Symbolic Linking

Applies To: Windows Server 2008

A symbolic link is a file system object that points to another file system object. The object being pointed to is called the destination object. Symbolic links are transparent to users. The links appear as normal files or directories, and they can be used by the user or application in exactly the same manner. Symbolic links have been added to the Windows Server® 2008 operating system to aid in migration and application compatibility with UNIX operating systems.

Symbolic links provide a means to transparently share data across volumes through different variants of linking.

Who will be interested in this feature?

Symbolic links are intended to be used by IT professionals and users who want to make accessing data across various shared network resources easier and transparent (this includes data found on the same computer or on remote computers).

What new functionality does this feature provide?

  • File and folder manipulation. With the file I/O abilities provided, you can manipulate both files and folders with calls to a large array of API functions.

  • Evaluations. A user can enable or disable any of the four evaluations that are available in symbolic links. The available evaluations are:

    • Local-to-local describes a computer accessing a local symbolic link that points to a local file or folder.

    • Local-to-remote is a computer accessing a local symbolic link that points to a Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path using the server message block (SMB) protocol.

    • Remote-to-local is a computer accessing a remote symbolic link that points to a local file or folder using SMB.

    • Remote-to-remote describes a computer accessing a remote symbolic link that points to a remote UNC path using SMB.

  • Types of link components. There are three types of links available to utilize symbolic linking on a system.

    • Absolute symbolic links are links that point to the absolute path of the file or folder—for example, C:\windows.

    • Relative symbolic links are links that point to a file or directory using the relative path—for example, ../../file.txt.

    • Directory junctions enable you to map any local folder to any other local folder. For example, if you have three folders—C:\folder1, C:\folder2 and C:\documents—you can create directory junctions in such a way that C:\documents will look like a subfolder of the two other folders—that is, C:\folder1\documents and C:\folder2\documents.


Mount points are essentially the same type of link component as directory junctions. However, they only allow you to map the root folder of one volume to a local folder of another volume.

Additional references

For information about other features in File Services, see the File Services Role topic.