicode before saving though.

Taylor Gibb is a Microsoft MVP and all round geek, he loves everything from Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012 and even C# and PowerShell. You can also follow him on Google+

  • Published 11/2/11

Comments (19)

  1. Asgaro

    Thx, didn’t know this :)

  2. Midnight

    I always wondered what some of those strange files were and now I know.
    Thanks for the info!!

  3. Steve

    There is no such thing as dumb question or useless information. This is good to know! Thanks HTG.

  4. Silverlight

    Thanks! :-)

  5. Roi

    Why are there 2 desktop.ini files on my desktop?

  6. spam spam bacon spam

    Awesome~sauce, dood!

    Anyone know WTH those “thumbs” files are….and how do I get rid of them?

  7. eggs bacon sausage and spam

    @ spam spam bacon spam

    Thunbs.db are the thumbnail images of various files in the folder (like jpeg, avi, etc). Thumbnails can show the image of the file itself (or the first frame of a video clip) rather than display the generic file type icon. Rather than generate thumbnails every time you access the file, windows caches the thumbnail images in the thumbs.db.

    The files are safe to delete, but if you use image or icon view in windows explorer, the thumbs.db will be recreated. They are generally a hidden file.

  8. Pezo

    In Windows 7 (maybe also Vista, don’t have it) the IconFile and IconIndex properties are replaced by the IconResource property.
    The syntax is filename,index: IconResource=file.ico,0

  9. gilteon

    @Roi, because one is in your user’s Desktop folder, while the other is in the All User’s Desktop folder. The icons shown on the desktop you see are the combination of both folders.

  10. nsh

    Is there a way to hide the desktop.ini so you don’t have the ghost icon on the desktop in Win 7?

  11. Paul Kopco

    Any middle school kid who paid attention in English class can tell you that “alot” is not a word, but you have the additional ignorance to use it as an underlined link? It’s two words, Mr. Professional Writer, like “a lot,” and you could have used “lot” as the link. Back to school for you. (P.S. I’m a teacher.)

  12. me

    @gilteon

    Thanks, I always wondered what they were for.

  13. Roi

    @Paul Kopco
    Please take your criticism and leave.

  14. Ivydapple

    I’ve wondered what that desktop.ini folder has been for a while. I accidentally set a .txt document to burn to disc, and when I went in to remove it, there was a desktop.ini file in there…just something I coexist with. xD

  15. realy like it :)

    nice posttttt……. realy like it

  16. cordel

    @Paul Copco

    This is “How-to-geek” article, not “How-to-grammar”

  17. jules

    @paulkupal..that was just typo. as long as i understand what he’s explaining fine by me. wrong venue to teach grammar prof kupal.

  18. Steve

    There is no such word as ‘alot’

  19. Nation

    I seem to be a natural-born proofreader, and I notice things like “alot”. If I think it’s worth noting, I may make a comment something like “Thanks for the useful info! By the way, I think you have a typo that you may want to fix to make your good post even better.” But Mr. Kopco, why so harsh? I saw a sign in a doctor’s office once that said something like, “Be extra kind. You never know what challenges the other person is dealing with.” Well, enough off-topic. Thanks for the helpful info, Taylor; and if you want to stand out from the crowd, put a little extra effort into good writing, grammar, spelling, and proofreading.

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