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Winbolic Link
Winbolic Link creates special folders which serve as links to the contents of another folder. They are functionally similar to "symbolic links" or "symlinks" which unix users are familiar with.

Winbolic Link creates these links using only built-in functionality of Windows. It does not extend or modify the functionality of Windows or the file system, install any drivers, or require any service to remain running to maintain functionality. It merely creates the special kinds of files and folders Windows already supports, but which Microsoft did not distribute tools to create.
Requirements
  • Microsoft Windows 98/ME/2000/XP (any editions)
  • Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP (any editions) using NTFS, to use Junctions
  • Microsoft .NET Framework
    (The .NET Framework is a new component of Windows for running next generation applications which are more reliable and secure. You can use Microsoft's Windows Update to install it for you, or obtain it from Microsoft yourself.)
Download
Release version: 1.0
Release date: 2003-12-13
License: Freeware (see below)
Download: Winbolic Link 1.0.exe (installer, 146KB)
Download: Winbolic Link 1.0.zip (zipped, 109KB)
    Updates from Beta 1:
  • bugfix: Junctions where the target was the root of a drive did not work because of an extra backslash.
  • feature: Installer now includes a check for .NET Framework before installing.
Freeware
You may download and use Winbolic Link for free! No catches, fine print, ad-ware, spy-ware, or annoyances!
Screenshot
Winbolic Link screenshot
"Symbolic links" in Windows
Windows has the ability to create folder links, which allows you to create "alias" folders whose contents are really from another folder. Links essentially allow access of one copy of data from several locations on your computer. For those familiar with Unix symbolic (symlink) and hard links, Windows has a somewhat equivalent link type for each. Unfortunately, Windows does not include any tool to create these types of links; thatís what Winbolic Link was created to be.

Links may be created to allow multiple organizations of files, to reduce clutter, or to allow programs to be moved or installed on another drive without the operating system noticing.
What are Links?
Links essentially allow access of one copy of data from several locations on your computer. When a link is created, that link looks as though it contains the contents of the original file or directory, but it is really just a "pointer" to that content.

If you open up Windows Explorer (with the folder tree on the left), you may see that the "My Documents" folder is a subfolder of "Desktop." This is actually a link to the real location of your documents folder which, depending on your version of Windows, may be in a location such as C:\Documents and Settings\<Your login name>\My Documents.

Example: Use of links for convenience
Suppose you have a folder named "My Downloads" in C:\Program Files\Downloader (so the full path is C:\Program Files\File Downloader\My Downloads). Since it can be cumbersome browsing to this folder, you may want create a link named "My Downloads" in C:\. Now, when you browse to C:\My Downloads, you will see the contents of C:\Program Files\Downloader\My Downloads. The new folder isn't a copy of original; any changes you make in the new folder (create, modify, or delete files) will happen in the original folder.

Example: Use of links because a drive is full
Your main hard drive (C:) is nearly full, and while your secondary hard drive (D:) has plenty space you have something new that will need to be on C:. There are no files that you can move to D without breaking something, especially programs. But with a Junction, a special kind of link, you can move programs to D: and have windows think that it's still on C:. Start by creating a new folder named "Program Files" in D:\. Move your C:\Program Files\OldProgram to D:\Program Files\, then create a junction called "OldProgram" in C:\Program Files that points to D:\Program Files\OldProgram. Now, that program actually resides on the D: drive but it still looks as though it's still in its original location.
Difference between Windows shortcuts and links
Folder shortcuts and links are both convenient ways to access folders which may be cumbersome to browse to manually. Since Windows only supports "links" for folders, we compare only to folder "shortcuts", not to file or program shortcuts (shortcuts that open files or start programs).

A folder shortcut is a special file that contains the full path of a folder, for example C:\Program Files\File Downloader\My Downloads. When you run (e.g. by double-clicking) this shortcut, you are taken to that folder. If you look at the address bar of your file browser, you will see that you are in C:\Program Files\File Downloader\My Downloads.

A link, on the other hand, is a folder which is an alias for another folder. If you have a link named "My Downloads" in C:\ to C:\Program Files\File Downloader\My Downloads, the address bar will say C:\My Downloads but show the contents of C:\Program Files\File Downloader\My Downloads.

The benefits of a link over a shortcut are most readily realized when using Windows Explorer with the folder pane, or for cases such as moving programs (see "What are Links?").
Differences between Shell links and Junctions
Overview
Unix users may be familiar with the two types of links that are typically used, hard links and symbolic links (symlink). Junctions are similar to hard links, in which the file system keeps two entries for one set of content, and the link is indistinguishable from the original folder entry. (Unix hard links normally only link files and not folders, while Windows' Junctions may only link folders and not files.) Shell links are more like symbolic links, which are special folders that act as though they are the original folder.

Shell Links
A shell-link folder only acts as though it is the original (target) folder. When you open up the linking folder, it will usually show you contents of the target folder. However, on the file system, the folder actually just contains two files that tell Windows to display the folder as though it is the target folder. Not all programs are aware of this type of link and may show as the content of the folder the two files instead of the content of the target folder. Deleting a shell-link folder will only delete the link, and leave the target folder intact.

Junctions
Junctions (a.k.a. Junction Points or Reparse Points), for most intents and purposes, are invisible to Windows. Virtually all programs, including Windows Explorer in certain cases, will interpret the linked folder as though it were the target folder. This makes Junctions dangerous because deleting the link in a non-junction-aware program such as Explorer may cause a recursive delete, deleting the contents of the target folder as well as the link.

Bottom line differences
    Shell Links
  • Supported by all post-Windows 95 operating systems.
  • Can span fixed disks and network shares
  • When deleted, only the link is deleted.
  • Programs must know how to interpret shell links (if they don't use the shell to browse the file system.)
  • Slightly lower performance since they are interpreted by the shell.
    Junctions
  • Virtually invisible, and thus works in virtually all applications.
  • Slightly better performance since they are interpreted by the kernel.
  • Suitable for moving programs.
  • Supported only on NTFS-5, thus only on Windows 2000 and above.
  • Can only be created only on local fixed disks (may span from one fixed disk to another). However, a Junction created on a file server is invisible to the client computer, and thus *does* work over network in some sense.
  • Can be dangerous, as the target folder may be deleted when the Junction is (unless a junction tool, such as this one, is used).
Junction Warnings
  • Junctions are virtually invisible implementations of links. This means that if you try to delete the junction, a recursive delete may be performed on its contents and the data in the target directory will be deleted.
  • A circular Junction (one in which the target is a parent directory of the Junction) may cause recursive traversals to cycle forever. This would result in a find function traversing for a long time (depending on the path-length limitation of the program), or a backup utility to back up the same data repeatedly.
  • Older Versions
    Release version: Beta 1
    Release date: 2002-11-18
    License: Freeware
    Download: Winbolic Link Beta 1.exe (installer, 146KB)
    Download: Winbolic Link Beta 1.zip (zipped, 109KB)
    Hits this page since 2003-12-20
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