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And I Should Care?

The next reply usually heard in this never-ending argument is "Well, why should I care? I only use the long file names, and the short aliases are just DOS placeholders. The programs look at the long names, not the short ones. Should I spend energy worrying about short file name aliases being changed considering I never use them?"

In a word, yes. It is true that the short file name aliases for any of your own data folders and files are not that important: you will most likely always refer to them using the long name. However, this is not true of your application programs. Here are three main reasons why short file name aliases changing can lead to problems:

  • Many/most applications place entries in the system registry, that make reference to the short file name aliases given to the folder where they are installed, or the program components themselves. If the short file name alias later changes, this can cause the program to malfunction. (Don't believe me? Open your system registry and (carefully) search for "~". See how many dozens of references there are to short file name aliases on your own system.)
  • Some applications record short file name aliases in control files of their own use, such as .INI files stored in the application folder or the Windows folder.
  • Windows sometimes refers to short file name aliases when it creates shortcuts. If the short file name aliases change, some of your "Start Menu" entries may not be able to find their targets.

This problem is exacerbated by the way that so many companies have started defaulting install folders to long and flowery names. Have you ever noticed that Microsoft itself is, well, kind of in love with its own name? Microsoft wants to put its name in all its product folders by default: they never call their product "Excel" but rather "Microsoft Excel," and its folder is named accordingly. If you try to install multiple Microsoft products, and let them all go to their default targets, and later delete one or more of them, you are very likely to run into a problem if you use Xcopy to move the partition.

Note that Microsoft has acknowledged the existence of this problem in the Windows NT environment. It manifests itself very similarly under Windows 9x.

Next: The Hack Is Back

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