Windows

How do I copy shortcuts to the All Users folders in Vista or Windows 7?

Alan Norton shows you how to copy shortcuts to the All Users folders in Windows 7 - it is not the same procedure as in Windows XP.
If you are used to copying shortcuts to the Documents and Settings\All Users\Desktop or the Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu folders in Windows XP, you might be wondering how to do this in Windows Vista or Windows 7. You may have run across the Users\All Users\Desktop folder and thought that this is where the shortcut should go. But Figure A shows what you will see when you try to open it to view its contents.

Figure A

You will get an Access Is Denied error when you try to open the Users\All Users\Desktop folder in Windows 7 Explorer.

If you look closer at the Desktop folder icon in Figure A, you will see a small arrow in the lower left corner. This signifies a shortcut to a folder. Actually, it is what Microsoft calls a Junction Point. A Junction Point is a way to automatically redirect access requests and provide backward compatibility.

Since the Desktop and Start Menu folders are not actual folders, you get an Access Is Denied error when you try to open them in Windows Explorer.

Note: Junction Points are visible in Windows Explorer only when Show Hidden Files, Folders, and Drives is selected and Hide Protected Operating System Files is deselected. To change these options, open Windows Explorer and select Organize then Folder and Search Options. Alternatively, press the [Alt] key and select Tools | Folder Options... from the menu. In the Folder Options window, select the View tab. Click to select the Show Hidden Files, Folders, and Drives radio button under Hidden Files and Folders. Click the Hide Protected Operating System Files check box to deselect it.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

There are two ways you can copy a shortcut to the Desktop or Start Menu folders.

Method One - Copy and paste shortcut to Junction Point

While you cannot open a Junction Point in Explorer to view its contents, you can copy and paste files to it. To do this, copy a shortcut and paste it to the Junction Point in the tree structure in the left pane. You can also click All Users in the left pane to expand it and paste the shortcut to the Junction Point in the right pane, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Copy and paste a shortcut to the Junction Point, Desktop in this example, in the left or right pane.

You will be asked to provide administrator permission. If you are using Vista, you will also be prompted by the UAC.

Figure C

Click Continue to provide administrator permission.

The shortcut will be redirected and saved in the appropriate Vista or Windows 7 destination folder.

Note: You cannot move, delete, or view files from a Junction Point using Explorer. Use method two to perform these functions.

Method Two - Copy to new folder location

Use the table below to find the new folder location for the Desktop and Start Menu folders. Other new folder locations can be found at this Web page.

Table A

Table B

These are the old and new locations for the Desktop and Start Menu folders and the Junction Point location that links them.
Copy the shortcut. Navigate to the new folder in Explorer and paste it, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

You can copy the shortcut directly to the Users\Public\Public Desktop folder.

Just as in method one, you will need to provide administrator permission. If you are using Vista, you will also be prompted by the UAC.

As you can see in Figure D, Users\Public\Public Desktop is where the actual desktop shortcut files now reside in Vista and Windows 7.

Author's Note

Thanks to TechRepublic member Charlie Spencer (Palmetto) for the How do I question.

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About

Alan Norton began using PCs in 1981, when they were called microcomputers. He has worked at companies like Hughes Aircraft and CSC, where he developed client/server-based applications. Alan is currently semi-retired and starting a new career as a wri...

26 comments
bbaldridge
bbaldridge

Thats excellent info, I didn't know about the junctions points either. I'll use %public%\desktop when pushing shortcuts to multiuser client machines in future. Thanks!!

diggerdy
diggerdy

To create shortcuts on desktop for all users on a particular machine, Windows 7: Go into folder options (start/type ???change file and folder options??? and it should show up on list), select ???view???, then check ???view hidden folders??? to be able to see public desktop folder under Users on C drive beforehand. C/Users/Public, etc. The folder will be faint compared to regular folders. Create shortcut on desktop FIRST, THEN drag into public desktop folder. Enter security credentials. Windows 7 will not allow to copy directly from program file and then choose ???paste shortcut??? into the Public Desktop folder???but it will allow you to drag an already created shortcut. Nice one. So simple???yet so elusive???and not intuitive.

tthrush
tthrush

The Public path info was what I needed for my script.

redmistpete
redmistpete

Is there a way to write a batch file then that is capable of copying a file from a CD folder to the desktop so it is compatible with windows XP and Windows 7?

dave_ross
dave_ross

How do you delete a junction point? One of our users created a junction point that points to all the departments data. Is there a way to delete it without touching the data in the actual folder?

p.c.solutions
p.c.solutions

May have been mentioned already, I was short on time and didn't read all responses. I find the easiest way to do this is to click the Start orb, right click All Programs, and click Open All Users. This takes you directly to the All Users folder.

ElijahKam
ElijahKam

All I did was revert Vista to the Classic start menu and then click on the Advanced button. You can then add or delete anything you like from the StartMenu without having to into AllUsers. If you add folders to the StartMenu you can open those folders with a double click. I never even thought of looking for AllUsers.

chienym
chienym

Nice writing. Easy to follow and well explained. Thanks.

pmansbach
pmansbach

You'd think they could show the actual path in the Properties dialog, like with a normal shortcut. I guess that would be too easy....

g01d4
g01d4

Junction points, hidden files, UAC prompts, can't view but you can copy & paste to, um, what was the question again?

timothy_br
timothy_br

Simply click Start button and Right-click All Programs. An option should appear in the menu to Open All Users. This is the simplest way that I have found to access the All Users Start Menu.

pochmans
pochmans

Or just do not use Windows Explorer and use free open source tool like FreeCommander (or others) that can handle the redirection and copy for you.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I appreciate the answers. I'll be trying these soon. I'm very interested in seeing if shortcuts put in these folders survive Sysprep.

Ajax4Hire
Ajax4Hire

This is one area that WindowsXP and Windows7 out-shines Linux based desktops. Public Desktop and Public StartMenu. I must manage multiple users on the same WinXP machine. I want all to have the same basic StartMenu and Desktop (so they have the same set of tools, utilities etc.) I have been loving the "Documents&Settings\AllUsers" for years. It is one of the best parts of WinXP and now Win7. Gnome,KDE must have something similar but I cannot decode the tree structure for the StartMenu of either. Trying to keep the Linux based systems consistent is much harder. We all have good in us, some more than others. This is one area where the Linux based Desktops can take a page from Microsoft's Playbook.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Now I know what a 'Junction Point' is. :-) I will be monitoring this forum to try to answer any questions you might have and participate when I have something to add to the discussion.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you tried to apply settings to the All Users folder in Windows 7? Did you (are you having) have trouble?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I don't the changes you're making will affect the start menu of other users. All Users is important if more than one person is using the computer, or if you are preparing a 'master' system prior to capturing its image and deploying it to other systems.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Thank you for saying so. I appreciate all feedback even constructive criticism. I also appreciate knowing when my articles are helpful. That is after all the reason for banging away on this keyboard.

boucaria
boucaria

Simplest way to get to All Users in Windows 7. Thanks !!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Got a shortcut for the All Users desktop too, by any chance?

sammy.mah
sammy.mah

Where in Microsoft help do they explain what a Junction point is? Now, I finally know. It would be helpful if they put an explanation or resolution to a KB at least of what/how to proceed, instead of the generic 'error'. You don't know how many times I sat there, wondering why I can't open a Junction Point, and there was no answer for it. Thanks.

foss.paul
foss.paul

Thank you for this tip. Very useful. Another question though. Windows 7 comes with choice of logins. How I get the User name / Paswword login from XP Pro or server, where each user need to type the user name and password?

bulk
bulk

As someone who is anal about keeping his start menus organised, one annoying side effect of this change is that you can no longer use the mouse to drag and reorganise the start menu as in XP. Since every program that is installed insists on creating its own start menu hierarchy, I find this really annoying. I achieved a bit of a work-around by placing both my personal start menu folder and the all users start menu folder in "Favorites". Then at least I can quickly access the menus and use Mark's techniques to reorganize the start menu. Richard

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Sammy, You aren't the only one. I've clicked on a Junction Point and wondered why I got the 'Access is denied' error but I never took the time to find out why. Thanks again to Palmetto for asking the question that led to this article. This is an example of the type of baggage that has to be carried by a new OS to support legacy software. Now if there was only some way to run legacy software in a legacy OS from the new OS. ;-)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Control Panel Admin Tools Local Security Policy Local Policies Security Options Enable the "Interactive Login: Do not display last username" option.