Long file names can lead to major issues if left unchecked…

Corrupt data due to long file names is a very frustrating problem we occasionally encounter with small business networks.   Most Windows users don’t know that a saved file cannot have more than 256 characters in its name.  However, the worst part is that Windows will allow you to save the file without error even if it exceeds the limit…meaning you can no longer save, move or rename that file.

You might be wondering, “Who saves a file with a 256 character file name?”  For some companies its not as difficult as may seem.  A file name includes the full file path and folder structure that guides you to a specific file. And all those folder and sub-folder names count towards the total number of characters. So, if your path looks like this:

C:\Users\username\Documents\Simply Text Files\Text Files 2019\Text Files March\Text Files 031419\Accounting\Budget Report 031419\Budget Report Working Copy 031419\My Text File.txt

You should be aware of the full folder path while organizing where you store data and if you’re at risk of hitting that 256-character limit.

Long file and folder paths can hinder organization, security and data recovery. We have seen instances where a set of files could not be recovered due to the length of the file path even though the file was properly saved and properly backed up offsite. By keeping a compact and organized file structure, you can put yourself in a better position to use and recover data in case of emergency. Here are a few tips to keep your file structure organized and backed up.

  • Avoid spaces and unique characters like ~!@#$%

  • Start with the year and end with the day. YYMMDD. It is easier to search

  • The last name should be first, and the first last

  • Abbreviate when ever you can. But only when it makes sense to you and your staff

  • Organize sub-folders. Instead of nesting all your accounting files in one folder, consider breaking them up by year.

If you are diligent from the start and follow these guidelines you should never experience any of the headaches associated with an overly long file path.

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