Jump to page content

Bug of the moment 2008-01-19

A Tale of Two Desktops, in Two Parts

One of the screenshots on the now-closed Windows Crash Gallery was one showing the sort of weird errors Windows XP Explorer would yield if you placed a folder on the desktop called “Desktop”:

I was (of course) curious to see what happens if you tried it in Windows 2000. The steps to repeat were to create a folder on the desktop called “Desktop” and move two or more files into it, and then refresh several times. I tried this, and nothing bad happened, so I threw the folder in the Recycle Bin and went on my way.

Later, however, I was trying to navigate around an open Explorer window in tree view, and a messsage like the following popped up:

The title bar shows the folder I am in at present. Both folders are in My Documents\My Music not the desktop, but Explorer doesn’t seem to know. This window is created automatically on launch1 and was sat by, watching when the new Desktop folder arrived.

After you hit OK, a similar dialog appears telling you that you can’t go back the way you came:

If you look at Explorer itself, it now believes that the new Desktop folder is the desktop. Originally I put the folder into the Recycle Bin immediately, which results in the following error if you try to view the Desktop:

If you leave the folder where it is, and try to access the desktop, you’ll just see the folder you created:

Notice that icons such as Spire (My Computer), LAN (Network Neighbourhood), My Documents and Recycle Bin are all missing from the desktop? That’s because it now considers this folder to be the desktop:

I was saving these screenshots to the desktop as I went along (not the fake desktop, the proper one), and each time I did so, Explorer would hang for a while and – seemingly exponentially – add a series of empty icons to the folder tree:

Each time it happened it would add a new amount relative to the old amount (growing exponentially), and eventually Windows Explorer froze for what was as good as forever:

I find it curious that the icon above looks more like XP than 2000. Also note the standard confusion of Windows being unable to differentiate the name of a process (Explorer) from the name of a window (Desktop).

I was hesitant to bother with these screenshots, but what transpired later the same night made me decide to go through with it. You’ll find out what that was tomorrow in Part Two.

  1. The ability to remember which folders you’ve left open on logout was supposedly new to Windows XP. However, after installing Windows 2000 in Virtual PC and logging in and out as Administrator, it did bring back all my folders (including Control Panel) next login, so who knows? Since it doesn’t work for me normally, I just added Windows Explorer to my Start-up group.

Posted 19th January 2008 – Comments and questions?