Friday, June 5, 2009

Bookmarks and favorites

The file managers in Linux and Windows Vista both understand the concept of "bookmarks" - saving a reference to a particular folder. This is a very useful feature, so you can come back to an often-used folder later without having to navigate to find it again. Here are some screenshots to demonstrate, courtesy of Wikipedia: (click to view full-size)

"Shared", "Documents", "Music", "Pictures" and "Videos" are bookmarked locations under Linux*

bookmarks are called "Favorite Links" under Windows Vista*

At work, we store our files on a LAN drive, like most offices. Since part of my job requires managing projects, I have a lot of project plans, design documents, and other files that I need to access frequently. I organize everything into its own folder, so I can find my files more easily. But it was always a hassle to have to navigate down the same directory tree every time I needed to open a project file.

After our desktop support folks installed Vista on my laptop, I was happy to see that the file Explorer supported bookmarks (called "Favorite Links.") So I set up a bookmark to my project folder, making it easier to access my project stuff.

But there is a tradeoff: it seems that whenever I log in to Windows, Vista checks that my bookmarks are accessible. That's okay when I'm at work and logged into the network. But if I'm working from home, or doing work remotely, it takes approximately another 2 minutes for me to log in.

I assume that Windows is checking the bookmarks for a reason. I have no idea why it does this, however, as the behavior of the operating system doesn't change. My bookmarks are still there when I'm working remotely; I just can't use them.

To compare: under Linux, the bookmarks are not checked until you try to use them. When I ran Linux at work, I had to map my network locations by myself. Since this was protected by a separate authentication system (AD), I wasn't prompted for a password until I tried to access the folder on the network. That seems like the right way to do things. It's not necessary to check the network bookmarks until I try to access them. Heck, on certain days I may not access the LAN at all.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who can explain the Windows Vista behavior. I have exactly one bookmark to a location on our LAN - specifically, a folder nested on my H: ("home") drive. We use Active Directory for authentication. The H: drive is mapped for me through AD, by our central Windows network administrators.

Why does Windows insist on checking if the bookmarks are valid before letting me login? This seems like broken behavior to me.


  1. This is how Windows is designed to work. Thats why it takes so much longer to login to Windows if you have a pile of shortcuts on your desktop that point to some place on the network. Windows checks every one of them at login. Just like Windows is checking your "favorite place" bookmark. If you haven't connected to your AD network, then Windows needs to timeout the connection. It would actually be much worse if you had several bookmarks to network spaces, as each would need to timeout.

  2. "This is how Windows is designed to work" is a non-explanation.

    Anyway, if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that it's trying to load the associated icon. That said, that's a pretty weak guess; in at least one other case (tape backups) where accessing the data would be pathalogically slow they don't do it and display a generic icon. So if that IS the actual explanation here it means they either assume that you network drives are always accessible, didn't think of that, or considered the costs acceptable, none of which are very good explanations.


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