Symbolic Link vs Alias

Discussion in 'macOS' started by MoodyM, Jul 20, 2010.

  1. MoodyM macrumors 6502a


    Aug 14, 2008
    What's the difference between the two?

    If I want to put a link/shortcut in my downloads folder that points to a folder in my Dropbox folder, so I can easily drag & drop files into it, which would I better using?

  2. sammich macrumors 601


    Sep 26, 2006
    I'm not sure of the technical differences, but if you know how to make one in the terminal, then I recommend you do it that way. Finder 'alias'' are for some reason 1 MB in size.
  3. MacKeeperFanMod macrumors regular


    Jun 28, 2010
    On HFS and HFS+ file systems, each file and folder has a unique, persistent identity. Aliases use this identity along with pathname information to find files and folders on the same volume.
    Beginning with Mac OS X 10.2, aliases reversed this search order by using the pathname first and unique identity second. This means that if you move a file and replace it with an identically named file, aliases to the original file now point to the new file. Similarly, if you move a file on the same volume (without replacing it), aliases use the unique identity information to locate the file.
    When a file or folder moves, the alias may update either its path information or unique identity information to account for the change. If a file moves somewhere on the same volume, the alias updates its internal record with the new path information for the file. Similarly, if the original file is replaced by a file with the same name, but a different unique identity, the alias updates its internal record with the unique identity of the new file.

    Because aliases use a file system path to resolve a file’s location initially, they now offer a similar behavior to symbolic links. Symbolic links rely exclusively on path information to locate a file. If you move a file somewhere on the same volume without replacing it, symbolic links to the file break while aliases do not. The only way to fix a symbolic link is to delete it and create a new one.

    Good luck!:)
  4. larkost macrumors 6502a

    Oct 13, 2007
    Since some of the difference has already been covered I will just tell you to defiantly use a symlink for this sort of thing. Most programs are not going to be able to cross an alias. Aliases are really only useful in the Finder (and there they are solidly better than symlinks).

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