Slow network browsing issues in Windows

This page was written for Windows 7 when the insecure and deprecated SMB1 protocol was still in widespread use. The same issues do, in some cases, affect performance for Windows 10 clients using mapped drives or UNC connections, but not to the same catastrophic extent.

1) Listing the contents of a shared folder is slow - Desktop.ini

The file permissions set on desktop.ini files can slow down browsing the folder structure.

When listing a directory, Windows will search for and parse Desktop.ini files. This will noticably affect performance when a large number of subfolders are involved, it does this for the current folder and one level down the directory tree.

Desktop.ini can be used to provide a custom icon, thumbnail view, and can make a normal file folder appear as a 'Special Folder'.
Standard folders where this is often used: Fonts, History, Temporary Internet Files, "My Music", "My Pictures", and "My Documents".

In the case of "My Documents" navigation can be difficult when you have thousands of folders all displaying the same thing.

Desktop.ini files are only visible in Windows Explorer if you first un-check "Hide protected Operating System files" (under Tools, Options, View).

To see the read/write file locks created by this process, run the following command on the file server, while a client is (slowly) listing a large directory:
NET FILE | Find "desktop.ini"

To resolve this issue either remove the READ_ONLY permission from the folder or simply delete the non-essential desktop.ini files from the top level of the users home drives:

$UserFolders = Get-ChildItem ("\\fileserver\users") | Where-Object {$_.PSIsContainer} | Foreach-Object {$_.FullName}
Foreach ($User in $UserFolders) {
	$iniFile = $User + "\desktop.ini"
	Remove-Item -Path $iniFile -Force -whatIf

2) Explorer randomly locks files

There are reports that Windows Explorer can run very slowly or stop responding if some of the profile permissions get corrupted.

To fix this logout and login with a different (Administrator level) account and rename this folder:


When you login again the folder will be re-created with the correct permissions.

3) ) Network Shortcuts on the Start menu and Desktop

Placing a shortcut to a network resource in either the Start menu or Desktop (including the recycle bin) can drastically slow down system response, particularly when the network resource is unavailable. Shortcuts to Domains or Machines don’t suffer from these problems as they always have the same icon.

A sensible routine for managing desktop shortcuts can be found here.

An alternative workaround is to create a shortcut to Explorer.exe and pass the UNC name of the resource.
explorer /e, \\Server\FileShare

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Related commands

CleanRoamingProfile.vbs - VBScript to delete selected files from a roaming profile.
SysInternals - Mark Russinovich - Desktop.ini files fill up the audit event log.
Q822219 - Slow File Server Performance.
Q814112 - Network shares open slowly SMB/AntiVirus scanning .
Q326549 - Read-only & System attributes for folders.
Q321281 - Desktop.ini does not work correctly when you customise the Default Profile.
Q320829 - Increase the Request Size Buffer on the file server - (try between 32 and 64 Kb)
Q319470 - Office2000: Screen response is slow in Save As dialog box in Word.
Q312403 - Distributed Link Tracking.
CleanMgr - Automated cleanup of Temp files, recycle bin.

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