Can I delete desktop.ini?

So it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon and you’re browsing through some old pictures on your external drive when you stumble upon a file that definitely isn’t a photo.

It’s called desktop.ini and it’s pretty annoying because it shows up everywhere.  It ruins the neatness in sorting files and just doesn’t belong.

Windows 7 desktop.ini

This ubiquitous file somehow finds its way into almost every folder on your computer.

Looking at some songs? There’s a desktop.ini file hanging out with Pink Floyd and Pete Rock.

What about videos? Yep, desktop.ini is hanging out with your home videos too.

What’s going on?

Desktop.ini has a purpose

First of all, contrary to what some people believe, desktop.ini isn’t a virulent file designed to destroy your computer; it actually serves a good purpose.

If you tried opening one of these enigmatic files you’ll see lines of cryptic text which don’t really make a lot of sense.  But let’s check it out to see what we can learn.

Opening desktop.ini in Notepad

In my example the file is segmented into two sections:

  • [LocalizedFilenames]
  • [.ShellClassInfo]

Each line contains personalization data about the folder that contains my images.  It’s using a dynamic linked library called SampleRes.dll which has string resources for each of those images so that Windows Explorer can display the appropriate data when I view the thumbnails.  The desktop.ini file is usually used to display custom icons for folders or to restrict a folder from being shared.

Let me show you what I mean:

Normally folders look like inspid cards folded in half with no hints about the media inside.

Windows 8.1 Folder Icon

Boring.

That’s where desktop.ini comes in.  The desktop.ini file is chock full of options that lets you change the folder icon and the tool tip that displays when you hover your cursor over the folder.

Major folder attributes such as:

  • ConfirmFileOp
  • NoSharing
  • IconFile
  • IconIndex
  • InfoTip

are all expounded on the Microsoft Developer Network website so I won’t go into that here; I just want you to see that there are a bunch of little settings you can tweak.

Let me show you something:

Right click on any folder in the right pane of Windows Explorer and choose Open Folder Location from the context menu.

Open Folder Location in Windows 7

Now right click the folder again but this time choose Properties.

Click on over to the Customize tab and click the Change Icon button. You can change it to almost anything.  The IconArchive has an abundance of free Windows 7 icons that you can download.  After setting an icon, restart Windows Explorer to observe your handiwork.

Change folder icon in Windows 7

This slick move furtively updates that desktop.ini file so that the operating system knows what icon to display when you view the folder.  All that custom data resides in the desktop.ini file.

Can I delete desktop.ini?

Yes, deleting desktop.ini won’t get you into any trouble.  In fact, the operating system will most likely automatically re-spawn the file when you remove it so deleting it isn’t a real fix.

Instead of zapping your desktop.ini files, we should hide them.  That way Windows still has what it needs to personalize your folders and you have the peace of mind of seeing a pure directory listing.

In Windows Explorer press Alt + t + o (that’s an oh) and click the View tab.

Plop a check mark in Hide protected operating system files (Recommended), click OK then watch those vexing desktop.ini’s vanish.

Hide protected operating system files in Windows 7

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Posted in Windows, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 Tagged with:
  • sweet – I arrived on this wonderful info-sourse-del-DOT.ini file disarray, tightly teathered to a once distant fear and pain of working this morning at my home office; NOT at my wonderful scaling month after month dog book selling business ( that is MY SHIZNIZZLE after all) I mean c’mon right? Who’s afraid of a Lhasa Apso or albeit the all too familiar sheer terror that a Poodle inflicts if you ever lock sight with it when you’re within physical range of your upcoming demise? [I.e. the demise after this gnarly curled Poodle runs you down] eh-em…
    You see? – so THAT AIN’T IT…mhm, NOPE! Instead I have arrived thinking the worst about what could it be THIS-TIME …ARGH!!! -and- How is this uninvited evil no-gooder-intruder ( the one, the scary, DESKTOP.INI, echo, echo echo…) going to RUIN MY SATURDAY? Apparentlly I am very important to myself.
    WHY – well I’m not one to daily cry out about the sky and how it is going to fall – in fact how would that even happen anyway? And while we are segwaying temprorarily, WHO is the genius and the genius followers of phrasing that; and i quote “COINED” that brilliance?
    Not this author, this guy knows how to cull from his reader a true sense that which INSTANTLY sends a message to al of those VOICES IN MY HEAD that are for the majority weighting on the side of worst case extensible exile in yet another one of my PC MARATHON HOPE I GET LUCKY FIXING THIS THING AGAING 19 hours spree.
    Turning myu fear from the uncertain outcome within the first paragraph in his calming pened voice of reason.
    Walking me out of the darkness word by word, I croutched less and less, more and more word by word couldnt stop. Soon i notived I was standing taller (in my head – i don’t have legs) KIDDING, so I kept on reading shoulders squared, head held high knowing that NOT CLICKING on the first three results THIS TIME was an extremely brilliant choice and action of mine. Hey I gave him props right? He got his. And besides he knows deep down of himself to be ‘pretty-darned-bad-fannied’ when it comes to escorting his readers down the page to rightiousness in a harmonious suoght after end we sought to find here. Then he delivered the goods as if the sky got brighter ( now I knwo that can happen) “clouds” to “no clouds”. Dark to Light. DESKTOP.INI echop echo echo to No Fear No More. (And yes i did say: “fannied”)
    Whoops I am being pinged much to all of your sha-grins I hjave to part. So I will close now and say THANK YOU Vonnie for not making me take a sledge hammer to this POS PC I have had since 2007 ( that has GOT to be a record) ..
    Your Solution:
    For those of you who ALSO don’t like my voice, disregard it; I’m good with that, made myh peace and such, because some of you “geniuses” – and I mean it – some of YOU geniuses will want me to write stupid stuff for you, then ‘google the poop’ out of me to do it. (start the bidding -and yes I said poop) while the VAST MAJORITY of inline thinkers will not understand a word of it, or be open to like much of anything not leanred in a scholastic environment. BOR-RING but its cool, so good on you too – you GO GIRLS ..you go! Because honestly -i sincerely and with full open heart don’t give a rats pink fat fanny ( yes I said ‘fanny’… )
    All you need to know is that your DESKTOP.INI echo echo ECHO is nothing more than an illusion, made from the ether, manifested specifically for your regonition of it in a form which we can have clear understanding of its whereabouts on YOUR PC (not mine anymore) but so in this plane our phyusical selves circling back into our orignins via the I-NET using what we call PIXELS –
    for YOU – Just KNWO THAT – you to have chosen the correct PILL – Vonnie is….’The One’ and has what you need in a very clear stp by step picel mapped solution to rid of our great visitor – the one the LONELY sad, yet necessary little forker ( yes for-ker) the once evil now angle like DESKTOP INI.INI.INI.
    in other words – your good. One pet peave though. I do wish VONNIE spelled his name VINNIE. surely I would exit skype pretending not to remember my meeting, becuase I coudl have a HAY DAY ( whatever farmers do on those days) but I could have one with VONNIE if it were VINNIE because the possibilites of boring you with more continous rant-jbberish would be infinitely extraordinarily convenient.
    Thanks VON – you rocked the solution!
    – keep up the do-gooding-dude, you’ll be sucking all the competitive traffic unbenownced you yet, but grand in number, in not time!
    Nelson Not Rockafeller

  • Point Less

    This can be a problem when syncing folders, since the desktop.ini files can be copied over to different drives or computers, like I have with my music files (and no, I don’t want to stream everything from one computer as that has proven to be not as efficient).