Slow network browsing issues in Windows

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. This issue affects Windows clients using mapped drives or UNC connections, this issue was fixed in XP sp2 (Q840309), but from Q326549 has re-emerged in Windows 7.

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 normal file folders into 'Special Folders' (eg Fonts, History, Temporary Internet Files, "My Music", "My Pictures", and "My Documents").

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 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"

A quick solution to this performance problem is to remove the READ_ONLY attribute from the folder and/or delete the non-essential desktop.ini files.

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) Shortcuts in the Windows XP 'My Network Places' make network browsing very slow.

If the 'My Network Places' folder contains a shortcut to a network share, then each refresh of the explorer window will attempt to read icon information from every file in the remote location, causing the system to slow to a crawl.

Removing all shortcuts from 'My Network Places' will return the system response to normal.
In Windows 7, network places have been moved under 'Computer' and this issue seems to have been fixed.

Every time you open a file via a UNC name, Windows XP will automatically add another shortcut to the 'My Network Places' folder - so the issue tends to get worse over time.

You can prevent the automatic addition of shortcuts with the registry setting below:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

4) 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 worksround is to create a shortcut to Explorer.exe and pass the UNC name of the resource.
explorer /e, \\Server\FileShare

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CleanRoamingProfile.vbs - VBScript to delete selected files from a roaming profile.
Q841978 - Explorer.exe stops responding when you use network shortcuts (XP)
SysInternals - Mark Russinovich - Desktop.ini files fill up the audit event log.
Q904160 - File sharing on the network is slower than expected (WinServer 2003 SP1)
Q885189 - Slow performance from a mapped drive - Windows Server 2003
Q841978 - Explorer.exe stops responding when you use network shortcuts (XP)
Q834350 - Access to network resources is slower
Q822219 - Slow File Server Performance
Q819017 - Long delay before files appear in My Computer (XP)
Q816375 - XP Explorer pane flickers
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
Q320138 - Disable automatic search for network printers and folders (XP)
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
Q315237 - 100-Megabit network packets
Q312403 - Distributed Link Tracking
Q265396 - Slow network performance on a share that uses NTFS
Q245800 - Delay viewing shares (Windows 98/2000)
CleanMgr - Automated cleanup of Temp files, recycle bin

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