Fixing Broken Shortcuts

Posted by Bob
 

A shortcut is an icon on your desktop that allows quick access to files, folders and programs. Shortcuts are supposed to simplify your Windows experience by making the programs and files you frequently use more accessible with the simple click of a mouse.

Shortcuts can become broken. You may have discovered this when you attempted to run a program or open a file using a shortcut on your desktop that returned an error instead of performing it's normal action. This is possibly one of the most frustrating problems in Windows. Shortcuts are there to make your life easier and broken shortcuts simply complicate things. You could just go to the directory where the program or file is and open it manually but you're going to want to fix that shortcut eventually. Broken shortcuts take up space and they are a general annoyance. Some broken shortcuts will refuse to be deleted or even move at all!

Typically a shortcut becomes broken when the program or file it points to has been moved or deleted. Registry errors can also cause shortcuts to malfunction. Updates to the Windows operating system have also been known to cause shortcuts to break as well. Whatever the case, they need to be fixed! Continue reading with the tutorials below to troubleshoot the cause of your broken shortcuts and fix them.

How to Fix Broken Shortcuts

The first and easiest thing to do would be to uninstall and reinstall the application that has the broken shortcut (providing it is an application and not a folder or file that is causing the problem). Try uninstalling and reinstalling first to see if that works. Doing this fixes the problem nearly 100% of the time. If you don't want to uninstall and reinstall the application, continue reading below for other solutions.

The next thing we can try to do is to recreate the shortcut. This will involve navigating to the directory where the folder, file or program is. If item in question has recently been moved and you don't know where to find it, simply proceed to the next step. To create a shortcut to a folder, file or program...

  • Navigate to the directory the folder, file or program is in

  • Right-click the item

  • Select Create shortcut from the list of options

  • The shortcut will be created in the directory the item is in

  • Drag and drop the shortcut to your desktop and rename it if you wish

Continue below if you don't know where to find the folder, file or program that has a broken shortcut...

Somewhere along the line you may have lost “ownership” of the item. This probably doesn't make sense. You were likely the one to install the program or create the shortcut so you are the owner right? That might not be the way Windows sees it.

To take ownership of a folder, file or program, take the following steps...

(Windows XP)

  • Reboot your computer. When the Power On Self Test (POST) is complete, press F8

  • Select Safe Mode from the list of options that appears and press ENTER

  • When prompted, select the version of XP that is installed and press ENTER

  • When you are at the To begin, click your user name screen, choose Administrator

  • Enter the administrator password and click the arrow button. You may not have an administrator password in which case just leave the password empty and click the arrow button.

  • Click Yes to close the message stating the Windows is in Safe Mode.

  • If you are using Windows XP Professional you must first disable Simple File Sharing

    • Click Start

    • Click My Computer

    • Click the Tools menu

    • Click Folder Options

    • Click the tab titled View

    • In the Advanced Settings section, click the Use simple file sharing (Recommended) check box

    • Click OK

  • Find the broken shortcut and right-click it

  • Select Properties from the list of options

  • Click the tab titled Security

  • Click OK on the security message if one is presented

  • Click Advanced

  • Click the tab titled Owner

  • In the Name list, click Administrator or click on the group labeled Administrator

  • Click OK

  • In the Group or user names list, click the account that you want to give ownership to and choose the permissions you wish to grant by checking the appropriate check boxes.

    NOTE: If you are trying to take ownership of a folder and all of it's sub-folders and content, you need to select the Replace owner on subcontainers and objects check box.

  • When you are finished, click OK

  • Click Yes to any messages that you receive.

  • You now have ownership of the folder, file or program. What does this mean? It could mean that the shortcut will now work as if nothing ever happened. If this is not the case, it means that you can now move or delete the broken shortcut if you wish. To find out, you need to reboot your computer and log into Windows normally.

(Windows Vista/7)

  • Find the broken shortcut and right-click it

  • Select Properties from the list of options

  • Click the tab titled Security

  • Click OK on the security message if one is presented

  • Click Advanced

  • Click the tab titled Owner

  • Click the Edit button

  • Select the user account you wish to give ownership to. If your user account is not listed, click on other users or groups

    • (Other users or groups) – Enter name of the user account or group you wish to give ownership and click OK

    • Now select the user or group you just entered

NOTE: If you are taking ownership of a folder, it's sub-folders and their contents, check the box next to Replace owner on subcontainers and objects.

  • Click OK

  • Click OK if the Windows Security Prompt appears

  • Click OK to exit the Properties window

  • You now have ownership of the folder, file or program. What does this mean? It could mean that the shortcut will now work as if nothing ever happened. If this is not the case, it means that you can now move or delete the broken shortcut if you wish. To find out, you need to reboot your computer and log into Windows normally.

If none of these solutions worked, you may have errors in your registry. Since any given shortcut could be related to one of thousands of applications or folders, it would be beyond the scope of this article to provide a unique how-to fix registry tutorial. Instead, the easiest option at this point is to get a shortcut fixing tool such as Shortcutsman. Shortcutsman will display all broken shortcuts and provide the option to fix them. However, Shortcutsman only works on 32-bit versions of Windows. You can download Shortcutsman... HERE.

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