Windows XP / Beginners

Default Locations for Shared Files

As noted in the previous section, Windows XP sets aside a group of folders for users to share documents with one another. By default, these folders are located in the All Users profile (on a default setup, the path is C:\Documents And Settings\All Users). File and folder permissions are set so that administrators have full access to these folders.

Note If your computer belongs to a Windows domain, the shared folder shortcuts referred to in this section aren't available at all. In workgroup setups and on standalone computers, the exact location of each shared folder is defined in the registry using values under the following key: HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ Explorer\Shell Folders.

Sorting out the exact location and behavior of shared folders can be confusing. When you open a shared folder in a Windows Explorer window, the folder name that appears in the Address bar doesn't always match the label that appears under the folder icon and in the title bar of the open window. The registry values that define shared folders use completely different names as well. In addition, some shared folders are hidden and at least one doesn't work as you might expect. Confused? The following list is not exhaustive, but it should help you make sense of the most frequently used shared folders:

  • Shared Documents To access this folder, open the My Computer window. The Shared Documents shortcut actually points to the Documents folder in the All Users profile. Its location is stored in the registry using the value Common Documents.
  • Shared Pictures You'll find this subfolder in the Shared Documents folder. Its actual name, confusingly, is My Pictures. Its location is stored in the registry using the value CommonPictures.
  • Shared Music This subfolder is also found in the Shared Documents folder. The actual name of this folder is My Music, and its location is stored in the registry using the value CommonMusic.
  • Shared Video This folder appears in the Shared Documents folder if Windows Movie Maker is installed. The folder's actual name is My Videos, and its location is stored in the registry using the value CommonVideo.
  • Desktop Any files you copy or move to the Desktop folder in the All Users profile show up on the desktop of all users on the system. Users with limited accounts can view and open these files but cannot rename or delete them. This location is stored in the registry as Common Desktop.
  • Start Menu As is the case with the Desktop folder, shortcuts or files you add to this common location appear on the Start menu for all users and can be changed only by members of the Administrators or Power Users group. This location is stored in the registry as Common Start Menu.
  • Favorites You might expect this folder to behave like the Desktop and Start Menu folders, merging its contents with the user's personal Favorites collection. Unfortunately, it doesn't. In fact, this folder does nothing at all.

Tip: Get to shared folders faster
Instead of typing the full path to the All Users profile every time you want to work with files and shortcuts stored there, get in the habit of using shortcuts based on the system variable %AllUsersProfile%. That variable works in all shortcuts and is especially useful on systems on which you have multiple versions of Windows XP installed. By using this system variable, you don't have to remember whether the current system is using the copy of Windows on drive C or drive D. If you're logged on as an administrator, you can also rightclick the Start button and choose Open All Users or Explore All Users to get to the shared Start Menu folder.

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