The How-To Geek Forums Have Migrated to Discourse

How-To Geek Forums / Tutorials

Don’t Copy (duplicate) files. Shortcut to them. (XP, Win7, ?)

(4 posts)
  • Started 6 years ago by hbm-la
  • Latest reply from LadyFitzgerald
  • Topic Viewed 1017 times

Posts: 9

The Problem-

How often do you copy a file to another folder, or directory, or hard disk, because it is a good reference or example for that particular project? I do this all the time. And, I backup files the same way: highlight My Documents and send hundreds of files to a “storage” disk, folder named “My Documents”….. In a couple minutes a hard disk has lost 300mb to several Gb of free space. I have thousands of duplicates, triplicates, etc.; and even 10 copies of one file scattered over several folders, directories, and hard disks.

Don’t copy files. Just create a shortcut link to the file. It uses a couple mouse clicks more than the copy function but memory storage will love you … or, visa versa.

This “how-to” is created in response to the wonderful, and fast, response from Forum members Germ-x and Markus with solutions to some file record keeping issues I was having. Many thanks, and HTG rocks!

Running a duplicate file search showed an overwhelming mess, into many gigabytes of memory. A batch command in the duplicate finder was not the solution, because for my professional work I may need a photo in several folders. Or, a Word file referenced in more than one folder.

To the rescue for references (not cleaning the mess) is the file manager, Explorer> Create Shortcut.

Create a Shortcut-

Just open Explorer (not IE), go the file (image, doc, etc.) you don’t want to duplicate as a “copy” but need for the current project or as a permanent folder record (file). Highlight the file and right-click> Create Shortcut. A “Shortcut to” link is created in the source folder. Then, drag the shortcut to the folder you want the reference in. (This is the same way Desktop icons to launch programs are created.) It’s only 1kb in size and will find and open the original source file. The source can be moved afterwards, too, and it will be found as long as the OS which the link was created on can track it.

Even network drives can have these link files if the folder and directory tree is comprehensive—it just means there is a record keeping problem, so keep the links to under a dozen, and IT won’t be screaming too loudly.

You can highlight several files and create batch shortcuts. This works great with photos, since those can be several Mb each.

The one problem with the default function, and what brought me to How-To Geek, is that the created shortcut is named “Shortcut to + the source file name”. I didn’t want “Shortcut to” strung down a folder list view when I was searching for a file to open; or, probably send to another folder. A batch rename only creates a single file name with (#) numbers appended to the file. Not a solution.

Get rid of “Shortcut to”-

The link file “Shortcut to” already has a leading identity icon that shows it is a .lnk file. Here is where Germ-x and Markus came to the rescue with links to off site articles and programs. To remove “shortcut to”, Facebook Support has a good how-to and is here:

In case the link does not work, the procedure follows:

Users who prefer the created shortcut to have the exact same name with the original object, without the – Shortcut suffix been appended or added to the end of the original file name or folder name can use the following registry trick to disable and turn off automatic appending or adding of ” – Shortcut” suffix to the end of shortcut name.

1. Run Registry Editor (RegEdit).
2. Navigate to the following registry key:
3. In the right pane, double click on link registry value.
4. Change the “link” binary value data to 00 00 00 00.
5. Restart the computer.

With the trick, the suffix ” – Shortcut” will disappear and no longer append to the shortcut name when created. However, it does not change the existing shortcut names.

Note the the trick also works to remove “Shortcut To” prefix which is used to label to shortcut created in Windows XP or older Windows operating system.

Alternatively, copy and paste the following text to a text editor, save it as a file name with .reg extension, and run the file to merge the value to system registry,
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


I need to add that you must left-click the “Explorer” folder to reveal the “link” registry value. The binary value will probably look like this: 00 05 00 00, or have something similar. Just edit to all zeroes. And, keep the same spacing.

Shazaam! I know what to do in the future. I just need to figure out how to clean up the mess I already have…. =(

Hbm, 2010-04-10

Posted 6 years ago
Posts: 10

hi bhm,
thanx for mentioning my name :)
an easier way to create shortcuts is to drag the files into the destination folder while pressing ctrl+shift. alternatively you can drag them with the right mouse button, and then select "create shortcut here" (might be spelled a bit different, as i have a german windows) from the menu that pops up when releasing the mouse.

markus ;-)

Posted 6 years ago
Posts: 1

It's at this point I go "derr"...... a great tip. I'm for ever copying here,there and every were, from now on I'll be using short cuts when ever posable. Thanks.

Posted 6 years ago
Posts: 2232

I was considering doing the same thing a while back but was stumped by one little wrinkle. First, another advantage to using shortcuts to one "master copy" instead of multiple copies is if you make a change to the document, you will see the change from all shortcuts since they all take you to the same document. The wrinkle I was concerned about was if you were to delete a document, you would still have the shortcuts floating around in your system with no easy way to track them down for deletion. A minor problem, granted, but one I would find extremely annoying.

85% of the duplicate files I have are copies I've made of tech articles for future reference. Many are classifiable under more than one category, hence the duplicate copies. Another 10% would be photos/graphics. The rest aren't enough to be worth worrying about. An alternative I plan on utilizing after I complete a few more pressing projects is to use cataloging programs that use metadata to sort files. For my photos, there are a variety of programs, some I already have because they came with software/hardware I have, but, most likely, I'll use a freebie like Picassa to avoid having to shell out for upgrades every few years to avoid OS compatability obsolescence. For my tech help articles, I plan on using calibre, a free e-book management program (which I'm already using for it's intended purpose: managing e-books). While calibre wasn't originally designed for this purpose, it now supports keeping books in separate libraries. I can put my tech articles in their own library and attach tags to each one for sorting purposes. Calibre also allows custom columns for each library so I can choose to not display unneeded columns and add custom ones to assist in finding articles. I can both manually do a search for a certain topic to find articles and I can save commonly used searches and pick from them to find articles. If I decide to delete an article, the tags go with it and will not show up in future searches.

Posted 6 years ago

Topic Closed

This topic has been closed to new replies.