Fixing Shortcut (.lnk) Errors at Windows Startup

Q  Every time I restart my computer, I get an error message saying: The drive or
network connection that the shortcut ".Ink" refers to is
unavailable. Make sure that the disk is properly
inserted or the network resource is available and
then try again. What could the problem be?

— N.K.

A  As the message indicates, the error is probably caused by a bad shortcut. The ".Ink" you refer to is really ".lnk" (the first
character of the extension is a lower-case "L," as in link, not
an "I"). Shortcuts use "lnk" as their file extension.

This kind of thing can happen if you install
software from a networked drive and then later
detach from that network, which is a common situation
if you use a laptop computer that you disconnect
from your office network and take home.

In your situation, I’m a little puzzled by the lack
of a file name in the error message. It should be
something like "SomeFileName.lnk," not just ".lnk."
In any case, what you do about the problem depends upon the circumstances under which you get it.
For example, if you only get the problem when you
are disconnected from your network, then removing
the offending shortcut is a bad idea, because then
you won’t be able to use it when you reconnect to
the network.

On the other hand, if you get the message every time you restart your machine, regardless of the
circumstances, then you can safely delete the
shortcut because it isn’t doing you any good anyway.

Finding the shortcut can be a little tricky
because Windows hides the fact that shortcuts have a lnk
extension. If you look around your hard drive in
Windows Explorer, you won’t see any files with
that extension, even if you have "hide file
extensions" turned off. However, you can see the extension if
you right click on a shortcut and look at the
MS-DOS name. In Windows 2000, there is no MS-DOS
name, so even that won’t work!

To find the shortcut, follow these steps: Open Windows Explorer and press Ctrl-F (hold down
the control key and press F) to bring up the Find
dialog. Select "Local Hard Drives" in the Look
in dropdown, and enter ".lnk" (or whatever the
error message reported for the name of the bad
shortcut) in the Named field. When you click the Find
Now button, Windows will search your hard drives for
the shortcut and display what it found.

If you see more than one shortcut in the search
results, you can probably figure out which one is
causing the problem by looking at their
properties. Right-click on a shortcut, select Properties from
the popup menu, and click the Shortcut tab. The
Target field shows you what file or program the
shortcut points to. If the target’s path refers to a drive
that isn’t connected to your system, you’ve found the
culprit and can safely delete it.

So what do you do if you are using a laptop
that was set up to run certain software over the
network? Well, depending upon the software, the setup
program may give you the option of installing it so
it runs on your local hard drive instead of from a
networked drive.

Alternatively, you may just have to run the
setup program directly from CDROM or floppy instead
of running it from a networked drive. Running the
software locally will take up more disk space on
your computer, but you will have access to the
software even if you are disconnected from the network.