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How to find the original file for a shortcut on Windows 10

If you have an exceptionally important file, one that you cannot afford to lose, you should always store it somewhere you’re unlikely to delete it. To make accessing it easier, you can create a shortcut to the file and use that to open it. If you ever accidentally delete the shortcut, the file itself remains untouched. Of course, shortcuts to files have other uses and you can’t pigeonhole them when it comes to how they’re used.

If you have the shortcut to a file on your desktop, or any other place on a drive, and you need to locate the original file, it’s fairly easy to do.

Find original file for shortcut

This method works for files and folders. The file or folder in question must still exist. You can verify that it still exists by opening the shortcut itself. If the file/folder opens, you will be able to find it. If it has been deleted, the shortcut will fail to open. It doesn’t matter if the file or folder have been moved after the shortcut was created. These methods will still work.

1. Shortcut properties

  1. Right-click the shortcut to the file or folder.
  2. Select Properties from the context menu.
  3. Go to the ‘Shortcut’ tab.
  4. Look for the Target field (not Target location).
  5. The complete path to the file/folder will be given in this field.
  6. Select the path, remove the file/folder name from it, and paste it into the location bar in a File Explorer window.
  7. Tap Enter.
  8. In the location that opens, look for the file or folder that the shortcut belongs to.

2. Shortcut tool tip

  1. Open File Explorer and navigate to the shortcut for the file/folder you’re trying to find.
  2. Hover the mouse cursor over the shortcut.
  3. A tool tip will appear showing the complete path to the file. Unfortunately, this path cannot be copied.

Conclusion

If you do this for a file or folder that has been deleted, you will be able to see where the original file was located but you will not be able to open it. That said if you’re trying to recover a lost file and don’t know where it was saved before it was deleted/overwritten, a shortcut to the file can help you recover it. For some shortcuts such as those that belong to apps, finding the original file is easy. All you have to do is look in the app’s installation folder. For user-created files though, it’s not as easy. You may have forgotten where you saved a file to if you haven’t accessed it directly in a long time.

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