What's the difference between "Libraries" & "System Folders"


amitabhr

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What's the difference between "Libraries" & "System Folders" named Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music... etc - See Screenshot below with the 2 sets of folders marked in red & green. Calling the former system folders as that's what windows says they are. But they are libraries for all practical purposes.

These 'system folders' appear below your 'My Computer' while the Libraries appear after all your drive partitions like C,D etc.

I used to think they are just links to the same libraries but when i include my data folders in both of them things start going haywire and i find my folders show some name but are named something else entirely if you right click and check properties (typically with 2 or 3 -Copy -Copy added on to the folder name)

Anyone has any idea ?

(If both these sets of libs point to different folders there's never any problem. I can't delete the system folders though nor rename them though while I can do whatever i want with the libraries.)


scr libs vs sysfolders amilap2.png
 
Windows Build/Version
Windows 11 22H2 & Windows 10 20H2 both have same behaviour.

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Win 11 Pro 21H2 / Elementary 6 / macOS Big Sur
    Computer type
    Tablet
    Manufacturer/Model
    Thinkpad Yoga 260
    CPU
    Intel Core i7 6500U
    Memory
    8 GB
    Screen Resolution
    1920x1080 Touch+Stylus
    Hard Drives
    LITEON SSD 512 GB
    Internet Speed
    200 Mbps
    Other Info
    4G+GPS Snapdragon X7 LTE-A Sierra EM7455
    Synaptics Fingerprint Scanner WBDI | Wacom Stylus
    Intel AC-8260 WiFi + Bluetooth BLE | USB 3.1
    Realtek webcam & microSD | Connexant Audio
    TPM 2.0 Intel PTT | Secure Boot | UEFI Bios 1.82

iko22

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The System Folders (or known as Shell Folders) can contain virtual or physical folders.
The Libraries collection is a collection of Symbolic Links, which point to the target folder. You can delete a symbolic link, without affecting the actual target folder.
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 10
    CPU
    TBA
    Motherboard
    TBA

glasskuter

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  • Folder:
    A folder acts as a container for other files and folders ( subfolders). Each folder is stored at a specific point in your computer's file system.
  • Library:
    A library is a kind of smart folder that presents files from different folders as if they were all stored in the same location. In fact, each file remains in the folder in which you stored it, but the library gives you an easy way to access it. Libraries can be optimized for one of 4 different categories of content (documents, music, pictures, and videos) or for general items. Depending on how a library is optimized, one sees different options for sorting the files within the library. For example, if a library is optimized for music, you can sort its containing files by album name.
  • A user can add additional folder locations to a library. Let's say you have some music in your 'music' folder which is windows default folder for that file type. But you also have a lot of music stored on an external hard drive in a folder called 'old music'. You can include this old music folder in the music library so that when you select the music library in explorer, you see ALL your music in one place even though it is physically located in 2 separate folders on 2 separate drives.
  • One can show or hide libraries if he chooses.

 

My Computers

System One System Two

  • OS
    Windows 11 Pro 22H2 22621.608
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Dell Optiplex 7080
    CPU
    i9-10900 10 core 20 threads
    Motherboard
    DELL 0J37VM
    Memory
    32 gb
    Graphics Card(s)
    none-Intel UHD Graphics 630
    Sound Card
    Integrated Realtek
    Monitor(s) Displays
    Benq 27
    Screen Resolution
    2560x1440
    Hard Drives
    256 m.2 2230-256+1 tb hdd
    PSU
    500w
    Case
    MT
    Cooling
    Dell Premium
    Keyboard
    Logitech wired
    Mouse
    Logitech wireless
    Internet Speed
    so slow I'm too embarrassed to tell
    Browser
    Firefox
    Antivirus
    Defender+MWB Premium
  • Operating System
    Windows 10 Pro 21H2
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Dell Optiplex 9020
    CPU
    i7-4770
    Memory
    24 gb
    Monitor(s) Displays
    Benq 27
    Screen Resolution
    2560x1440
    Hard Drives
    256 gb Toshiba BG4 M.2 NVE SSB and 1 tb hdd
    PSU
    500w
    Case
    MT
    Cooling
    Dell factory
    Mouse
    Logitech wireless
    Keyboard
    Logitech wired
    Internet Speed
    still not telling
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    Firefox
    Antivirus
    Defender+MWB Premium

Berton

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To add to @glasskuter, right-click one of the items under This PC and choose Properties, will show the actual location of the folder. Or in other words the Libraries are, in practical use, shortcuts to the actual location of them. An example of Documents under This PC on my Win11 Pro:

1658151337414.png
 

My Computers

System One System Two

  • OS
    Win11 Pro RTM
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Dell Vostro 3400
    CPU
    Intel Core i5
    Memory
    8GB
    Hard Drives
    256GB SSD NVMe
  • Operating System
    Windows 11 Pro RTM x64
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Dell Vostro 5890
    CPU
    Intel Core i5
    Memory
    16GB
    Graphics card(s)
    Onboard, no VGA, using a DisplayPort-to-VGA adapter
    Monitor(s) Displays
    21"
    Hard Drives
    512GB SSD NVMe, 2TB WDC HDD
    Browser
    Firefox, Edge
    Antivirus
    Windows Defender/Microsoft Security

amitabhr

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Win 11 Pro 21H2 / Elementary 6 / macOS Big Sur
Thanks a lot for the replies guys.

It's not that simple though. For normal folders what you say is correct BUT the "Documents" folder under "My Computer" (and the 3D Objects, Downloads etc folders) is different since it redirects (to any folder you want) just like the "Libraries"

So windows calls it "System Folder" though it has nothing to do with the system stuff

But that's not all. These folders seem to be using something similar to how Linux Desktops name files & folders where you can have multiple folders or files with the SAME NAME because that's just the Display Name while the actual name is very different

Most such naming schemes on linux add random numbers or unix time or such string at the end of the actual file names while the displayed one can be identical for hundreds of files.

Windows 10/11 seems to be adding -Copy -Copy at the end of file names whenever it finds a duplicate name and KEEPS SHOWING the DISPLAY NAME - See SCR below and it will become clearer:

You will notice that the folder is displayed as "3D Objects" even in the explorer path field or properties dialog box
BUT
when you click on the path breadcrumbs it shows the real name "3D Objects -Copy -Copy" (bcoz i copy pasted that folder 3 times. Some of these folders have entirely different names depending on when I created them or which folder was pasted here)


sysfolders amilap2 .png


My problem was simply that I wanted the "Documents" folder visible under "my computer" to point to my data folder and ALSO want the "Documents" Library visible under 'Libraries' to point to the Same my data folder

But doing that results in the strangest things if you do a lot of copy/paste/rename/create/delete folder operations because no where does windows say that these folders are being handled in entirely different way than the usual filesystem. Like in Linux we know that what it displays on the Desktop will have different file name and you can go and edit that link in terminal to change the real file name or the display name. Here I have no idea how to change the real & display folder names.
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Win 11 Pro 21H2 / Elementary 6 / macOS Big Sur
    Computer type
    Tablet
    Manufacturer/Model
    Thinkpad Yoga 260
    CPU
    Intel Core i7 6500U
    Memory
    8 GB
    Screen Resolution
    1920x1080 Touch+Stylus
    Hard Drives
    LITEON SSD 512 GB
    Internet Speed
    200 Mbps
    Other Info
    4G+GPS Snapdragon X7 LTE-A Sierra EM7455
    Synaptics Fingerprint Scanner WBDI | Wacom Stylus
    Intel AC-8260 WiFi + Bluetooth BLE | USB 3.1
    Realtek webcam & microSD | Connexant Audio
    TPM 2.0 Intel PTT | Secure Boot | UEFI Bios 1.82

amitabhr

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OS
Win 11 Pro 21H2 / Elementary 6 / macOS Big Sur
Ok, as per google search, if you go here in regedit:

Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\MyComputer\NameSpace

you can see these folders with random number names. No idea how to make out which random string is for which folder though

There's some detail here:



1658215553781.png


[Edit] Ok, this seems to clear up the issue. It's all hard coded and we can't edit these it seems



For future reference, the subkeys correspond to the following folders:


"Those are NameSpace Subkeys and that is the way Windows stores shell folder references in the Registry.
You cannot make your own NameSpaces in Windows 10.

{1CF1260C-4DD0-4ebb-811F-33C572699FDE} - Music Folder

{374DE290-123F-4565-9164-39C4925E467B} - Downloads Folder

{3ADD1653-EB32-4cb0-BBD7-DFA0ABB5ACCA} - Pictures Folder

{A0953C92-50DC-43bf-BE83-3742FED03C9C} - Videos Folder

{A8CDFF1C-4878-43be-B5FD-F8091C1C60D0} - Documents Folder

{B4BFCC3A-DB2C-424C-B029-7FE99A87C641} - Desktop Folder

{645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E} - Recycle Bin


 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Win 11 Pro 21H2 / Elementary 6 / macOS Big Sur
    Computer type
    Tablet
    Manufacturer/Model
    Thinkpad Yoga 260
    CPU
    Intel Core i7 6500U
    Memory
    8 GB
    Screen Resolution
    1920x1080 Touch+Stylus
    Hard Drives
    LITEON SSD 512 GB
    Internet Speed
    200 Mbps
    Other Info
    4G+GPS Snapdragon X7 LTE-A Sierra EM7455
    Synaptics Fingerprint Scanner WBDI | Wacom Stylus
    Intel AC-8260 WiFi + Bluetooth BLE | USB 3.1
    Realtek webcam & microSD | Connexant Audio
    TPM 2.0 Intel PTT | Secure Boot | UEFI Bios 1.82

glasskuter

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7:13 PM
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The Lone Star State of Texas
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Windows 11 Pro 22H2 22621.608
Because i keep everything so organized I very rarely search in windows. I am a stickler for file/folder naming conventions and where I put 'my stuff' even down to the icons I assign to types of folders. I don't want or need to depend on a bunch of symbolic links messing up this neat 'filing cabinet' I've built for myself. When I got my first Windows 7 machine in 2009 I hated libraries. I still hate them and always disable. I know I'm not the norm in this regard, but it works for me.
 

My Computers

System One System Two

  • OS
    Windows 11 Pro 22H2 22621.608
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Dell Optiplex 7080
    CPU
    i9-10900 10 core 20 threads
    Motherboard
    DELL 0J37VM
    Memory
    32 gb
    Graphics Card(s)
    none-Intel UHD Graphics 630
    Sound Card
    Integrated Realtek
    Monitor(s) Displays
    Benq 27
    Screen Resolution
    2560x1440
    Hard Drives
    256 m.2 2230-256+1 tb hdd
    PSU
    500w
    Case
    MT
    Cooling
    Dell Premium
    Keyboard
    Logitech wired
    Mouse
    Logitech wireless
    Internet Speed
    so slow I'm too embarrassed to tell
    Browser
    Firefox
    Antivirus
    Defender+MWB Premium
  • Operating System
    Windows 10 Pro 21H2
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Dell Optiplex 9020
    CPU
    i7-4770
    Memory
    24 gb
    Monitor(s) Displays
    Benq 27
    Screen Resolution
    2560x1440
    Hard Drives
    256 gb Toshiba BG4 M.2 NVE SSB and 1 tb hdd
    PSU
    500w
    Case
    MT
    Cooling
    Dell factory
    Mouse
    Logitech wireless
    Keyboard
    Logitech wired
    Internet Speed
    still not telling
    Browser
    Firefox
    Antivirus
    Defender+MWB Premium

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