Deletion of "Broken" Desktop Shortcuts STILL in Windows 8 RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • Microsoft, how do you justify actively sweeping across peoples' desktops, cleaning (deleting) "broken" shortcuts - presumably to reduce desktop clutter, yet AT THE SAME TIME present us with a full, cluttered, noisy interface in the Start menu?

    Note this issue:  http://support.microsoft.com/kb/978980

    Even with Windows 8, as far as I can see, the script  C:\Windows\Diagnostics\Scheduled\Maintenance\TS_BrokenShortcuts.ps1 is regularly checking for shortcuts on the Desktop that are "broken" (at the time of the script running) and if it finds more than 4 of them it deletes all that are considered "broken".

    So, let me get this straight...

    • You feel comfortable with deleting things that we have created from our computers?
    • You prefer a clean Desktop but a cluttered Metro Start Screen?


    In my opinion you have no business deleting any desktop shortcuts.  Clearly users agree:  http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/ar/w7itproui/thread/1b4dbba7-a5ae-4ab3-b875-3980938dbef3

    Please take a moment from updating the look and feel of Windows to support your new "thin is in" theme and remove this automatic desktop shortcut deletion.  Yes, I know it makes using the desktop more irritating and pushes people toward Metro.  Yes, I know I must be a dinosaur for thinking that I want to control my own computer.  Just remove it anyway...  Please?


    Sunday, December 4, 2011 5:35 PM

All replies

  • If a shortcut is broken, what's the point of having a shortcut on the desktop? A broken shortcut is, by nature, useless and will do nothing other than send an error message. Also, I don't usually have enough broken shortcuts on my desktop to ever notice this. Besides, I'm not sure this is such a bad thing. Removing the broken shortcuts will cause the PC to send less error messages. I don't think this behavior makes the PC more irritating and in fact, I can see this being an advantage of the desktop over Metro.
    Wednesday, December 14, 2011 10:37 PM
  • If a shortcut is broken, what's the point of having a shortcut on the desktop? A broken shortcut is, by nature, useless


    That seems reasonable at first blush, doesn't it?  But...

    Your thinking is apparently along the same line as Microsoft's, but you're not taking into account one important dimension:   Time.

    What if the desktop shortcut happens to be broken NOW, but isn't always?

    It's not hard to imagine shortcuts pointing at network resources that are not online right now, perhaps because a laptop running Windows 7 is not attached to the same network it always is (e.g., it's been taken home), or because some resource has been temporarily taken offline.

    This particular behavior of Windows hasn't happened to me either, but I can't fathom anyone thinking it's okay for the OS just to sweep through and delete stuff that you've created from your system.  Where should it end?  Should it take on the task of cleaning up your TEMP area?  Maybe clear out old documents in your My Documents area?

    The purpose of an operating system is not to DO anything itself, it's to FACILITATE things the USER does.

    I fully understand Microsoft wanting to help non-tecnical users keep their desktops manageable, but really - how many people don't know they can delete icons from their desktops?  And if there ARE significant numbers of such people, shouldn't EDUCATION be the solution, not automated deletion of people's stuff?


    Thursday, December 15, 2011 1:16 AM
  • I had never heard of that before. Everything on my desktop is either a gadget, a link to a program that never goes offline, or a file that I only intend to keep for a short amount of time (I place files on my desktop as a reminder to delete them).
    Thursday, December 15, 2011 2:16 AM
  • I had never heard of that before

    Quite understandable for an individual user, but not for Microsoft.

    Interestingly, in XP we used to see messages like "There are unused icons on your desktop, would you like to clean them up now?"  The good part of that was that you could say "no, and stop asking already".  Taking that forward to a virtually undocumented "system maintenance" function that deletes things from peoples' desktops via rules hidden in an obscure script without ever asking the user is quite a leap, don't you think?  The thing is, they once DID ask, now they don't.  THAT'S what I find inexcusable.

    Microsoft seems to be trying to simplify Windows, and in general that's good, but...

    I'm fond of paraphrasing Albert Einstein's old saying:  "Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler."


    Thursday, December 15, 2011 2:50 AM
  • I never used the Desktop Cleanup Wizard. When I organize my desktop, I keep three columns of icons on it at all times - no more and no less. In the Windows XP Tour, I always thought that the demonstration of the Desktop Cleanup Wizard looked strange. There's just something wrong about having a folder icon on the desktop; at least, that's what it looks like to me. However, unused shortcuts and broken shortcuts are two different things.
    Thursday, December 15, 2011 3:03 AM
  • unused shortcuts and broken shortcuts are two different things.

    Are they really, conceptually?  I see them both as things the user has created on purpose.

    I'm sorry that I can't agree that whatever the status of a file that's been created on the computer by a user, the operating system should feel empowered to delete it without confirmation from the user

    Interestingly, we note that even an explicit deletion of a shortcut or file by a user is - by default - accompanied by a confirmation dialog.

    Knowing what you've heard above, that a currently "broken" shortcut might not be "broken" at all tomorrow when the computer is plugged back into a work network, you apparently still agree with Microsoft's approach...  Fair enough.  Good thing the cause and workarounds have been identified for people who need better behavior from their OS.

    Heh, somehow I see this as a first step to computers taking over the world, but perhaps I'm getting ahead of things a bit.  :)


    • Edited by Noel Carboni Thursday, December 15, 2011 6:23 PM
    Thursday, December 15, 2011 6:21 PM
  • Just chiming in to support Noel on this issue.  My desktop shortcuts link to files residing on a NAS.  The NAS undergoes its own maintenance on Sunday evenings, and through that process goes offline for a while.  Apparently, during that offline period, the process Noel describes decides that my desktop shortcuts are "broken" and deletes them.  I have to re-establish the shortcuts every Monday morning.  That's not expected, nor is it optimal.  Imagine if the cleaning people removed everything from your physical desk overnight because "nothing was being used at that moment."  The next morning, you reach for a pen or post-it note and neither are where you left them.  Frustrating, no?  Please consider that some of us like the tried and true methods and that most of us don't have time to tinker with "workarounds." 
    Monday, December 26, 2011 8:32 PM
  • I've been following this discussion in a few threads, and I'd just like to throw this in...this problem is easy to re-create and does *not* only apply to broken shortcuts! 

    I can copy a dozen links to my desktop to various network resources located on mapped drives.  I can even have the network folders open that the shortcuts point to (so obviously not broke).  I then immediately manually run the scheduled task located in the Task Scheduler Library at Microsoft->Windows_>Diagnosis.  The shortcuts all disappear because they are supposedly "broken", even though I may have them open and active! 

    What is also interesting to note, is that if I edit any of the shortcuts to use the UNC path of the resource as the target, rather than the mapped drive letter, that those shortcuts using the UNC will not be bonked.  It has something to do with Windows believing those shortcuts using a mapped drive letter are disconnected, even though they're clearly not. 

    Most definitely a bug!

    Thursday, December 29, 2011 6:54 PM
  • Good point!  I was thinking that "broken" now might not always mean "broken" before or later, but of course "broken" also changes context depending on how the maintenance task is run.  This just further highlights why such an activity is not valid!

    It's to be expected that scheduled tasks don't see the drive letter network connections you have mapped in your interactive session.  There are ways to work around that, but I haven't looked up how to do it in a long while.

    The workaround for you is to change the script the maintenance task uses.  This seems the most direct method to stop this from happening, which is non-trivial to do as changing permissions are involved.  Microsoft's own knowlege base article suggests shutting off the entire maintenance process, which certainly seems a bit extreme.



    My new eBook: Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options

    • Edited by Noel Carboni Thursday, December 29, 2011 7:18 PM Clarified wording
    Thursday, December 29, 2011 7:17 PM
  • The document Distributed Link Tracking and Object Identifiers states:

    When a link is created to a file, the target file is considered the link source, and the creator of the link is the link client. For example, if a shell shortcut is created to link to a text document, the text document is the link source, and the shell shortcut is the link client.

    The broken links cleanup problem could be defined as:
    The link client (shortcut) does not keep an internal record of its last success/failure in locating the link source (target path), so the cleanup script has to determine the broken/working status of the link client by the existence or not of the link source (when the script is run).

    Ideally, .lnk files would have a Link_Source_Located=bool property that the Distributed Link Tracking service could write to when the shortcut was invoked, and the %windir%\Diagnostics\Scheduled\Maintenance\TS_BrokenShortcuts.ps1 script would refer to this property, rather than looking for the link source, when determining the broken/working status of a link client.

    Alternatively, the creator of the link client should be able to write a property like Ignore_Errors=True - this would prevent both the DLT service from invoking the location algorithm when the link source was not found, and the cleanup script from deleting the link client (the script would immediately move on to the next shortcut). This option would be roughly analogous to Robocopy's /tbd switch: Specifies that the system will wait for share names to be defined (retry error 67) - in the sense that fatal errors are ignored.

    My general point is that the cleanup script is doing the best it can with the information available. The "blame" in this case is with the limitations of the shortcut format.


    • Edited by Drewfus Thursday, December 29, 2011 11:20 PM
    Thursday, December 29, 2011 10:44 PM
  • My general point is that the cleanup script is doing the best it can with the information available. The "blame" in this case is with the limitations of the shortcut format. 

    The "blame" is with some Microsoft engineer who went ahead and implemented something that doesn't make sense!

    If you are blindfolded at a shooting range blasting away (blindly) with your weapon, trying to hit targets based on sense of smell but without actually seeing them, you may find yourself occasionally mowing down unfortunate people and things nearby.

    You could certainly say you are doing the best you can with the information available.  Before they take you to jail, that is.

    EVEN IF we concede that there are legitimate things to shoot there (which I don't agree with in the case of MY desktop), my point is that it simply makes no sense to commence shooting in the first place, because you already KNOW you have insufficient information to accomplish the task.  It's not like someone took the information away from the shortcuts after the feature was designed!

    Who at Microsoft thinks up such features, that don't make any sense?  And how do these features pass design reviews where people say things like "you can't know if the link is really broken"?  That's assuming there are such reviews and people who could think of such basic things at Microsoft.



    My new eBook: Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options

    Friday, December 30, 2011 12:15 AM
  • "If a shortcut is broken, what's the point of having a shortcut on the desktop? A broken shortcut is, by nature, useless and will do nothing other than send an error message."

    That is only true if you ignore the distinction between online/offline and exists/does_not_exist. Your implying that that distinction has no meaning for you, or at least has no real world utility. That isn't to suggest the desktop cleanup script has no value, but the problem is that if a target path is not found, it is regarded as non-existant. Not necessarily the case with network and removable drives.


    Friday, December 30, 2011 12:41 AM
  • One has to wonder why they chose a threshold of 4...



    My new eBook: Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options

    Friday, December 30, 2011 12:54 AM
  • "The "blame" is with some Microsoft engineer who went ahead and implemented something that doesn't make sense!"

    Yes, that is another valid way of looking at it :-)

    But really, which approach is more likely to get a change made - your criticism, or my constructive criticism?


    Friday, December 30, 2011 12:59 AM
  • Hey, you were the one who first brought up the term "blame".  ;)


    But if we ARE trying to get a change made, I think we might be trying to achieve different ones... 

    My point was and is that I don't want Microsoft pre-coding maintenance tasks that automatically delete things I create on my computer - on the desktop or otherwise.



    My new eBook: Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options

    Friday, December 30, 2011 4:43 AM
  • Yes,  and if Microsoft insists the simply must check for "broken" shortcuts then

    1) They need to allow an easy way to have the threshold user definable (or disabled!)

    2) They need to allow an option to prompt the user for confirmation (ie "Would you really like to delete all the network targetted shortcuts on your desktop that you use everyday?"


    FWIW - I've overcome this problem domain-wide using group policy by creating a GPO (Computer Configuration\Policies\Windows\Settings\Security Settings\File System) that gives Authenticated Users modify access to %SystemRoot%\diagnostics\scheduled\Maintenance\TS_BrokenShortcuts.ps1.  I then copied the file, placed it in a share accessible by Authenticated Users, commented the entire thing out, and set a Preference (User Configuration\Preferences\Windows Settings\Files) that replaces the existing TS_BrokenShortcuts.ps1 with the commented out copy. 

    Now when I fire off the scheduled task my network shortcuts to resources on mapped drives remain intact, with no discernible trouble caused in the event logs.



    Friday, December 30, 2011 6:10 PM
  • It happens when you run the Maintenance troubleshooter or in Windows 8, when you check the option in Action Center to perform maintenance automatically. And yes, it needs to be fixed by Microsoft. The Distributed Link Tracking service (already mentioned in this thread) already does an excellent job of fixing broken shortcuts when they are launched because it looks up the NTFS object identifier.

    The solution is here: http://www.withinwindows.com/2010/03/29/reader-mail-windows-7-and-the-disappearing-desktop-shortcuts/ and the modified PowerShell script needs to be incorporated into Windows 8.

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012 2:45 PM
  • Windows 7 got an update, so the chances are good, that Windows 8 beta/RC or later the RTM will also include this fix:


    "A programmer is just a tool which converts caffeine into code"

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012 6:22 PM