What are the Limits on File Names?

Written by Barry Dysert (last updated August 26, 2019)

Believe it or not, file name limits aren't all that easy to come by. The reason it's difficult is because you have limits imposed by NTFS itself, limits imposed by the Windows operating system, and limits imposed by the application dealing with the files (e.g., Windows Explorer or File Explorer).

Experimentation reveals that for a file created at "C:\", you can create a file name with at most 255 characters. If you were to try to create a file with a longer path (e.g., "C:\Documents"), the length of the file name would have to be reduced accordingly. This implies that in addition to the length of the actual file name, you also have to deal with the name of the path, which, according to Microsoft, is set at 260 characters for local files.

File names can use any character in the current code page, including Unicode characters and characters in the extended character set (128–255), except for the following:

  • < (less than)
  • > (greater than)
  • : (colon)
  • " (double quote)
  • / (forward slash)
  • \ (backslash)
  • | (vertical bar or pipe)
  • ? (question mark)
  • * (asterisk)
  • Integer value zero, sometimes referred to as the ASCII NUL character
  • Characters whose integer representations are in the range from 1 through 31

 This tip (5835) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 35 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer. He is currently a software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. When not working with Windows or writing Tips, Barry is an amateur writer. His first non-fiction book is titled "A Chronological Commentary of Revelation." ...

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