94 more secret Windows shortcuts

94 more secret Windows shortcuts

Summary: Last week the blogosphere went temporarily insane over a silly Windows shortcut that someone decided to dub "God Mode." As I noted in my response, there are at least 39 GUIDs that do similar things, and most are of interest only to programmers and geeks. But a much more interesting set of shortcuts involve the mostly undocumented shell command. I've found 94 shell shortcuts that can help you get to interesting Windows 7 locations faster.


Last week the blogosphere went temporarily insane over a simple GUID that displays a list of Control Panel shortcuts. It's not even close to deserving the "God mode" label, but I'm still hearing about it. As I noted in response, that's only one of 39 GUID shortcuts available in Windows 7. But even those are esoteric and mostly of interest to programmers and geeks.

But there's another, much larger class of well-hidden Windows shortcuts that are useful to everyone, not just techies. I dug through my notes for Windows 7 Inside Out and found a treasure trove of information about these shortcuts. They wound up on the cutting-room floor for that first edition, but are scheduled to be in the expanded second edition in a year or so.

The shortcuts I'm referring to involve the shell command, which is curiously undocumented in the Windows 7 Help files or on Microsoft's web site. The idea is to give Windows programs and users access to common locations using the Windows shell, Windows Explorer. The syntax is simple—you type shell, followed by a colon and the name of the shell folder location. That list of folder locations is hard to memorize, with lots of inconsistencies especially in regard to spacing. For example, the shell shortcut for the shared Downloads folder is shell:CommonDownloads, whereas the equivalent shortcut to the shared Documents folder is shell:Common Documents. And the command will not tolerate typos. If you add a space in the former or leave out the space in the latter, the shortcuts won't work. The good news is that these commands are not case-sensitive, so you can ignore the sometimes odd capitalization.

Despite the syntactic challenges, these shortcuts are very useful for some tasks. They're especially good for fast typists who don't want to move their hands from the keyboard to do a bunch of mouse movements. If that's you, tap the Windows key to open the Start menu with the insertion point already positioned in the Search box. Then type shell: followed by the location.

I've broken the full list of 94 shortcuts into four groups, each with its own page. If you want to dive right in, here are the links to click. But I suggest you keep reading for some examples of shortcuts that I find worth memorizing.

Note that many, but not all, of these shortcuts work with Windows Vista, and a smaller subset work with Windows XP. For this post I assume you're using Windows 7.

The following list includes my favorite Windows shell shortcuts, those that I use regularly:

shell:Profile This opens your user profile folder (on a default installation, you'll find this at c:\users\username). You can get the same results by clicking your account name at the top of the Start menu's right column. This location is also accessible via the environment variable %userprofile%.

shell:Personal Typing this command takes you straight to the Documents folder in your user profile. You can reach the same destination by clicking the Documents shortcut on the Start menu's right column.

shell:SendTo This one solves a real usability problem for Windows users who are used to running with hidden files visible. If you look in your user profile folder, you'll see a normally hidden SendTo shortcut. But clicking that shortcut displays this error message:

That's because this shortcut is actually a junction, created for backwards compatibility. The real SendTo folder is several subfolders deep in your profile's hidden AppData folder. After you use the shell command to open this file, you can add shortcuts that appear on the Send To menu when you right-click a file or folder. Add a shortcut to your favorite text or hex editor and you can view any file by sending it to that shortcut with a right-click.

shell:Public Use this command to open the default collection of shared folders on your machine. If you use Homegroups, these folders act as dropboxes for shared libraries on your system, and this is an easy way to see (and search) their contents in one window.

shell:Common Startup and shell:Startup Which shortcuts are loaded automatically when you start Windows? Program installers often create a shortcut that run automatically at startup. Some even offer the choice of running for just your account or for all users. You'll find these shortcuts in two separate Startup folders, one buried deep in the hidden AppData folder of your user profile, the other in the hidden ProgramData folder, which is in the root of your system drive.

shell:ConnectionsFolder This might not be the most elegant way to get to the Network Connections folder, but it's definitely faster than the official path. Without this trick, you have to stumble to the Network and Sharing Center, then click Change Adapter Settings in the navigation pane.

shell:Programs and shell:Common Programs These two folders (from your personal profile and the ProgramData folder, respectively) combine to create the All Programs list on your Start Menu. The mouse-driven alternative is to click the Start menu, right-click All Programs, and choose Open (for your profile) or Open All Users (for the much more densely populated list available to any user account).

shell:AppData and shell:Local AppData These shortcuts open the Roaming Application Data and Local Application Data folders, respectively. In everyday use, you don't need (or event want) access to these folders, but knowing their whereabouts is handy when you want to work directly with saved settings for a program. You'll find Firefox and Thunderbird user profiles here, and most e-mail programs (including Outlook and Windows Live Mail) store the files containing saved messages and contacts here as well.

shell:Cookies and shell:cache These shortcuts are, without question, the fastest way to see information saved by Internet Explorer. The first shortcut lets you inspect and manage saved cookies; the second opens the Temporary Internet Files folder. The alternative involves much spelunking through the Internet Options dialog box and is not recommended for long-term sanity.

Want to see the entire list? Click that link below.

Page 2: Folders from current user profiles -->

<-- Previous page

Folders from Current User Profile

shell:Profile User Profile folder of logged-on user

shell:UsersFilesFolder Same as shell:profile

shell:Personal Documents folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:My Music Music folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:My Pictures Pictures folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:My Video Videos folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:Contacts Contacts folder from profile of logged-on user (deprecated)

shell:Desktop Desktop folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:Downloads Downloads folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:Favorites Internet Explorer Favorites folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:Searches Searches folder from profile of logged-on user; contains saved searches

shell:Links Links folder from profile of logged-on user; contains shortcuts from Favorites node in Windows Explorer navigation pane

Folders from Public User Profile

shell:Public Public User Profile folder

shell:Common Desktop Public\Desktop folder

shell:Common Documents Public\Documents folder

shell:CommonDownloads Public\Downloads folder

shell:CommonMusic Public\Music folder

shell:CommonPictures Public\Pictures folder

shell:CommonVideo Public\Videos folder

shell:SampleMusic Sample Music folder (by default in Public\Music folder)

shell:SamplePictures Sample Pictures folder (by default in Public\Pictures folder)

shell:SampleVideos Sample Videos folder (by default in Public\Videos folder)

Page 3: Other interesting per-user folders -->

<-- Previous page

Other Per-User Folders

shell:Start Menu Start Menu folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:Startup Startup folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:Programs Start Menu\Programs folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:Quick Launch Quick Launch folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:Recent Recent folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:SendTo Send To folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:User Pinned All shortcuts that have been pinned to the Taskbar and Start Menu by the currently logged-on user

shell:ImplicitAppShortcuts In User Pinned folder, contains shortcuts to system-managed Start Menu items, including Control Panel, Help and Support, and auto-published applications from Windows Virtual PC

shell:GameTasks Custom Games Explorer shortcuts for logged-on user

shell:Administrative Tools Administrative Tools subfolder from Start Menu\All Programs

shell:Ringtones Ringtones folder stores custom files created by Windows ringtone editor using a compatible phone in Device Stage

shell:Templates Templates folder from profile of logged-on user (rarely used)

shell:Gadgets User-installed Windows Gadgets, including those that have been removed from the desktop but are still available

shell:Playlists Playlists subfolder, in Music folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:PrintHood User-created printer shortcuts

shell:CD Burning Burn folder, used to store temp files before burning to disc

Internet Explorer and Security

shell:Cache Internet Explorer Cache (aka Temporary Internet Files)

shell:Cookies Internet Explorer Cookies (open Low subfolder to see cookies for sites with Low Integrity Level)

shell:History Internet Explorer History

shell:SystemCertificates Signed copies of digital certificates for system; use Certificate Manager to view details and add or remove certificates

shell:CryptoKeys Crypto folder, stores machine keys

shell:dpapiKeys Protect folder, holds user keys for data encryption, including Encrypting File System

shell:CredentialManager Credentials folder

Page 4: Virtual folders and Control Panel shortcuts -->

<-- Previous page

Virtual Folders

shell:MyComputerFolder Opens Computer Folder

shell:RecycleBinFolder Opens Recycle Bin

shell:Fonts Settings for installed fonts and font families

shell:Games Opens Games Explorer

shell:Libraries Displays contents of Libraries node in Windows Explorer

shell:UsersLibrariesFolder Same as shell:Libraries

shell:DocumentsLibrary Opens default Documents library

shell:MusicLibrary Opens default Music library

shell:PicturesLibrary Opens default Pictures library

shell:VideosLibrary Opens default Videos library

Shell:HomeGroupFolder Displays contents of Homegroup node in Windows Explorer

shell:NetworkPlacesFolder Displays contents of Network node in Windows Explorer

shell:NetHood User-created network shortcuts

shell:ConnectionsFolder Network Connections

shell:PrintersFolder Printers and Faxes

shell:AppUpdatesFolder Installed Updates, including those delivered by Windows Update and Microsoft Update

shell:CSCFolder Offline Files folder

shell:SearchHomeFolder Opens Search Results window with focus in search box (same as pressing Windows logo key+F)

Control Panel Folders

shell:ControlPanelFolder Opens Control Panel and displays All Control Panel Items (icon view)

shell:AddNewProgramsFolder Install a program from a network location on a managed Windows network

shell:ChangeRemoveProgramsFolder Programs and Features folder

shell:SyncCenterFolder Sync Center, used mostly with Offline Files and Windows Mobile Device Center

shell:SyncSetupFolder Sync Center\Sync Setup

shell:SyncResultsFolder Sync Center\Sync Results

shell:ConflictFolder Sync Center\Conflicts

shell:InternetFolder Opens 32-bit Internet Explorer

Page 5: System and per-machine folders -->

<-- Previous page

System folders

shell:Windows Windows installation folder

shell:System Windows\System32 folder

shell:SystemX86 On 64-bit Windows systems only, opens Windows\SysWOW64

shell:UserProfiles Users folder, which contains profiles for all local users and a Public profile

shell:ProgramFiles Program Files folder

shell:ProgramFilesX86 On 64-bit Windows systems only, opens Program Files (x86) folder, which stores 32-bit programs

shell:ProgramFilesX64 On 64-bit Windows systems only, opens Program Files folder

shell:ProgramFilesCommon Program Files\Common Files folder

shell:ProgramFilesCommonX86 On 64-bit Windows systems only, opens Program Files (x86)\Common Files folder

shell:ProgramFilesCommonX64 On 64-bit Windows systems only, opens Program Files\Common Files

Application Data

shell:AppData Roaming Application Data folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:Local AppData Local Application Data folder from profile of logged-on user

shell:LocalAppDataLow User Local Application Data (Low Integrity Level) folder from profile of logged-on user

Per-machine Folders

shell:Common AppData ProgramData folder, which holds global settings saved by applications

shell:Common Start Menu Start Menu folder, containing shortcuts and subfolders for all users

shell:Common Programs Start Menu Programs for all users

shell:Common Startup Startup folder for all users

shell:Default Gadgets Default Windows Gadgets

shell:ResourceDir Resources folder, which contains Windows themes, including Aero and ease-of-access themes

shell:CommonRingtones Stores default ringtones for use with Windows ringtone editor using a compatible phone in Device Stage

shell:PublicGameTasks Custom Games Explorer shortcuts for all users

shell:Common Templates Templates folder for all users; rarely used

shell:device Metadata Store DeviceMetadataStore folder, which contains digitally signed files, downloaded from Microsoft, with icons and custom settings for Device Stage items

Topics: Software, Operating Systems, Windows

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  • Thanks Ed

    These might be handy.

  • Re: shell:AppData and shell:Local AppData

    I certainly do want access to these folders in order to back up my email and contacts! Thanks for the tip.
    • Backing up your email and contacts

      shell:AppData takes you to the location like ..\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book
      It would be risky to backup your email or contacts by simply copying the contents of these folders to a backup location. Email and Contacts are most often backed up into a form that is restorable from within your mail client application ( I can only guess your using some version of Outlook). The best and safest way to backup your email and contacts is to export or archive it into a file format that can be restored (for outlook a .pst file, or a tab-delimited .csv file). It can be an awful process depending on which mail client app you use.
  • Bug or By Design?

    Try changing the location the Documents, for example, and the shell:Personal command will display the default location, not the new one.
    • Works fine here

      I just tested on a clean installation of Windows 7 Enterprise and the relocated folder shows up as the target of shell:Personal.
      Ed Bott
  • Wouldn't it be more efficient if....

    Most of these are truly just shortcuts to folders, wouldn't it
    be more efficient if users were just to create folder full of
    their favorite of these shrotcuts on their desktop? That way
    users would not have to 1) memorize this syntax 2) type it in
    every single time. they need just navigat to an time they use
    frequenty once, make a shortcut, and then they will never
    have to search for that item, or memorize this syntax, ever
    • Shortcuts in a file manager

      I use a freebie dual-pane file manager by the name of "xplorer2". One of its features is the ability to save shortcuts for folders to display. I entered the shell commands I wanted to use and saved the resulting paths as shortcuts, so now I can bring them up with a click without having to type anything in or navigate to a folder with shortcuts in it.
    • Have to agree

      Yup do the work once making all your shortcuts and then forget about all the shell commands. You could even hack the registry to overwrite all these locations with custom ones you pick. Most of these shell: commands seem to work in XP too, definitely not a win7 exclusive.
    • Good plan here

      In addition to creating a desktop folder of shortcuts, it would be VERY handy to be able to group and arrange these shortcuts within the suggested folder according to user preference. This ability, however has been taken away from us with the introduction of Windows 7. We must now accept alphabetical arrangement with no ability to change the order.
  • Fantastic Ed, can these be used in other ways?

    These are very helpful!

    However, they did not seem to work consistently. When executed from the Run box, they open the Explorer window, as expected. But when typed in a command prompt, they do not seem to work.

    Any idea about all the various ways these shell: commands can work? i.e., can they be used in ways like %WINDIR%?
    • CMD window commands need to be prefaced...

      ... with "Start" if you want to get an explorer window.

      so in a CMD window you would type the following:

      "start shell:CommonDownloads"

      to get the Shared Downloads folder.

      Also, if you're in a CMD window and you want an explorer window to the folder that the command prompt points to, just type in "Start ." and press enter.

      The period basically says "here" and launches an Explorer window to that location.
    • Different rules

      These can't be used as direct parameters to a command or shortcut, as environment variables can. In those cases you can use %localappdata% and so on.

      As for shortcuts, use the shell command to open a window, then drag the contents of the address bar to the desktop or another folder.
      Ed Bott
    • Thanks PollyProteus and Ed! (nt)

  • NOW all I need is the shortcut for.....

    The "CLASSIC" option that was in XP, Vista and NOW THANKS MS is no longer there.
    If MS wants us )115) to move to WIN7 then we need/require this option.
    This and the "RIBBON" are the reasons why we will remain with XP, VISTA and Office 2003.
    • agree, except

      I would remain with XP and Office 2003, but not Vista. But I just got a new machine and got Win7 Pro on it. There are definitely some things about it that are cool, and not just eye candy either. It is much easier to connect to public WiFi in a coffee shop, for instance.
    • "Classic" Windows

      Try looking on SourceForge for "Classic Shell". It may do some/much of what you want.
      • "Classic" Windows isn't that great

        I tried it. At least the free version has LOTS of problems. For instance, you can't copy and paste, drag and drop, etc. There are several commercial programs more like the Classic menu but they go for about $30 per seat. That can get pretty expensive for a home user with several computers.
  • RE: 94 more secret Windows shortcuts

    why does windows thrive on caos! were is the system that was supposed to make our lives simpler?all the geekodites LOOOOVE complication it makes up for there lack of social skills ."lets teach those bullies that WE are the power players now!"they say.
    Come on guys and gals, dont use your gift as retribution for those lunkheads!Get some counseling, balance your life and use your gifts to better the world not complicate it.
    • Um, OK?

      That makes absolutely no sense.
      Ed Bott
    • I think you may need to take your own advice - Sheesh. nt