Windows Shortcut HotKeys

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The way Windows recognized hotkeys for shortcuts was always a mystery to me. Create a shortcut, put it on any folder, open its properties and define a hotkey for it. If you happen to have created it on your Desktop, then it should work. But if it was My Documents, then it probably wouldn’t. Now what if you delete your shortcut with the working hotkey? The hotkey will still work, and there will be no way to unregister it other than rebooting!

Well, googling around I found a little explanation about how Windows manages shortcuts (at least until XP, don’t know if it applies to Vista). This will be interesting for a new application I’m writing.


Windows Explorer looks in 4 places for hotkeys, which are read on startup. Hotkeys are stored in the shortcuts contained inside them or in any of its subdirectories. So a to have a valid hotkey the shortcut must be put inside any of the following folders:

%UserProfile%desktop
%AllUsersProfile%desktop
%UserProfile%Start Menu
%AllUsersProfile%Start Menu

Now that explains why rebooting solved the zombie hotkey issue. Interestingly, the place from where I adapted this text has a very useful utility to manage Windows shortcuts that is worth taking a look.

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