Files and Folders Become Shortcuts? Quick Fixes Here!

Last updated: Aug. 1, 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 all the files and folders became shortcuts.

What was wrong? Is there a way to open those shortcut files? You might wonder.

The quick answer is: your storage device has been infected some viruses or malware! However, you can often fix the problem in a few steps, and restore your hidden or lost data.

That's what we're going to show you in this article. Just follow the step by step guide, and let's get started.

The culprit: virus (or malware)

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

What it often does is hide your files and folders, by turning them into shortcuts - usually a few kilobytes (KBs) in size, while the actual size can be several megabytes (MBs) or gigabytes (GBs). In rare cases, your items could disappear.

​Fortunately, it's often a quick fix. Keep reading...

What you'll need:

Quick Guide to Fixing Folder Shortcut Issue

Note: It is highly recommended that you DO NOT jump to the second or third step, without trying the first step. 

Step 1: check if your folders are hidden

First, open the Command Prompt app. For Windows XP/Vista/7, click Start > Run, type "cmd" and click "OK"; For Windows 8.1/10, search "cmd" in task bar and click the best match (see the screenshot below).

Next, copy this command attrib -h -r -s /s /d f:*.* and right click and paste it here. Important 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).

Now, press "Enter" key and check if your items in your disk are back to normal.

If yes, congratulations. If not, go to Step 2.

Step 2: scan and remove malicious threats

  1. Launch the security software on your PC. Don't have one? Go get Bitdefender Antivirus Plus - one of the best antivirus programs in the world as of 2017. Open it and run a thorough scan of your PC hard rive, as well as your external drive.
  2. We also recommend using SpyHunter to see if your computer has malware or spyware. 
  3. Remove any malicious threats the above security software may found. Most of the time, those malware or viruses won't escape the eye of a powerful antivirus or anti-malware program.

Now check the folders on your device, see if the issue has disappeared?

If yes, that's great. Otherwise, it's possible that the virus/malware has deleted or broken your files. Go to Step 3.

Step 3: recover data and format the disk drive

First, Get Stellar Windows Data Recovery and install the program on your PC. Connect your storage device (e.g. USB drive, memory card, external HDD, etc.), then launch Stellar Phoenix and run a quick scan of the disk drive your device represents.

Once the scan is over, navigate through the found item list to see if your missing items are there. If yes, recover them as per the instructions within the program.

Next, re-format your storage device on your PC (use Windows "quick format" or "complete format" option). If you're using a memory card, you may also use a third-party formatting tool called SD Memory Card Formatted 5.0. This way, your device will be wiped out, thus the virus and the issue gone as well.

Wait, it's not over yet, now you can re-use the data recovery software you've already installed to scan your device again just in case  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, file recovery program like Stellar Windows Data Recovery is safe to use as it performs read-only operations and won't write additional data to your disk.

We hope this guide has helped you remove the annoying file hidden issue, or at least you have restored your precious data.

Let us know if you have any questions during the fixing process. Leave a comment below. We'd be happy to 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 7 computer and I attempted to view some items. This happened just all of a sudden. It's really annoying to see that nearly 200GB data now became inaccessible 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 the content manager 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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