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Error messages frequently include filenames of the form 'DOCUME~1' which seem nowhere to be found. They're actually there, just by another name.

One of the error messages I received recently refereed me to a file in the path:

C:\DOCUME~1\MyName\LOCALS~1\Temp

Yet, when I go looking in Windows Explorer, I see nothing like that anywhere. What's up?

In a word: backwards compatibility.

OK, that's two words.

What you're seeing is the result of a legacy that dates back to Window's predecessor, MS-DOS.

That path is there - it's just called something else.

Without trying to sound like the old computer fogey that I actually am, "back in the day" MS-DOS only supported filenames that were at most 8 characters long, followed by an "extension" of up to 3 characters, and could not include certain characters like spaces. Colloquially it's often refereed to as 8.3 or eight-dot-three, and one valid example might be "explorer.exe".

At this point I need to address all the other old computer fogeys out there ready to call me out. I know it actually predates MS-DOS, and that it's not so much a function of the operating system as it is the file system. Fortunately those details are actually irrelevant to people attempting to deal with this issue today.

Now, that was all well and good for a long time. However, other operating systems, such as Unix, allowed you to have file names of much longer length. That meant it was quite valid under Unix even then to have filenames like "A Picture of My Dog.jpg" - longer than 8 characters, and including spaces.

Not so under MS-DOS - or even early versions of Windows. Another example is "iexplore.exe" - it's maxed out at 8.3, but would probably have been better named "iexplorer.exe" since it's Internet Explorer, but that's too long. In order to remain within that older 8.3 limitation, it was simply truncated and we're left with "iexplore.exe".

Eventually Microsoft added "Long Filename support" often noted as "LFN".

"Windows will "make up" a filename for files which are longer than the old 8.3 limit..."

The problem, though, was that a massive amount of software existed that assumed filenames would never be any bigger than 8.3. Now, one could simply define that those old programs wouldn't be able to access LFNs, or one could come up with some kind of a hack.

You can guess which option was chosen.

Those filenames you're seeing are the result of that hack.

Windows will "make up" a filename for files which are longer than the old 8.3 limit for use by programs that only understand 8.3. It does so by taking the first part of the filename, chopping off a couple of characters at the end, and appending a tilde (~) followed by a number. The number is chosen simply to ensure that the resulting filename is unique within that folder.

So what you're seeing:

C:\DOCUME~1\MyName\LOCALS~1\Temp

is really an 8.3 representation of this path:

C:\Documents and Settings\MyName\Local Settings\Temp

which you will find on your hard disk.

So why, after all this time, are programs still reporting filenames using the old 8.3 filename hack? Well, many programs have been around for a long time. One of the most common culprits I see are setup programs, which once created, are often themselves not updated other than to reflect changes in the programs that they're installing. The result is that some setup programs often leave traces of the 8.3 naming convention behind after they're done, in configuration files and in the registry. Those filenames are perfectly valid for any program to still use, and often end up showing up in error messages, as you've seen.

What can you do about it? Pretty much nothing. Just know that when you're looking for names that have "~" followed by a number the end, you're probably really looking for a longer, more descriptive name that starts with the same the same characters before the "~".

Article C2835 - November 10, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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16 Comments
Pete
November 11, 2006 1:02 AM

2 days ago Ad Aware found I had a Win.32 Trojan Downloader on my PC, AVG anti virus did not show it. I decided to see if I could find the source of this Trojan, and why it didn't show on AVG.
Yes, you guessed it, the trojan was in a file in C:\DOCUME~1.
Eventually I gave up looking for the Trojan, and deleted it with Ad Aware. I did all the usual, cleaned out my machine, then checked to ensure my machine was clear.
I did find the source of the Trojan, my grandson was swapping photos with a friend, and the Trojan was sitting in a .zip file on my desktop.

Catherine
November 11, 2006 6:01 PM

How do I find Program.exe. Many of my emails with graphics say they cannot open because they cannot find Program.exe. I can find it either. Where is it? Thanks

dsa
March 20, 2007 3:43 PM

its documents and settings on local disk.

Nicos Kasenides
July 16, 2007 12:15 AM

The reason you can't delete C:\Docume~1 is because it's a system folder. It's the folder that user accounts are stored: C:\Documents and Settings\
Windows XP sometimes addresses it as Docume~1 to avoid the spaces in the file name.

Mark
January 22, 2008 9:22 AM

I have a 'C:\DOCUME~1 issue myself. I swear its nowhere to be found.

I downloaded a document from my email--proposal 25
and forgot this when I saved and closed word.

So I opened the desktop version and realized it did not have the modified changes from 1/21, so in File box is saw proposal 25 saved with the path C:\DOCUME~ ...proposal 25. I found this blog, read the article and have searched my own local disk and done computer file searches, but it only finds my original desktop version. I modified the dates just for 1/21 and no document shows up. I didn't not save the desktop version when I opened it either, in case I could recover yesterday's file. Now I am desperate, any advice?

Jeremy
February 27, 2008 8:11 PM

alright so i had this keylogger program on my computer and it says it cannont be found. well i uninstalled it and everytime my cp starts up it say mpk.exe cannont run at this time and it gives me send error report and ect. i clicked on send error report and it says it cant because all of the sending information is 000000. so i clicked on technical support and it gave me the name of this file:
C:\DOCUME~1\Heff\LOCALS~1\Temp\44be_appcompat.txt

the 44be_ is nowhere in the folder. how can i get this messege to stop when i start up? Could this file be showing the messege?

Andrew
July 25, 2008 1:17 PM

This is a very good article, very well written and easy to understand. Thanks

Adrian
September 19, 2008 3:49 PM

Thanks a bunch!

Very well written and understood everything

Thanks again leo!

k.basinger
October 1, 2008 9:36 AM

C:\DOCUME~1\MyName\LOCALS~1\Temp and C:\PROGRA~1\
i do not agree that they are the same as C:\Documents and Settings\MyName\Local Settings\Temp
and c:\programs\ in the registry they are listed both ways and they are not related

Jose
March 3, 2009 4:13 AM

I've had an error message that read c|docume~1/admin~1\wer2bee.dir00\mini030209-01.dmp
and then it's dump me out and reboot the machine time. Any ideas?

Chad
March 25, 2009 12:29 PM

I found your article to be awesomely easy to follow, lathough, the folder Local settings does not exist in my Documents and Settings folder, even after checking through the owner path, or the other path folders inside it. Please help!!! THis problem is keeping me from updating my flash and that is creating many problems on my computer

Velimir
November 23, 2009 3:40 AM

I have similar problem.When I have downloaded something my anti-virus avast! has give me warning about virus in c:\DOCUME~1\my name\APPLIC~1\DRVROA~1\Proxyskip.exe When I tried to find this Proxyskip.exe it couldn't be found.Any ideas?

dlp
November 26, 2009 11:25 AM

LEO!!!!!!!!!!! You rock, thanks.Gives me a BLUESCREEN and a crash. Any hope there. Years ago went to locals and got rid of same but this on persistent.

Any help????????????

Al Avenoso
January 26, 2010 10:48 AM

I had a so-stated "Serious Error" report listing 2 files of this very same type {C:\DOCUME~1\MyName\LOCALS~1\Temp\WER2644.DIR00\mINI012210-01.dmp AND ANOTHER VERY SIMILAR FILE NOTATION}, and immediately causing my system to re-boot when i installed a new Pioneer DVR Drive on my PC. The computer has functioned normally since, but I have been reluctant to try the new DVR, as this was a replacement for a new Pioneer DVR drive which spun the disc in the drive so hard that it ended yo in at least 100 pieces. Can you tell me please

Curious
April 18, 2011 2:51 PM

Try this. Make two Compressed (Zipped) folders. Put one inside the other. Then open the first one containing the second one. When you open the second one you will see this path:

C:\DOCUME~1\*Name*\LOCALS~1\Temp\Temporary Directory 2 for *Name of Compressed (zipped) Folder.zip*\*Name of Compressed (zipped) Folder (2).zip.*

Now look at all of the folders in C: and you will notice that, at the bottom, a new folder has appeared: Docume~1.

Can you tell me anything about this? It is exactly the same as C:\Documents and Settings but it appeares in a different spot on my disk now. Also, whatever folder I make in C:\Docume~1 shows up on C:\Documents and Settings. Any reason why this folder pops up?

john walne
February 25, 2013 5:48 AM

Hi Leo! I have done a command scan to see if there are any corrupt files on my pc & it turned up one known as: C:\Windows\Logs\CBS

I have opened the file and it is very recent & there are a lot of .cab files in the folder. However, I don't know what CBS is & I have not downloaded any software of that name. Is it safe to delete these files please?

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