Convert normal folders to Windows Shell Folders

I normally store all data in separate logical drives on my computer. My movie collection goes to a drive called Multimedia, so does the music. My code and office work goes to another drive called Office and my OS silently resides in my C drive. I have seen many people, and not just the technology illiterates, but even the tech savvy store sensitive data right on their desktop and in My Documents.

Nothing wrong with it, but if your system is used by multiple people; nosy in essesnce, you wouldn’t want your privacy to be breached.

The NTFS filesystem provides adequate protection to data via Access Control Lists, but that is another topic altogether. Playing around with System folders in Windows, I found that you could convert any folder to a system folder with the right desktop.ini file. Although later research showd me that this is an old trick, I was still fascinated by the sheer simplicity of it.

Shell folders are special Windows folders like My Computer, Recycle Bin and My Network Places. I wouldn’t go in to the math of why it works the way it works, but rather just show you how you could keep all your data inside a folder, convert it to the Recycle Bin and keep it on your Desktop and nobody would suspect there was data in it.

Here’s how:
1. Create a folder called “Secret” on your desktop and copy some files to it.

2. Open notepad [Start > Run > notepad] and type the following exactly as shown:


3. Save the file as desktop.ini in the Secret folder on the desktop. Select “All Files” under “Save as type” in the Save As dialog of notepad and type the name of the file as desktop.ini

4. Open command prompt by going to Start > Run > cmd

5. Navigate to the directory containing your “Secret” folder, this would be the desktop in this example, using the cd command.

6. Type “attrib +S Secret” at the prompt and press Enter.

7. Navigate to your desktop and find your folder containing your precious cargo converted to the Recycle Bin. View the properties of the folder to find the Recycle Bin properties pop up.

8. Open it to find the contents of the Recycle Bin instead of your data.

This happens because Windows finds the desktop.ini file in the folder and the System attribute on the folder. Windows then reads the desktop.ini file to find the Class Identifier [CLSID] for Recycle Bin, which is {645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E}. Your data is present in the folder but not accessible to Windows because the Windows Directory Enumeration APIs detect the folder as the Recycle Bin and not a file folder.

To get your data back, just open command prompt and enter the attrib –S Secret folder after navigating to the Desktop to remove the System attribute on the folder.

There are plenty of shell folders around Windows, but the most frequent ones that I use are the following with their CLSID values, just replace the CLSID values in the desktop.ini file:
My Computer: {20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}
Recycle Bin: {645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E}
My Network Places: {208D2C60-3AEA-1069-A2D7-08002B30309D}

To automate the entire process, I wrote a simple tool called FolderCloak that just allows you to do the above with a nice GUI interface. You can download FolderCloak [and my other tools] at