Hijacking Vista Special Folders on Start Menu

Ok, this wasn’t obvious, so it’s worth sharing.  What I want to do is to create a new sub-menu in the black area of Vista’s start menu, where you normally have a folder for your username, then “Documents”, “Pictures”, “Music”, etc.  I want a brand new folder where I can stick whatever shortcuts I want.

Here’s a picture of the final result.  Note the “famThings” folder, which is the custom folder that I wanted.  Also note that I was able to stick a file out here, as well as a sub-folder.

Hijacked Start Menu

As far as I can tell, there is no way to add a whole new slot for a sub-menu here, other than the default built-in menus that are part of Windows.  You can turn them on or off by tweaking the Start Menu properties, but I didn’t see a way to create a new one.  Perhaps there’s a registry hack to do this, but a quick Google search didn’t turn anything up.

So what I did instead was to hijack one of the pre-canned special folders and use it as the folder that I wanted.  I chose “Favorites”, because I use Firefox and my favorites are not stored here anyway.

Here’s how you do it:

  • If the Favorites folder doesn’t already show up here, turn it on:
    • Right-click start menu globe, select Properties
    • Go to Start Menu tab
    • Click Customize
    • Find entry “Favorites menu” and make sure that it’s checked
  • In Windows Explorer, navigate to C:UsersmynameFavorites and delete all the junk in there (assuming you don’t use Internet Explorer and store your regular favorites here).
  • Place whatever files you like in this folder, including files, sub-folders, or shortcuts
  • Now rename the Favorites folder to whatever you like
  • Log out and back in, or just restart the Explorer (e.g. by killing the explorer.exe process from Task Manager and then restarting)

Voila!  Now you have your very own custom menu at the top level of the Start Menu.

But Wait, That’s Not Enough

Here’s a little addendum, after the fact.  When I originally tried everything I described above, it worked—for a short time.  But then at some point, the directory name reverted back to “Favorites”.  What’s going on?

What’s happening here is that your Favorites folder is a “special folder”, in that it contains a little hidden file called desktop.ini that specifies some of the behavior of this folder in Windows Explorer.  Below is the original contents of desktop.ini :

[.ShellClassInfo]
LocalizedResourceName=@%SystemRoot%system32shell32.dll,-21796
IconResource=%SystemRoot%system32imageres.dll,-115
IconFile=%SystemRoot%system32shell32.dll
IconIndex=-173

This little file tells Windows Explorer a few tidbits about how the folder should be displayed, including its name and the icon used.  This overrides the actual folder name and the default folder icon normally displayed for folders.

So to achieve what we want, actually renaming the folder, we could just delete desktop.ini.  Alternatively, we could keep the file and just change the value of the LocalizedResourceName attribute to be what we want.  The other benefit of keeping this file is that you can change the actual icon displayed at the top of the Start Menu when you select the folder.

For example, let’s say that I have an icon file showing a cute little potted plant and I want that to be the icon associated with my famThings folder.  I could change desktop.ini to read:

[.ShellClassInfo]
LocalizedResourceName=famThings
IconFile=Plant.ico
IconIndex=0

Then I copy the Plant.ico file into the famThings (formerly Favorites) folder and set it to hidden.  (So that it doesn’t show up in the Start Menu).

Now you get what you want—a properly named special folder whose name won’t change.  And, at no extra charge, a custom icon for the folder.  Note that the special icon now shows up not just on the Start Menu, but as the folder icon anywhere in Windows Explorer:

Custom Icon

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3 thoughts on “Hijacking Vista Special Folders on Start Menu

  1. Pingback: Custom Start Menu Items

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