You get a dialog box like “The file name is too long” or “The source file name(s) are larger than is supported by the file system”. Or “cannot delete folder: it is being used by another person or program”, or, “cannot delete file: Access is denied There has been a sharing violation”. The source or destination file may be in use.


Basically, there is a character limit set in naming or renaming files in your Windows operating system and it varies from one OS to another. Mostly it varies between 256 and 260 characters. Thus, when you transfer files with long names from one destination to another, you will experience path too long error in Windows or Linux systems.


Maximum Path Length Limitation In the Windows API (with some exceptions discussed in the following paragraphs), the maximum length for a path is MAX_PATH, which is defined as 260 characters. A local path is structured in the following order: drive letter, colon, backslash, name components separated by backslashes, and a terminating null character. 1+2+256+1 or [drive][:][path][null] = 260. One could assume that 256 is a reasonable fixed string length from the DOS days. And going back to the DOS APIs we realize that the system tracked the current path per drive, and we have 26 (32 with symbols) maximum drives (and current directories). The INT 0x21 AH=0x47 says “This function returns the path description without the drive letter and the initial backslash.” So we see that the system stores the CWD as a pair (drive, path) and you ask for the path by specifying the drive (1=A, 2=B, …), if you specify a 0 then it assumes the path for the drive returned by INT 0x21 AH=0x15 AL=0x19. So now we know why it is 260 and not 256, because those 4 bytes are not stored in the path string. Why a 256 byte path string, because 640K is enough RAM.


but, but, but: the NTFS filesystem supports paths up to 32k characters. You can use the win32 api and “\\?\” prefix the path to use greater than 260 characters.

The Windows OS since Vista support path length of 32k, but unfortunately most of the applications are limited to 255 chars long !



a) Try moving to a location which has a shorter name, or try renaming to shorter name(s) before attempting this operation.

b) To get list of files with long path, you can use this powershell script:

Write-Host “Please wait, searching…”
robocopy.exe $srcdir c:\doesnotexist /l /e /b /np /fp /njh /njs /ndl | Where-Object {$_.Length -ge 255} | ForEach-Object {$_.Substring(26,$_.Length-26)}

after this audit phase, rename the files to be shorter!

There is also a free command line tool to detect long paths, the “too long path detector”:

On Linux;

With GNU find (on Linux or Cygwin), you can look for files whose relative path is more than 255 characters long:

find -regextype posix-extended -regex '.{257,}'           (257 accounts for the initial ./.)

c) Use “Unlocker”  in the case of you cannot delete folder: It is being used by another person or program or cannot delete file: Access is denied There has been a sharing violation. Unlocker can help! Simply right-click the folder or file and select Unlocker. If the folder or file is locked, a window listing of lockers will appear.

d) But to delete a file whose name is more than 255 characters:

  1. Open a command prompt by running “CMD.EXE”
  2. Navigate to the folder holding the file
  3. Use the command “dir /x” which will display the short names of files.
  4. Delete using the short name.

i.e. if the file is named “verylongfilename.doc”, the shortname will display as something like “verylo~1.doc” and you can delete using that name.

c) In the case where you have a too long directory, you can use the subst command:

  1. Start a command prompt (no admin privileges needed)
  2. Use cd to navigate to the folder you want to go (you can use tab to autocomplete names)
  3. type subst x: . to create the drive letter association. (instead of the . you can also type the entire path)
  4. Now in explorer you have a new letter. Go to it and do whatever you need to do to copy or delete files.
  5. Go back to your cmd window and type subst /d x: to remove the drive or alternatively, restart your pc

d) Another way to cope with the path limit is to shorten path entries with symbolic links.

  1. create a c:\folder directory to keep short links to long paths
  2. mklink /J C:\folder\foo c:\Some\Crazy\Long\Path\foo
  3. add c:\folder\foo to your path instead of the long path