Internet Explorer Favorites

Microsoft's Internet Explorer saves links to web pages as Favorites. For reasons discussed below, this is a very bad idea.

In addition, while researching this, it was discovered that Windows Explorer is once again hiding data from users. (Specifically, desktop.ini when it is located in certain directories.) There is no way that I can describe this type of performance harshly enough.

Structure | Related Registry Entries | Storage Space | Making a Backup | desktop.ini


When you create a Favorite under IE 4, you are allowed to name the entry and to select which directory to place it in. IE 4 then creates a file similar to User Entered Text.url in the selected directory. Typically, these files are less than 100 bytes but consume 65 Kb on your hard drive (with a standard 2 Gig partition). Using Windows Explorer, the .url is never shown do to a registry entry.

The basic file format (using AltaVista Main Page.url as an example) is

This 55 byte file consumes from 2 Kb to 65 Kb (i.e. the minimum block size) on most hard drives.

Related Registry Entries

In the registry, HKCR\.url points to HKCR\InternetShortcut where the key values IsShortcut and NeverShowExt are defined to have null strings. The open command is defined as

In IE 4.72, you can change the display order of the favorite entries by dragging and dropping their icons. In the registry, starting with

for the top level entry, each sub-directory has an associated Menu key where this data is stored. If you delete (or re-name) the Menu key, IE will automatically create another and the sort order will return to the alphabetical default. (Deleting the key won't have an effect until after you re-start IE 4.) Q-Sort 98 (freeware) will allow you to re-sort the favorites.

The following key determines where the Favorites are for the current user.

Storage Space

If you assume 500 URLs (not a lot really) However, at 64 Kb per entry, the same 500 links actually require Of course, when you use Windows Explorer 95, it says that only 25,000 bytes are used because it never reports wasted space. (With Windows 98, wasted space is reported. On one machine, 475 files, 88 folders, 62.7 KB, 1,871, 872 bytes used. This is about 140 bytes (3KB used) per link.)

I was supprised to find that 2 exe files were included in the Favorites\Links folder. Quick Search.exe (44 Kb) and Toggle Images.exe (30 Kb). These are part of the MSIE Power Toys / Web Accessories (free from Microsoft). Interestingly, if you remove the folder, IE 4 puts it back again.

Making a Backup

I copied my Favorites directory to a floppy. (Hey, you're supposed to make backups aren't you?) Windows Explorer reported 171 KB (74 Kb for just the 2 exe files). I estimate this to require 35 Mb on the hard drive. It took 16 minutes to copy these to a floppy where they occupied 487,936 bytes. (Yes, I timed it. Ridiculous would be a kind comment.)

During the copy, I noticed that there where a large number of files named desktop.ini. Funny, none of these show up using Windows Explorer. (More copy protection ??)

Zipping all 597 files (this includes sub-directories which are actually files) took less than 1 minute and occupied 210 Kb including the 2 exe files.

I'm glad to know that IE 4 is the supierior product! :)

On the other hand, Microsoft provides a free tool (46 Kb) which converts between Favorites (35 Meg) and Bookmarks (74 Kb). It only took about 5 seconds. I strongly suggest using this, or, perhaps one of these .


If you search your Favorites directories for desktop.ini, nothing will be found. This is strange since I saw them being copied to the floppy.

Well, they do show up using dir /a from a DOS prompt. attrib shows that they are hidden files. Humm. I have Windows Explorer configured to show hidden files, but Explorer only shows a few of these.

I created a desktop.ini in one of my personal Favorites directories and set the attributes to hidden ... Windows Explorer still shows it. This is interesting! Find Files also finds it ... but none of the others.

Snooping in the registry reveals that the find function is implemented via Windows Explorer (C:\WINDOWS\Explorer.exe to be precise).

Working from a DOS pormpt

   C:\WINDOWS\Favorites>dir /s/a *.ini > ttr.txt
only returned the one I created. Humm!
   C:\WINDOWS\Favorites>attrib /s *.ini > ttr.txt
This caught 42 of these magic files (plus one more for mine). The /s causes the 2 commands to recurse all sub-directories.

This is the contents of C:\WINDOWS\Favorites\Channels\News and Technology\desktop.ini which is visible in Windows Explorer even though Find Files can't see it.

This is the contents of C:\WINDOWS\Favorites\Channels\Disney\desktop.ini which can only be seen via DOS I edited the contents of my desktop.ini file to match the one above, but it still displays and is still found.

If you edit one of the desktop.ini files and then re-name the associated directory, you can make the directory contents appear and/or disable the new icon. Refreshing Windows Explorer has no effect - you must re-name the directory to see the difference!

Author: Robert Clemenzi -
URL: http:// / user / clemenzi / technical / ie / IE_Favorites.htm