Raymond Chen answers my question

Nearly four years ago, I asked Raymond Chen why Microsoft has continued to use cryptic 8.3 filenames in Windows even though long filenames have been supported for many years. I wasn’t paying attention when Raymond answered me a year later. I just stumbled across this today.

Commenter Brian Reiter asks a duplicate of a question that was already submitted to the Suggestion Box: Darren asks why operating system† files still (for the most part) adhere to the old 8.3 naming convention.

It comes down to a handful of interesting reasons:

  1. Once a name is chosen, it can’t be changed for reasons of backwards compatibility with applications that may load a system DLL or invoke a system executable.
  2. By default all long file names are given a short file name. Loading a DLL by reference to a short and long file name into a program will yield two separate references of the DLL in memory.
  3. 8.3 filenames are know to work. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Also, a related point here is that the system component installer technology in Windows XP and prior could only support 8.3 filenames. Pretty much any system component developed prior to Vista had to have 8.3 filenames. That includes some components developed for Vista while the new installer system was under development. (There a

My original question was why does the Framework Design Guidelines for .NET applications specify a totally different naming. The gist is that while native code and legacy components have the gotchas above, .NET assemblies are different because they have additional metadata including version number and public key token. In order to dynamically load an assembly, you either need to know its strong name or its full path and filename. There is very little chance of accidentally loading the wrong assembly unless you are the one building and signing the assemblies in question.

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