Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fix Disappearing Windows 7 Desktop Shortcuts

Case of the Houdini Shortcuts
Since moving to Windows 7, a few users in the office have reported many of their desktop shortcuts would periodically disappear.  These reports would come in after users had been working offsite.  The effected users often had more than 10 desktop shortcuts to files out on the network.

Mystery Revealed
Some searching around led me to two resources that answered what was happening and largely how to adjust it.  MS KB978980 explained what was happening at a high level and how to prevent it manually.  Basically the system scheduled task "Scheduled" will delete broken desktop shortcuts of the currently logged in user whenever it finds more than four of them on the Desktop.  The MS fix is to have four or fewer such shortcuts, or disable Computer Maintenance - manually.  So users with more than four shortcuts to network resources would power up offsite, not using VPN, and the Schedule task would eventually fire off (1:00AM by default) and make their shortcuts disappear - pretty good trick.

Make it Stop
So with a manual fix in hand, I sought options to automate this for all machines.  Further searching turned up this blog post by Alex Verboon (@alexverboon) detailing where in Group Policy the needed changes could be made, but there was a problem.  From a 2008 R2 Domain controller, the setting/folder Alex described (Specifically "Scheduled Maintenance") was not present, another stumble.

I proceeded to fire up Group Policy Management on a Windows 7 SP1 system with RSAT installed hoping connecting from a client class system would reveal the Scheduled Maintenance settings.  I was rewarded with the "Scheduled Maintenance" folder and setting that Alex described.

A short bit of testing later and success.  No longer did my batch of test desktop shortcuts disappear with the PC disconnected from the network and manually invoking the "Scheduled" scheduled task.  A side effect of the Group Policy change is the "broken" shortcuts are reported in Action Center as "Broken Shortcuts".  If a user subsequently clicks on this in Action Center - poof - the shortcuts will be removed!  If you so wish, Action Center can be disabled via GPO also.

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Lexrst said...

As of Jan. 11, 2012 MS has a hotfix available that will make the shortcut deletion part of system maintenance optional: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2642357

Jeff Hengesbach said...

@Lexrst - that's great information - Thanks!