If you have ever had hidden system files set to display on your Windows system, then you have likely noticed a ‘matching’ pair of desktop.ini files on your desktop. Why are there two of them? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the answers to a confused reader’s question.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

SuperUser reader Reza Mamun wants to know why there are two identically named desktop.ini files on his Windows desktop:

When I try to delete one of these two shortcuts (files), a message appears saying: If you remove this file, Windows or another program may no longer work correctly.

I do not think it is possible to keep two identically named files in the same directory. Is this some type of malware or anything that could be harmful to my computer?

Why are there two identically named desktop.ini files on his Windows desktop?

The Answer

SuperUser contributor Daniel B has the answer for us:

One of them is in the “All Users” profile (%PUBLIC%\Desktop). The other is in your profile (%USERPROFILE%\Desktop). They are both hidden system files. If you want them to disappear, you will have to set Windows Explorer to hide them. This is also the default setting.

There is nothing malware-based about this, this is perfectly normal behavior.

By default, they contain information on where to get the icon and localized folder name. On regular folders, where the “Customize” tab is available in their properties, these settings are stored in desktop.ini too. Here is more (albeit old) information.

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Akemi Iwaya
Akemi Iwaya has been part of the How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media team since 2009. She has previously written under the pen name "Asian Angel" and was a Lifehacker intern before joining How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media. She has been quoted as an authoritative source by ZDNet Worldwide.
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