NTFS symbolic link or symlink in windows vista and windows server 2008 is a file-system object that points to another file system object in the NTFS filesystem. The object being pointed to by the NTFS symbolic link or symlink is called the target. Symbolic links are reparse points and a maximum of 31 reparse points (and therefore symbolic links) is only allowed in a given path.
NTFS symbolic links or symlinks appear as normal files or directories, and can be acted upon by the user or any application in exactly the same manner and they are transparent to users. Unix users would be familiar with symlinks. Symbolic links are designed to aid in migration and application compatibility with unix operating systems namely POSIX.
Infact Microsoft uses NTFS symbolic link or symlinks internally to maintain backward naming convention compatibility for user’s profile’s among other things. For example, the classic folder “c:\Documents and Settings” has now become a junction link to its new location “c:\Users”.
Windows vista NTFS symbolic link or symlinks versus NTFS junction points:
Unlike an NTFS junction point supprted by windows XP and earlier versions of windows operating systems, a NTFS symbolic link can also point to a file or remote SMB network path. Note that a NTFS junction point can only link to folders and volumes and it can be associated with files, but with the restriction that the file must belong to the same logical volume. This restriction is no longer there in windows vista NTFS symbolic links or symlinks.
Additionally, the NTFS symbolic link implementation provides full support for cross-filesystem links. However, the functionality enabling cross-host symbolic links requires that the remote system also support them, which effectively limits their support to Windows Vista and later Windows operating systems.
How does Vista implementations of symbolic links compare with symlinks in unix?
Vista implementations of symbolic links is still significantly inferior to those of Unix in that:
- Users must manually know what type of link they are working with for both creation and removal,
- Only a max. of 31 reparse points allowed in a pathname
- relative symlinks cannot cross volumes, d) other windows versions cannot access symlinks (unlike Samba)