Phantom Pinned Files in Windows 7

I just had to troubleshoot a small problem in my Windows 7 installation, one that had been driving me bonkers.  You see, for some reason, Whenever I pinned iTunes to my Start menu, it would show up on the list as “iTunes (2).”  This would make sense if there were another iTunes shortcut (or any file named “iTunes”) pinned to the Start menu, but there wasn’t.  I tried simply renaming the file, and while it would “let” me do it, it just changed the filename back to “iTunes (2)” when I hit Return.  The obvious answer was that there was another file with the same name in the folder where this link was stored.  But, where was this file stored?

The exciting conclusion follows, after a word from our sponsors…

Right-click > Poperties > General tab > Location
The preceding series of actions executed on a random link in the list provided me with my answer.  It turns out that the files (shortcut links) that belong to the pinned Start Menu are located at the following place: C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned\StartMenu .  Of course, you’ll want to replace “<username>” with your actual username in Windows.  Also, there is no space in the name of the last folder; it’s just “StartMenu.”  Oh, and to see anything past the User folder, you’ll need to make hidden files visible* (Check the end of this article for instructions on that).

What I discovered when I reached this folder was that, and this is no surprise, there was a file named “iTunes.”  When I saw the file, with only the standard Windows executable icon beside it, I remembered that I’d seen the same before on my XP desktop before (I don’t use desktop icons in Windows 7).  I haven’t dug in deep enough to know for sure, but I believe that Apple must be moving the executable for iTunes, or renaming it, between different versions.  Whatever the reason, though, the old link was rendered dead, and I believe that this is why the file didn’t actually show up on the Start Menu.  My assumption is that Windows identified the dead link and didn’t display the item for that reason.  Of course, if that is true, it seems a bit stupid that the file wasn’t deleted, or moved into another folder, but then I guess that’s what Windows Update is for, and maybe, for all I know, this is already on the list of things addressed by Windows 7’s Service Pack 1, which is due out next year.

So, my solution, simple enough, was to delete the old, dead link, and rename my new one.  While I was in there, I located a few other items that, for some reason, weren’t on my Start menu,  I didn’t want them to be, either, so I deleted them too.  One of them was “Games for Windows LIVE” and the other was Internet Explorer.  I don’t know why the first wasn’t showing up in the Start menu, but the Internet Explorer link was probably not being displayed because I had also placed a link to  “Internet Explorer (64-bit)” in the same place, which is the same reason that I didn’t need it to be there, either.

Bonus: The method I used above to locate these files will work on just about any link in Windows, except for the items on the Taskbar.  If you followed the process above, you probably already discovered this on your own, but the shortcuts for the Taskbar are located in C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned\TaskBar .  Again, the last folder has no spaces.

*To make hidden files visible in Windows 7, first open any folder window.  Your computer folder will do, or any other.  With focus on the folder window (click anywhere in the white space of the folder if your unsure), press the “Alt” key.  This should bring up the File Menu, unless you’ve already made it stick, but if you’ve done that, then you probably don’t need to be reading this paragraph.  Anyway, after the File Menu is open, click on “Tools,” and select “Folder options…” from the list.  Once “Folder Options” is opened, select the “View” tab.  Then, locate the “Advanced settings” area, and scan down to the sixth option.  It will have two choices—“Don’t show hidden files, folders, or drives” and “Show hidden files, folders, and drives.”  “Don’t show” will be pre-selected.  Choose “Show hidden files, folder, and drives” and press “OK.”  Now, anywhere you go in Windows, hidden files will be visible.  To disable this when you’re done (which I recommend doing), simply repeat the process and choose “Don’t show” again.