Files and Folders Become Shortcuts? Quick Fixes Here!

young man worry on a PC

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

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

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

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.). Anyway, the virus has resided in either your Windows PC or the removable device, or both. The external device we are talking about here can be a flash drive, an SD card, an external HDD, etc.

Once the virus has got you, what it often does is simply hide your folders, by turning them into shortcuts, a few Kilobytes in size, but your actual files can be several Megabytes or Gigabytes. In rare cases, your items would get deleted.

What you'll need to fix it

  • Your Windows PC (even if it's infected)
  • The removable media, i.e. the USB drive, flash card, etc
  • An antivirus or anti-malware software
  • A data recovery software (maybe)
  • Some 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 click "OK". Note: the "Home" key is right next to "alt".
  2. Enter this command attrib -h -r -s /s /d f:*.* (note: here we are assuming your external drive shows as F: under "My Computer" or "This PC", do not forget to replace "f" if the driver letter is different).
  3. Press "Enter" button and now check if your files and folders in your removable disk are back to normal.

If yes, congratulations! If no, do not 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 drives including the external one. If you don't, we recommend you to get BitDefender Antivirus as it is more powerful than other alternatives. 
  2. Most of the time, the virus won't escape the eyes of a powerful antivirus program. So, do not have any mercy on the found threats — clean them immediately.
  3. Once the virus is cleaned, now check back on your removable device, does the shortcut problem disappear?

If yes, great. Otherwise, it seems the virus is too stubborn to remove. Now go to the final step.

Step 3: recover data and format the disk drive

  1. Keep your device connected to the PC. Then download and install a data recovery software. Run the recovery program and have a quick scan of the disk drive (your external device represents). See if the software can recover some of your files. Note: data recovery software performs read-only operations. Thus, it won't do any damage to your disk.
  2. Next, go ahead and reformat the device on your PC (use a "quick format" or "complete format" option). This way everything on your device would be deleted including the virus and the shortcut issue.
  3. Hold on, now use the data recovery software you've already installed to re-scan the device to see if more files can be recovered. Note: a quick formatting won't erase the data stored on it immediately.

We hope this step by step guide has helped you get rid of the annoying folders becoming shorts issue, or at least you can retrieve your precious files and data. Let us know if you have any questions or problems during the fixing process. Leave a comment below; we'd be happy to explore fix solutions to help you out.

Thanks to Megha William for submitting the 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 photographer, teacher, Apple advocate, and lover of learning. Recently she's keen on following news related to the big five tech giants and many SaaS startups in bay area.

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