Used to be, system folders were well known and pretty much always in the same place. You could call GetWindowsDirectory, GetSystemDirectory or GetTempPath, and that would be all there was to it. Well, times have changed, and there are now dozens of system-related folders that could be found in any of a wide range of locations, depending on what operating system your program finds itself running upon. This little sample shows you how to discover all of the common folder locations. For instance, the accompanying demo grabs the locations for persisting application data:

Using the class couldn't be much simpler. (I oughta trademark that one, huh?) Here's the all code required to generate the above MsgBox:

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Public Sub Main()
   Dim sf As New CSystemFolders
   Dim msg As String
   msg = "CSIDL_APPDATA: " & sf.Path(CSIDL_APPDATA) & vbLf & _
         "CSIDL_LOCAL_APPDATA: " & sf.Path(CSIDL_LOCAL_APPDATA) & vbLf & _
   MsgBox msg, vbInformation, "Application Data Folders"
End Sub

The CSystemFolders class offers (as shown above) a Path property to return the current path for any of the CSIDL paths, an Exists property to test whether or not the path actually exists yet, and a Description property if you're like me and forget what the different constants are meant for. Here's the range of currently available constants you may search for:

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Public Property Get Description(ByVal CSIDL As CSIDL_VALUES) As String
   Dim sRtn As String
   Const au As String = " (all users)"
   Const cu As String = " (current user)"
   Const sy As String = " (system)"
   Const vi As String = " (virtual)"

   Select Case CSIDL
      ' System folders
      Case CSIDL_PROGRAM_FILES:           sRtn = "C:\Program Files" & sy
      Case CSIDL_PROGRAM_FILES_COMMON:    sRtn = "C:\Program Files\Common" & sy
      Case CSIDL_WINDOWS:                 sRtn = "C:\Windows" & sy
      Case CSIDL_FONTS:                   sRtn = "C:\Windows\Fonts" & sy
      Case CSIDL_SYSTEM:                  sRtn = "C:\Windows\System" & sy
      Case CSIDL_RESOURCES:               sRtn = "C:\Windows\Resources" & sy
      Case CSIDL_RESOURCES_LOCALIZED:     sRtn = "C:\Windows\Resources\{LCID}" & sy
      Case CSIDL_SYSTEMX86:               sRtn = "x86 system directory on RISC"
      Case CSIDL_PROGRAM_FILESX86:        sRtn = "x86 Program Files folder on RISC"
      Case CSIDL_PROGRAM_FILES_COMMONX86: sRtn = "x86 Program Files Common folder on RISC"

      ' All user folders
      Case CSIDL_COMMON_APPDATA:          sRtn = "\Application Data" & au
      Case CSIDL_COMMON_DESKTOPDIRECTORY: sRtn = "\Desktop" & au
      Case CSIDL_COMMON_DOCUMENTS:        sRtn = "\Documents" & au
      Case CSIDL_COMMON_MUSIC:            sRtn = "\Documents\My Music" & au
      Case CSIDL_COMMON_PICTURES:         sRtn = "\Documents\My Pictures" & au
      Case CSIDL_COMMON_VIDEO:            sRtn = "\Documents\My Video" & au
      Case CSIDL_COMMON_FAVORITES:        sRtn = "\Favorites" & au
      Case CSIDL_COMMON_STARTMENU:        sRtn = "\Start Menu" & au
      Case CSIDL_COMMON_PROGRAMS:         sRtn = "\Start Menu\Programs" & au
      Case CSIDL_COMMON_ADMINTOOLS:       sRtn = "\Start Menu\Programs\Administrative Tools" & au
      Case CSIDL_COMMON_STARTUP:          sRtn = "\Start Menu\Programs\Startup" & au
      Case CSIDL_COMMON_TEMPLATES:        sRtn = "\Templates" & au
      ' Need a better definition ----------------------------------
      Case CSIDL_COMMON_OEM_LINKS:        sRtn = "Links to OEM specific apps" & au
      Case CSIDL_COMMON_ALTSTARTUP:       sRtn = "Nonlocalized Startup group" & au

      ' Current user folders
      Case CSIDL_PROFILE:          sRtn = "\{username}" & cu
      Case CSIDL_APPDATA:          sRtn = "\Application Data" & cu
      Case CSIDL_COOKIES:          sRtn = "\Cookies" & cu
      Case CSIDL_DESKTOPDIRECTORY: sRtn = "\Desktop" & cu
      Case CSIDL_FAVORITES:        sRtn = "\Favorites" & cu
      Case CSIDL_LOCAL_APPDATA:    sRtn = "\Local Settings\Application Data" & cu
      Case CSIDL_CDBURN_AREA:      sRtn = "\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\CD Burning" & cu
      Case CSIDL_HISTORY:          sRtn = "\Local Settings\History" & cu
      Case CSIDL_PERSONAL:         sRtn = "\My Documents" & cu
      Case CSIDL_MYMUSIC:          sRtn = "\My Documents\My Music" & cu
      Case CSIDL_MYPICTURES:       sRtn = "\My Documents\My Pictures" & cu
      Case CSIDL_MYVIDEO:          sRtn = "\My Documents\My Video" & cu
      Case CSIDL_NETHOOD:          sRtn = "\NetHood" & cu
      Case CSIDL_PRINTHOOD:        sRtn = "\PrintHood" & cu
      Case CSIDL_RECENT:           sRtn = "\Recent" & cu
      Case CSIDL_SENDTO:           sRtn = "\SendTo" & cu
      Case CSIDL_STARTMENU:        sRtn = "\Start Menu" & cu
      Case CSIDL_PROGRAMS:         sRtn = "\Start Menu\Programs" & cu
      Case CSIDL_ADMINTOOLS:       sRtn = "\Start Menu\Programs\Administrative Tools" & cu
      Case CSIDL_STARTUP:          sRtn = "\Start Menu\Programs\Startup" & cu
      Case CSIDL_TEMPLATES:        sRtn = "\Templates" & cu
      Case CSIDL_INTERNET_CACHE:   sRtn = "\Temporary Internet Files" & cu
      ' Need a better definition ----------------------------------
      Case CSIDL_ALTSTARTUP:       sRtn = "Nonlocalized Startup group" & cu

      ' Virtual folders - no filesystem equivalent!
      Case CSIDL_COMPUTERSNEARME:  sRtn = "Computers Near Me" & vi
      Case CSIDL_DESKTOP:          sRtn = "Desktop" & vi
      Case CSIDL_INTERNET:         sRtn = "Internet Explorer" & vi
      Case CSIDL_DRIVES:           sRtn = "My Computer" & vi
      Case CSIDL_CONTROLS:         sRtn = "My Computer\Control Panel" & vi
      Case CSIDL_PRINTERS:         sRtn = "My Computer\Printers" & vi
      Case CSIDL_MYDOCUMENTS:      sRtn = "My Documents" & vi
      Case CSIDL_CONNECTIONS:      sRtn = "Network and Dial-up Connections"
      Case CSIDL_NETWORK:          sRtn = "Network Neighborhood" & vi
      Case CSIDL_BITBUCKET:        sRtn = "Recycle Bin" & vi

      ' Flags
      Case CSIDL_FLAG_CREATE:      sRtn = "Combine with any other CSIDL to force " & _
                                          "the creation of the associated folder."

      ' Bad request or unknown constant
      Case Else:                   sRtn = "{unknown constant}"
   End Select
End Property

Most systems these days support the SHGetFolderPath function. This was introduced by the shell enhancements offered with IE5, so it is available even on older Windows 95 machines. The VirtualPC 2004 "Virtual Machine Additions" also install shfolder.dll which provides this function, so in that case even Win95 VMs with IE3 will support the full range of functionality offered by this class. If SHGetFolderPath is unavailable, CSystemFolders degrades to using the far more limited SHGetSpecialFolderLocation and SHGetPathFromIDList API function pair.

There are, of course, wrappers provided for easy discovery of the Windows, System, and Temporary folders as well.


This sample, or the one from which it originally derived, was published (or at least peripherally mentioned) in the following article(s):

APIs Usage

This sample uses the following API calls:

Module Library Function
CSysFolders.cls kernel32



Don't see what you're looking for? Here's a complete API cross-reference.


Download   Please, enjoy and learn from this sample. Include its code within your own projects, if you wish. But, in order to insure only the most recent code is available to all, I ask that you don't share the sample by any form of mass distribution.

Download, 13Kb, Last Updated: Sunday, December 21, 2008

See Also

The following resources may also be of interest: