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256-Character Limit

256-Character Limit

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Published by J. Daniel Oblak
A 2003 discussion of the limitations and behavior of Windows filename paths.
A 2003 discussion of the limitations and behavior of Windows filename paths.

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Published by: J. Daniel Oblak on Jan 24, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Windows 256-Character Filename Limitation
The entire 'path' is included in the allowable length of a document's filename
When you attempt to access files contained in folders that have very long folder names, you may receiveone of the following error messages:
"Filename is not valid.""The file could not be accessed.""The path you entered is too long. Enter a shorter path.""File Name could not be found. Check the spelling of the filename, and verifythat the file location is correct."
This behavior occurs because Windows has a limitation of 256 characters for paths. A 'path' includesevery character from the beginning of the address to the last character in the filename. For example, thefollowing document's path includes 245 characters:
C:\Documents and Settings\doblak\My Documents\Budget Proposals for 2004 (NOT YETAPPROVED)\JoAnn's spreadsheets from the Planning Committee meetings on July 12\RoughDraft with Notes 7-12-1999\Photo from the holiday party in December of 1999.bmp
…thus, attempting to lengthen this filename (or any of the directories in front of it) with just tencharacters may yield one of the above error messages.
Filenames with paths that exceed the 256-character limit may exhibit any one or several of the followingsymptoms:1) Document will not open2) Filename cannot be changed3) Document cannot be moved or deleted4) Document is not visible in a directory listing ('window'), and appears to be missing
To resolve this behavior, make sure that the path of the file contains less than 256 characters. To do this,use one of the following methods:1) Rename the file so that it has a shorter name.2) Rename one or more folders that contain the file so that they have shorter names.3) Move the file (or the folder that contains it) to a folder with a shorter path.
If you encounter a situation that will not allow you to take these steps, contact the Help Desk for further assistance.

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ashleygon added this note
Long Path Tool works wonderfully to overcome such 256 character limit.
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