Windows: how to delete repeating “infinite” nested folder structure

This can happen with a lot of different programs, or even with messing up a script or something: some loop happened at some point when copying/creating files on a disk, and you get a repeated folder structure clogging your storage.

I’ve had the issue with Robocopy, a vintage (1996!) .exe perfect for scripted simple file backups. Hey, the latest release is from 2019 after all 🙂

I used it to copy some user’s AppData in Windows 10, to another disk. The process took ages, which seemed weird to begin with, as the user’s AppData was about a few GB’s.

The command with parameters I used was the following:

The command ran for more than an hour, and then seemed to be stopped. Yeah, the mentioned F:\ disk was 100% full.

The result was pretty amazing. I solved the issue since I’ve had it so the screenshot below is made-up, but this is kinda faithful to the situation I had on the backup drive ( F: )

So the folder “Username” was containing its usual “Local”, “LocalLow” an “Roaming” directories, plus their orresponding files. But inside the “Local” directory, you have the whole AppData with its three sub-folders and all files again, recursively, and bearing the full name “Application Data”.
I think it went to about ~20 levels of depth, until the disk was full. I don’t understand how this happened, probably some bug with Robocopy unable to process the users directories correctly in Windows 10.

I wanted to delete the root folder “Username” to clean all that crap, and it was plainly impossible: Windows was getting lost in the depth, with long files, and ACLs (maybe that /copyall option on Robocopy wasn’t such a good idea to begin with…)

I had to use two tricks:

First trick is to take ownership of the whole content of the folder, as far as the command could go:

To be executed in elevated cmd, and ensure your user is among the administrators of course. If needed, check the parameters of takeown.exe and adapt to your needs with your specific user.

Second one is courtesy of Blackbam’s (1), and is a pretty ingenious little batch file (in elevated cmd/PS as well):

So you rename your first looping sub-directory to “x”, you move the content of x’s subdir to the root (including the looping directory within), and delete x as well as its content. If you have a humongous depth level, you can even loop that into some PowerShell or batch if you remember that 😉

I had a little issue with rd unable to delete some long filename within a “Microsoft” directory, but once takeown had done its job and the folder moved to a higher level, the Windows Explorer was enough to perform the deletion… some tedious manual job but I hadn’t that many depth levels in the end..

And that’s it, I managed to free all the space eaten by this annoying situation.

Morality: don’t use Robocopy to backup user’s AppData! 🙂


IP addresses – don’t use leading 0’s!

First thing you might wonder with the title of this article, is why the heck would you write leading 0’s in IP addresses? Well, fair enough. But read on about this little story of mine.

We have Excel sheets here listing all fixed IP addresses from our networks, to know which servers have them, and for which reason.

For a reason unbeknownst to me, we have put leading 0‘s in the addresses in those sheets. Well, thinking of it, maybe it was for cosmetic reasons or easier column sorting, but in that type of document we could have simply typed the IPs from a VLAN in a certain sequence once and for all.

Anyway, so we have this Excel file with these addresses, and server names/comments I don’t copy here:

A good-willing Operator had to configure a new server, so he went to the Excel file, chose a free address in the list, which was

, and copy-pasted it to the deploy wizard.

Some time later (when the server was actually brought online), we got a reported IP conflict on the network, and nobody understood why.

So check this out, let’s ping the address of the new server:

I said 25 damnit, not 21 !

Yeah well, the .21 address was indeed already used. It turns out that using one leading zero in front of any IP chunk, will convert this chunk in octal (base-8).  So the address is read correctly in decimal, but .025 means 25 in octal, thus 2×8^1+5×8^0  i.e. 21 in decimal.

So even if in some software the correction might be done, never ever write your IP addresses with leading zero’s.

Now let’s have some fun. You probably now that “0x” is the prefix for the hexadecimal notation right?

Every chunk can have its own radix.

Now WHY on earth you can do that, remains a mystery to me.

PowerShell one-liners: get DNS info

As you all Microsoft-sysadmins now know, PowerShell is t3H sh1T everybody is supposed to use, more and more.

Windows guys now have the ever-wanted ability to pipe stuff, we can execute commands in one line (also called “one-liners”), how wonderful  (you hear the sarcastic tone, I hope..).

Sometimes these commands are very easy, sometimes they’re a bit trickier, anyway I will record here some of the cool ones I met.

Last example in mind: a colleague asks me to provide him “a list in an usable text file, of the DNS info (static/dynamic record, record type) regarding Linux machines in our domain”.

We have a pretty complex naming convention here. All servers have a prefix of three letters followed by an hyphen, and then some random word to describe the server functionnality. Linux machines have prefixes all beginning with “L”  (how strange).  Problem is, laptops also begin with “L” (prefix “LP-“). Oh and we also have a few Linux servers with some specific random name as prefix (let’s call it “randomname” here).

Here’s the one-liner:

I love regexp’s as much as I suck at them, that’s why I’m so proud when I manage to get one to work for what I want! (one is happy with what one can..). So yeah in our example here, “randomname_2” is also taken into account.

This outputs a nice text file looking like the following:Powershell oneliner - DNS - output

where Timestamp=0 means static record, and the other fields are self-explanatory.

This must be executed on a server with the DNS Powershell cmdlets (easiest way : a DNS server..) and PowerShell version 4 or later (might work with v3, haven’t tested, but certainly doesn’t work with v2).

Remote desktop error on Windows 2012

You want to connect with remote desktop to a fresh Windows 2012 server  (any edition) and you get the “Remote Desktop can’t connect to the remote computer for one of these reasons” generic message that isn’t giving anything except maybe a headache and the will to punch your screen:

For once, the Microsoft-style error message doesn’t totally lack of sense, especially about the last point: “is not available on the network”.

I don’t actually remember how it is with a Server 2008 out of the box, but I don’t remember having had those issues – then again, the guys at work making the templates for our virtual machines in 2008 had perhaps already fixed this…

Anyway, we’re talking here about Windows 2012 (“R1” or R2).

First things first, ensure the remote desktop is enabled.  Connect to your machine with the console (VMware/Hyper-V/whatever, or physically to the server if it is … a physical server)

Ensure the following is checked: Control Panel > System and Security > System > Advanced system settings > Remote > Allow remote connections to this computerRemote2012_01
This is greyed out here because we activate this through GPO.
Also, note that the checkbox below is NOT checked; this is to allow us to use software such as mRemoteNG (that I strongly advise). In a closed and secure environment, this is OK not to check.

So, Remote connections are allowed but you still get the error message, so there is a firewall issue as you may guess.

Of course you can totally turn the firewall off, but if you’re like me a bit, you don’t like opening all the doors of your home just because someone in your household hasn’t got the key to open one.

So let’s use cool powershell/prompt commands to solve this:

will output the three rules and their current Enabled status. You should see it to “False”

will open what needs to be opened.

will double check that everything is OK.

The global output should look like this:


Enjoy your remote connection!

Sources & additional info:


Excel: format a row according to the value of one cell

This is about a desktop software and it might be strange to feature it as the second article of a so-called System Admin blog.  But let’s be honest: who among us doesn’t use Excel on an extensive basis, to track down their jobs, and even sometimes as some sort of light database?   We know there are more professional tools, but still, Excel has been forced into our Windows-corrupted minds as the spreadsheet tool, every Microsoft client has it, it works fine with SharePoint (yeah we have that in our company as well), so let’s skip the rhetoric and get to the point.

I want a whole line (technical name is “Row”, we’ll try to use it from now on) in a specific formatting (color, font, whatever) according to the content of one specific cell from it.   Typically, I type “OK” in the cell C2, and I want the whole row (2) to be e.g. grayed out.

So let’s use a scenario to illustrate this: I’m moving servers from one monitoring infrastructure to another, and I want to keep track of which server has been actually migrated:

See? I type “moved” and the whole line gets grayed out.

Go to the Conditional Formatting Rules Manager :  Home > Conditional Formatting >  Manage Rules (path is in Excel 2010).

Click on the New Rule button > Use a formula to determine which cells to format:


Click the Format button and choose what kind of formatting you want. Here, I chose to fill the cells with dark gray color.

In the Formula field, enter the following:


With two “=” signs, yes, and where “X” is the column where you want to test the value, and TEXT the text you want to check.  This is a logical test, if you know what it is, I don’t have to explain. If you don’t know, well I don’t want to explain, go read some.

Validate it and you are brought back to the Conditional Formatting Rules Manager where you see your rule, and you have to correct the “Applies To” field to the whole document.

(Technical Note: for ease’s sake, that’s why you use 1 as row in the formula above, you could select from a specific row but then you would have to use more complex ranges for the “Applies To” field here).

Easiest way: click on the little button next to the field and then in the upper left button (next to the A column) to select the whole document:


Or just write the “=$1:$1048576” formula in the field (yes, smartasses, you can apply this to any rows you want…).  Let’s say we use this formula, which also explains why we used the first row ($X1) in the formula above:  you want the value of the cell to impact the formatting on same line of data.

Now write your text in the corresponding cell. For the example here “moved” (or “Moved”; this is Windows, not case sensitive), and bam, the whole line gets greyed.
Now this is nice, don’t you think? Well, don’t be happy too soon. Cause if you manipulate your cells with actions that impact style (cut-paste with style, row insertions, etc.) the “Applies To” might get severely screwed:



And this is just after two cut-pastes and two insertions.

As usual, Microsoft Office products managing styles & layout for you; be prepared to correct this.

In short, when you got something weird with your conditional formatting, just review the Rules Manager, be sure to select “Show formatting rules for: This Worksheet” (unlike in the last screenshot above…), erase all the crap in the “Applies To” field and enter the magic formula for the whole document again  (=$1:$1048576) or just click the button left to the A column, like explained above.

This will clear the mess.   And to (try and) avoid these kind of stuff, in a document with lots of formatting like this, think about copy-pasting VALUES from the cells, instead of the cells themselves.

What is locking my file or folder?

We’ve all had this.  You want to delete or rename some file or folder, and you get the very dreaded following window:

You probably already know about the locked files and checked the Server Manager > Roles > File Services > Share and Storage Management > OpenFiles   (this is the path for Win 2K8).  Your folder is not to be seen, and it gets you mad, I know.

Then you Google some, and you find some miraculous third-party software which-will-solve-all-your-problem-but-please-click-next-next-next-and-don’t-read.

Delta Toolbar?  SRSLY?

Then let’s think: it’s Windows, we are in 2015; what about Powershell?

Beam Us Up Scotty proposes a command for this, let’s try it on that example directory:

It might be actually good for files, but in the case of a directory, it returns nothing 🙁

Out of the box, I haven’t found a way to get what I want:  clearly identify what the hell is locking my file or folder.

There is a Sysinternals executable called Handle.exe (which I would love to decompile some day and inject its commands into some PS!) which looks promising.

Note that you can run this executable from a remote location, but not from a certain location, aimed toward a remote machine where the file is locked.

The Lonely Administrator and Stackoverflow propose solutions using this, let’s try:

  1. Download Handle.exe from the official Sysinternals site. It’s a safe lonely executable, no crappy toolbar, no adware and the like.
  2. Put it on some network share.
  3. Write a nice PS function to use Handle.exe. As we won’t reinvent the wheel; just grab the one from the Lonely Administrator (the second “Click to Expand Code”)… it’s well done and works fine (*).
  4. Put the function in a file (let’s call it Get-LockingProcess.ps1) on a share (e.g. the same as Handle.exe, let’s call it MYSHARE for the example).  Be sure to edit the path to the Handle.exe file (variable $Handle in that code) to match your network share.
  5. From anywhere where a file or folder is locked, as long as you have access to the said share, you open a Powershell window, you include the Get-LockingProcess.ps1 (using the dot command for instance) and then you call the function with the locked directory.

Let’s try this with our example dir.  I put Handle.exe and the Get-LockingProcess.ps1 files on \\MYSHARE:

Pretty clear: you have the directory opened in a cmd window!

This is from a system admin’s point of view and wanting to give any power user a quick and easy way to identify locked files/folders.
Of course you can also do this locally, and/or only output Handle.exe to a file and Ctrl+F into that file, but it isn’t as fancy ! 🙂


(*) For future’s sake, here is a copy, with cited source:

Doesn’t that regex totally PWNS? 🙂