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I have a WPF/.NET4.5.2 application that is developed on a Windows 10 machine but deployed on a Windows 7 machine.

On my development machine...

Environment.GetFolderPath( Environment.SpecialFolder.MyDocuments )

...correctly returns "C:/Users/<username>/Documents".

When I run this same code on the target Windows 7 machine, I get the same folder returned but, on the Windows 7 machine, the folder is named "C:/Users/<username>/My Documents", so my code fails to find the folder.

What I have tried:

I've found several articles about this on the net. In many of the articles, the author explains why this is the wrong way to do it (e.g. apparently accessing the Registry is not always going to work for reasons that I might understand if I had even less hair).

The only article I found that seems to have a convincing way to do it is Getting All "Special Folders" in .NET[^] , but this seems very complicated for such a common requirement.

I can't help feeling there is some simple piece of knowledge I am missing here. Does anyone know what may be going wrong here?
Updated 29-Jul-20 12:25pm
Richard MacCutchan 2-Feb-18 5:13am
Are you saying that on Windows 7 you receive the string "C:/Users/<username>/Documents", which is not the actual name?
Patrick Skelton 2-Feb-18 5:34am
That is correct, yes. The actual folder is 'My Documents' whereas in my code I get back just 'Documents'. Oddly, if I ask for the user's profile directory and then manually append '\Documents' in my code, I still don't seem to be able to access anything in 'C:\Users\<username>\Documents'. I need to do more testing around this, though. This was a last minute result I got last night before I had to quickly log out of the target machine.
Richard MacCutchan 2-Feb-18 5:53am
I have used this mechanism and not had a problem with it. Unfortunately I no longer have a Win 7 system so cannot retest.
Richard MacCutchan 2-Feb-18 5:55am
Actually, now I think about it, I have a feeling that is correct. The actual folder is "Documents", and "My Documents" is a link.
CHill60 2-Feb-18 6:04am
That's my recollection too
Patrick Skelton 2-Feb-18 6:05am
Thank you for the reply, Richard.

If 'C:\Users\<username>\My Documents' is a link to an existing physical folder 'C:\Users\<username>\Documents' then shouldn't my code be able to use the actual physical path (i.e. 'C:\Users\<username>\Documents') to access this folder? In other words, why is my code failing at all?
Richard MacCutchan 2-Feb-18 6:13am
Without seeing your code, I have no idea.
Patrick Skelton 2-Feb-18 7:00am
Fair comment. I can't get on the target system right now. Next time I can, I will try to write a small chunk of code to illustrate the failure. I'll add it to my question in the 'What I have tried' section.

Please, refer thiss: My Documents vs Documents folder[^]. There you'll find short explanation about differences between documents and my documents folders.

As MSDN documentation states:
The GetFolderPath method returns the locations associated with this enumeration. The locations of these folders can have different values on different operating systems, the user can change some of the locations, and the locations are localized.

For more information about special folders, see the KNOWNFOLDERID constants in the Windows documentation.

Conclusion: to get correct folder (documents instead of my documents) you have to use SHGetKnownFolderPath API function. An implementation you'll find here: VBnet� Visual Basic Developers Resource Centre[^]

Finally i'd strongly suggest to read this tip: Where should I store my data?[^]
Graeme_Grant 4-Feb-18 15:54pm
5'd... Also, something to be aware of... If your app runs in Windows, but in a virtual machine on MacOS or Linux, then the folder returned by Environment.GetFolderPath can be invalid.
Maciej Los 4-Feb-18 18:22pm
Thank you, Graeme.
Further to Maciej Los post, the Document Path not only varies on different Windows OSes, if the user is using a Virtual Machine (VM) on a foreign OS, the Documents folder path can be the base OS path and not the Windows OS Documents Folder path. If you try to access the path outside the VM, then an exception will be thrown.

Below is a solution that will fix this problem.

Machine Details POCO:
public class VirtualMachineDetails
    public string Manufacturer { get; set; }
    public string Model { get; set; }
    public bool IsVirtual
            return IsParallels || IsVirtualBox || IsVmWare || IsVirtualPc;
    public bool IsParallels { get; internal set; }
    public bool IsVmWare { get; set; }
    public bool IsVirtualBox { get; set; }
    public bool IsVirtualPc { get; set; }
    public string DocumentsPath { get; set; }

Extension methods to fill out the information:
using System;
using System.IO;
using System.Management;

public static class VirtualMachineDetailsExtensions
    public static void Init(this VirtualMachineDetails host)
        using (var searcher =
            new ManagementObjectSearcher("Select * from Win32_ComputerSystem"))
            using (var items = searcher.Get())
                foreach (var item in items)
                    host.Manufacturer = item["Manufacturer"].ToString();
                    host.Model = item["Model"].ToString();

                    string manufacturer = host.Manufacturer.ToLower();
                    string model = host.Model.ToLower();

                    host.IsVirtualPc = 
                        manufacturer == "microsoft corporation" &&
                    host.IsParallels = manufacturer.Contains("parallels");
                    host.IsVmWare = manufacturer.Contains("vmware");
                    host.IsVirtualBox = model == "virtualbox";
        host.DocumentsPath = host.FixDocPath();

    private static string FixDocPath(this VirtualMachineDetails host)
        string pathSeperator = @"\";

        string path = Environment.GetFolderPath(

        string userPath = Environment.GetFolderPath(

        var fixPath = new Func<string, string, string>((p, u) => (p.Contains(u)) ? 
                p : 
                Path.Combine(u, p.Substring(p.LastIndexOf(pathSeperator))));

        if (host.IsVirtual)
            string parallelsPath = @"\\Mac\Home";
            string vmWarePath = @"\\vmware-host\Shared Folders";

            if (host.IsParallels)
                if (path.Contains(parallelsPath))
                    path = path.Replace(parallelsPath, userPath);
                    fixPath(path, userPath);

            else if (host.IsVmWare)
                if (path.Contains(vmWarePath))
                    path = path.Replace(vmWarePath, userPath);
                    fixPath(path, userPath);

                fixPath(path, userPath);

        return path;

To use:
var vm = new VirtualMachineDetails();


var documentsPath = vm.DocumentsPath;
Maciej Los 4-Feb-18 17:16pm
Graeme_Grant 4-Feb-18 17:58pm
Thanks ... I have quite a few Mac users with VMs... At the time it was a fun problem to solve... Xamarin has reduced this problem greatly with native app dev however I still see users with VMs...

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