Files and Folders Become Shortcuts? Quick Fixes Here!

Last updated: Jun. 10, 2017

young man worry on a PC

Oh, no….so you plugged your USB flash drive (or a memory card) into a computer, and you tried to access the data inside, only to find that all the files and folders became shortcuts.

What the hell is the problem? Is there a way to fix it? You started to wonder.

Quick answer: your device is infected — but yes, you can fix it in a few steps and hopefully recover all your hidden or lost files.

In this article, we're going to show you how to do that, all you need is follow the step by step guide below.

Take a breath and let's get started.

The culprit — viruses!

More precisely, it can be a virus, trojan or worm (notorious ones include BUOUFO, QWERT, AUTORUN, etc.). Chances are the virus has resided in either your Windows PC or the device, or both. The device we are talking about here can be a flash drive, a microSD card, an external drive, etc.

Once the virus has got you, what it often does is hide your files and folders, by turning them into shortcuts - usually a few kilobytes by file size, while the actual size can be several megabytes or gigabytes. In rare cases, your files could disappear.

What you'll need:

  • Your Windows PC (even if it's infected)
  • The removable media, i.e. the USB drive, flash card, etc
  • An anti-malware software like SpyHunter
  • A data recovery tool (optional)
  • A little bit time and patience

Guide to Fixing Folder Shortcut Issue

Step 1: check if the folders are hidden

  1. For PCs with Windows XP, click Start > Run, type "cmd" and click "OK." For Windows Vista/7/8/10, press Home + R and type "cmd" and then "OK." Note: the Home key is right next to Alt.
  2. Enter this command attrib -h -r -s /s /d f:*.* (note: here we assume your external drive shows as F: under My Computer or This PC. Don't forget to replace "f" if the driver letter is different).
  3. Press "Enter" key and now check if your files and folders in your disk are back to normal.

If yes, congratulations. If no, don't worry, go to Step 2.

Step 2: scan and remove any viruses

  1. If you have a security software on your PC, open it and run a thorough scan of all disks including your external drive. If you don't have one, we recommend SpyHunter as it's more powerful in detecting malware and spyware that many antivirus can't find. 
  2. Most of the time, the virus won't escape the eyes of a powerful antivirus or anti-malware program. Do not have any mercy on the found threats — clean them right away.
  3. Once the virus is cleaned, now check back the folders on your device, does the shortcut problem disappear?

If yes, that's great. Otherwise, it seems the virus is too stubborn to remove.

You'll need to go to the following step.

Step 3: recover data and format the disk drive

  1. Get Stellar Windows Data Recovery and install the program on your PC (preferably another one without virus/malware infection).
  2. Connect your storage device to the PC. Then launch the recovery program you've just installed and run a quick scan of the disk drive (your device represents). See if the software can locate some of your lost files thus recover them thereafter. 
  3. Next, go ahead and reformat your device on your PC (use Windows "quick format" or "complete format" option). This way everything on your device would be deleted including the virus and the shortcut issue.
  4. It's not over yet, now re-use Stellar data recovery software you've already installed to scan your device again to see if more files can be found and retrieved. 

Pro tips: normal disk re-formatting won't erase the data saved in the storage device right away, learn the reasons why from this article. Also, data recovery software like Stellar performs read-only operations. Thus, it won't damage your disk.

We hope this step by step guide has helped you get rid of the annoying folders becoming shorts issue, or at least you have restored your precious files and data.

Let us know if you have any questions or problems during the process. Leave a comment below; we'd be happy to give advice that may help you out.

Thanks to Megha for submitting this issue.

"All the files and folders became shortcuts in my 500GB external hard drive, after it was connected to my Windows 8 computer and when I attempted to view the files. This happened just all of a sudden. It's really annoying to see that nearly 200GB data now became shortcuts with just about 1-2KB size. How could this happen? Please help me out. I am willing to destroy the drive as long as the data can be recovered." — Megha

Jessica Carrell

Jessica is one of the co-founders at AnySoftwareTools. She is a lover of photography, technology, teaching, and learning. Recently she's keen on following news related to tech giants and SaaS startups in bay area.

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