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Turn a shell folder into a briefcase

Do you want one of your Windows special folders (My Documents, My Music, Shared Documents, etc.) to be a briefcase, so that you can quickly and easily synchronise some or all of its contents with data kept elsewhere? Then do this:

  1. Create a briefcase with the same real name as the special folder you want to convert. The real name isn’t always the same as the name Windows displays: for example ‘Shared Documents’ is really just ‘Documents.’ To find a folder’s real name, open a command window and do a directory listing of the containing folder (dir "c:\Documents and Settings\All Users\ for Shared Documents).
  2. Open the hidden file named ‘Desktop.ini’ in the folder. You can do this by opening the folder, typing \Desktop.ini on the end of the path shown in the Explorer address bar and hitting <return>. Copy its contents.
  3. Move the new briefcase into the containing folder. When asked if you want to replace files with the same name, say yes. Don’t worry: the briefcase is empty except for two hidden files, and copying them is the point of the whole exercise. If asked if you want to move/replace the protected system file ‘Desktop.ini’, say yes.
  4. Open the ‘Desktop.ini’ file again. Paste the contents you copied earlier into it. If there are now two [.ShellClassInfo] headings present in the file, delete one of them and put its contents under the other.
  5. Open a command window and type attrib +R followed by the path to the folder/briefcase. Do not ask why, do not worry.


The ‘Update all’ option in the folder’s context menu is always there. The ‘common tasks’ displayed on the right of Explorer windows inside the folder are sometimes those appropriate to a briefcase and sometimes not. If they are not, then the context and other menu options for updating the briefcase will be missing. Whether the options are available or not depends on how the folder was opened: if you open it from the ‘My Computer’ window or menu, Windows treats it as a shell folder and forgets it’s a briefcase, if you open it from the containing folder, it remembers.

If you move files and folders into a briefcase from outside, Windows assumes you want to make a synchronised copy of them within the briefcase. If you just want to move them, then drag them in using the right mouse button, then choose the appropriate choice from the menu that pops up when you drop them.

If Windows no longer treats your special folder as special, go to for instructions on how to fix it.