Errors Creating Files or Folders in the Root Directory


You may receive an error message when you create a file or folder in the root directory. The exact error message depends on the method used to create the file or folder.

Using the COPY command in an MS-DOS session reports the following:

Cannot make directory entry - <filename>
WordPad and Paint report the following when saving a file to the root directory:

<filename>: This filename is not valid.
When you try to create a new folder in the root directory in My Computer or Windows Explorer, you receive the following error message:

Unable to create <"New Folder">. Make sure the disk is not full or read-only.
NOTE: This information is accurate for a standard file allocation table 16 (FAT16) file system, but does not apply to a FAT32 file system. For more information about FAT32, see the following article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

154997 Description of the FAT32 File System


This problem occurs when all 512 root directory entries have been used. This problem can also occur with fewer than 512 files and folders in the root directory because Windows 95 uses additional directory entries to store long file names.


To ensure compatibility with MS-DOS, Windows 95 uses a standard file allocation table (FAT) file system. The root directory for a FAT drive has a fixed size and is stored in a fixed location on the disk. All hard disk drives use 32 sectors of 512 bytes each to store the root directory. This limits the root directory on a hard disk drive to 16K: 32 sectors x 512 bytes per sector = 16,384 bytes, or 16K.

MS-DOS uses one directory entry for each file and folder, but Windows 95 uses additional directory entries to store long file names and folder names, and the associated 8.3 aliases. This means that you can run out of directory entries with fewer than 512 files or folders in the root directory.

Folders do not have a fixed size, so the only limitation to the number of files or folders you can store in any folder with Windows 95 is free disk space. For this reason, it is best to store your files (programs and data) in a folder off the root directory.


Use the following steps to free root directory entries:

  1. Check the drive for invalid long file names, and then defragment the drive as follows:

    Use the right mouse button to click the drive icon in My Computer or Windows Explorer and the click Properties on the menu that appears. Click the Tools tab and then click Check Now. Perform the default correction if invalid long file names are found. Then choose Defragment Now.
  2. Rename any files or folders in the root directory using only upper- case 8.3-compliant file or folder names.

    The characters that are valid for an 8.3-compliant file or folder name include any combination of letters (A-Z) and/or numbers (0-9), plus the following special characters:

    $ Dollar sign
    % Percent sign
    ' Apostrophe
    ` Opening single quotation mark
    - Hyphen
    @ At sign
    { Left brace
    } Right brace
    ~ Tilde
    ! Exclamation point
    # Number sign
    ( Opening parenthesis
    ) Closing parenthesis
    & Ampersand
    _ Underscore
    ^ Caret
  3. Move some files or folders out of the root directory.

More Information

An MS-DOS FAT root directory contains a separate entry for every file and folder it contains. These directory entries contain information such as the file name, extension, attributes, time and date the file was last modified, the starting cluster number, and the file size. Each directory entry uses 32 bytes to store this information. Because the root directory is 16K in size, it can contain a maximum of 512 directory entries, which are 32 bytes each.

When you name a file or folder in Windows, the system creates a primary file name, which can be a long file name, and an MS-DOS-compliant 8.3 alias. If the file or folder name is already 8.3-compliant, only one directory entry is used.

NOTE: For a file or folder name to be 8.3-compliant, it must contain only those characters that are valid for an 8.3 alias name, and it must be composed of all uppercase characters.

Windows 95/98 allows file and folder names to contain up to 250 characters. Valid characters for a Windows 95 file name include all the valid MS-DOS file name characters, the space character, and the following additional characters:

+ Plus sign
, Comma
. Period
= Equal sign
[ Opening bracket
] Closing bracket
Windows 95 file names are not case sensitive, but the case is preserved. The primary file names can include upper, lower, or mixed-case characters. For example, you can name a file "MyText.txt" and the file system preserves the case formatting.

If the file name is not 8.3-compliant, Windows 95 automatically generates an 8.3 alias for the file name. An additional directory entry is used to store the 8.3 alias. If the primary file name contains more than 13 characters, an additional directory entry is used.

The following table shows some primary file names, their 8.3 aliases, and directory entry usage in Windows 95:

Primary Possible Directory
file name 8.3 alias entries used
Example.txt EXAMP~1.TXT 2
!@#$%&().{^} !@#$%&~1.{^} 1
!@#$%&().{+} !@#$%&~1.{} 2
This is a very long
file name.test THISIS~2.TES 4
NOTE: Any file whose name contains more than 13 characters requires 3 or more directory entries.


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