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Microsoft Windows Shortcut Files

File Format

The Windows Shortcut file has the extension .lnk. It basically is a metadata file, specific for the Microsoft Windows platform and is interpreted by the Windows Shell. The file format indicates that these files contain a specific signature, 0x4C (4C 00 00 00) at offset 0 within the file/stream. Further, the GUID (CLSID) 00021401-0000-0000-c000-000000000046 stored at byte offset 4 makes a good identifier.

Understanding this file format can be extremely useful for an analyst, as not only are shortcut files employed from (at least) Windows 95 through Windows 10, but the binary format is also used in the numbered streams within *.automaticDestinations-ms and *.customDestinations-ms Jump Lists files on Windows 7 and later.


  • MAC times of the target. These are a snapshot of the target date and timestamps before it was last opened. The target can be several things like for example a (linked) file;
Linked file information:
    Creation time       : Jul 26, 2009 14:44:34 UTC
    Modification time   : Jul 26, 2009 14:44:34 UTC
    Access time     : Aug 12, 2010 06:41:50 UTC
    Local path      : C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Live\Mail\wlmail.exe
  • The Shell Item list of the target;
  • The size of the target when it was last accessed;
  • Serial number of the volume where the target was stored;
  • Useful for correlating a USB drive or other removable media (if you can get the volume serial number off it) to a particular user or system.
  • Network volume share name;
  • Read-only, hidden, system, volume label, encryption, sparse, compressed, offline and several other target attributes;
  • MAC address of the host computer (sometimes);
  • Distributed link tracking information, e.g.
Distributed link tracker information:
    Machine identifier string           : mysystem
    Droid volume identifier             : 11111111-2222-3333-4444-555555555555
    Droid file identifier               : aaaaaaaa-bbbb-cccc-dddd-eeeeeeeeeeee
    Birth droid volume identifier       : 11111111-2222-3333-4444-555555555555
    Birth droid file identifier         : aaaaaaaa-bbbb-cccc-dddd-eeeeeeeeeeee


Windows Shell commands:

%windir%\explorer.exe ::{7007ACC7-3202-11D1-AAD2-00805FC1270E}

%windir%\explorer.exe shell:::{3080F90D-D7AD-11D9-BD98-0000947B0257}


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