Renaming folders in Windows
November 18, 2021 12:47 AM   Subscribe

This feels like such a noob question, but here it is anyway. I (using Windows 10) have a folder with subfolders inside it. In the subfolders are various image files. I want to rename the primary folder. If I do, what happens with the name path? Will Windows understand the change so I can still find and use the subfolders and files?
posted by bryon to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yes, you can always rename folders. The path will change, but the contents of the folders will still be accessible. If you have a folder c:\foo, with contents inside, if you rename it to bar, all the content will still be there, just at C:\bar instead.
posted by Alensin at 2:19 AM on November 18 [2 favorites]

Best answer: To follow up what Alensin said; if you rename the primary folder, then all the subfolders and files will still exist under the primary folder's new name.

So before you might have:
(and similar)
Now if you rename "alpha" to "main", then you will have:

Those are just example folders and file names; I hope it makes sense in the context of your folder hierarchy too.
posted by vincebowdren at 2:22 AM on November 18

Best answer: What the others above have said is correct, but there is one gotcha - if you have the image files open in any application, then your attempt to rename will fail, you will have to close the files before trying to rename again. Annoyingly this can include just previewing the file in Windows Explorer.

In macOS and most varieties of Linux things are very different, you can open a file and then rename the folder or even the filename, or even drag and drop the file to a different folder and everything will be fine. When you exit/save the file it will save into the new filename.
posted by Lanark at 3:11 AM on November 18 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In addition, if you have any links to those files, or shortcuts (e.g. on the desktop), those will not be updated and will be broken.
posted by conifer at 3:17 AM on November 18 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Also, Windows will understand the change automatically, but you'll have to manually update any programs that point to that location, such as a preset save folder.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:17 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Similarly, if you're using photo or music organizer applications that let you classify and sort your media in ways that depend more on their content than where they're kept in the filesystem, like albums and playlists and whatnot, then you'll probably have to update those as well.

In other words, it's mainly not going to be Windows per se that gives you grief as a result of doing this; it's everything else you use on Windows that needs to know where you keep your stuff.

Windows itself has a certain amount of support for letting you move stuff around and keeping applications informed about that, but only for designated special folders like Documents, Pictures and so on. You don't want to rename those by hand - there are special procedures for doing that.
posted by flabdablet at 4:00 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]

if you have any links to those files, or shortcuts (e.g. on the desktop), those will not be updated

Not always, since Vista Windows has a 'distributed link tracking service' which will change the destination of your broken shortcuts on the fly, sometimes, though not often, it manages to select the correct file.
posted by Lanark at 9:28 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]

How it works: A folder (Windows' name) is also known as a directory, which is what it says: a list of items and directions to their contents. The computer refers to directories and directory contents numerically and shows you a text-based label. When you rename an item, the label changes but not the item in the directory.
posted by k3ninho at 6:33 AM on November 19

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