One of the long-awaited features in Windows Vista was the ability to use symbolic links, the way you can in linux. Sadly, they don't work quite as well as they could, but it's a big upgrade from prior versions.
Using the mklink Command
The command that you need to use is mklink, which you'll use from the command line. Just type it on the command line to see the options:
Creates a symbolic link.
MKLINK [[/D] | [/H] | [/J]] Link Target
/D - Creates a directory symbolic link. Default is a file symbolic link.
- Creates a hard link instead of a symbolic link.
/J -> - Creates a Directory Junction.
Link - specifies the new symbolic link name. ->
Target - specifies the path (relative or absolute) that the new link refers to.
For instance, if you wanted to make the folder C:UsersUserTestFolder available from C:TestFolder as well, you could use the following command.
C:mklink /D C:TestFolder C:UsersuserTestFolder
symbolic link created for C:TestFolder <<=== C:UsersuserTestFolder
Now if you look in C:TestFolder directory, you'll see whatever files were in the other directory.
symbolic link created for C:TestFolder <<===>
symbolic link created for C:TestFolder <<===>>Understanding the Options
MKLINK link target
Using the command without any extra options creates a soft link to a file.
This essentially acts like a shortcut to a folder in prior versions of Windows, except you don't have to use an actual shortcut.
/D creates a symbolic link, or a soft link.
This option can't be used for folders directly for some reason, you'll have to use the next option.
/H creates a hard link, which points directly to the file.
A Directory Junction is actually just a hard link to a directory. This is a feature that existed prior to Vista as well. If you are trying to symlink to a directory using a hard link, then you should use this option.
/J creates a "Directory Junction"
Understanding Hard vs Soft Links
A hard link directly points to the file, and acts to the operating system as if it is the file itself. You'll want to use this option the majority of the time if you are trying to fake an application's directory.
A soft link is essentially a shortcut to a file or folder - if you are using Windows explorer, you'll be redirected to the directory if you double-click on a shortcut, it won't pretend its part of the filesystem. You can still directly reference or open a file with the symlinked path, and it mostly works.
Using Symlinks from a Network Share
One of the things that's been extensively discussed is that you cannot use the Vista symlinks from another operating system (not surprising), but you cannot use them from a network share either. This is troublesome if you expect to use this feature on a web server or a file server.
To delete a symlink, you can just delete the link. Just make sure you don't delete the original file.