Workaround for Missing Summary Tab in Vista File Properties: Virtual PC & Windows XP

March 19, 2010


In Windows 2000, XP and Server 2003 if you open the properties of any files stored on an NTFS volume, there is a summary tab which allows you to enter some basic information about the file.

The property page would provide the following fields: Title, Subject, Author, Category, Keywords, Comments, Source, and Revision Number. Each of the fields would accept a text value which could be used to describe and “tag” the file.

The columns can be added to the details view in Explorer, which allowed for easy viewing and sorting based on the information. The Windows Search service also indexes the information so it can be used in searches.

The Changes in Vista:

In Windows Vista and newer versions of Windows, the Summary tab has been removed from the file properties, and you cannot edit the properties with Explorer. The Details view columns also no longer work with the Summary information.

Vista supports tagging files as long as the tags are stored internally within the file itself. You can tag files like MP3, JPG, and DOC through the Details pane and properties dialog because the tags are written into the file itself. File formats which do not support internal tags cannot be tagged.

Previously, the summary content and many other pieces of metadata were stored in NTFS alternate data streams.

About Alternate Data Streams:

NTFS supports a feature called alternate data streams (ADS). Alternate data streams allow data to be attached to a file, but stored in a separate “fork” on the file system. This allows you to store data such as comments along with a file, without modifying the file itself.

For example, when you download an executable file, Windows creates a stream named “Zone.Identifier” with content like:


When you open the executable file, Windows checks for the stream and pops up the downloaded program warning dialog when it is present.

The problem is that other file systems do not support ADS, and many applications are not ADS aware. If you set the summary information on a file and send it to someone over the internet, the alternate streams will not be copied. The same thing will happen when it’s copied to a flash drive, camera, or music player, which usually use the FAT file system.

In order to avoid the issue of the metadata being lost, Microsoft decided that they would drop support for tagging through ADS.

Use Windows XP as a Workaround:

If you have existing summary information it will still be present on the file system.

The workaround is to use Windows XP to set the information on the files. XP can access the properties of files on network shares and set the Summary information.

Using Virtual PC:

If you don’t have a spare system running XP, you can use Virtual PC. You can download and install Virtual PC 2007 from Microsoft for free. You will need a Windows XP installation disc or ISO image and a product key to install on Virtual PC.

Once you have Virtual PC installed, you need to setup a new virtual machine. Most of the default options VPC selects for Windows XP should be fine, but you’ll probably want to set the virtual hard disk file’s size to be lower (VPC selects a large size by default, but XP should easily fit in under 5GB). Start the virtual machine and insert the XP disc (or select CD->Capture ISO Image from the menu if you have an ISO), it should boot the CD and allow you to install XP.

Once XP is installed, it can share your network adapter and connect to your network. The VPC additions allow for shared folders between the host and virtual system, but you will not be able to set the summary information over them. You must connect over Windows file sharing.

Sharing The Files Between Systems:

Share the files on your Vista system. You may have to enable file sharing through the Network and Sharing center first. You will also need to make sure the XP user has sufficient privileges to write to the share. To simplify the login/permissions process, give your XP user the same user name and password as your Vista user account.

You can do this from an elevated command prompt using the net command:

net share <share name>=”<path>” /GRANT:”<user name>”,FULL

Then to map it from your XP machine, you could use:

net use <drive>: \\<computer name>\<share name>

net use <drive>: \\<IP address>\<share name>

For example, I could share my pictures with this command:

net share pix=”C:\Users\Me\Pictures” /GRANT:”XP User”,FULL

and then map it as x: in My Computer on the VPC using:

net use x: \\VISTAPC\pix

Additional Details:

Viewing the Summary Stream Names:

There are many third party tools for working with ADS. Windows Vista also has added support for ADS in some of it’s tools like ‘dir’.

If we set the Summary information for a file (test.txt) we can use “dir /r” on Vista to see all of it’s attached data streams:

Microsoft Windows [Version 6.0.6002]
Copyright (c) 2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

S:\Software>dir *.txt /r
Volume in drive S is Software
Volume Serial Number is 0000-0000

Directory of S:\Software

03/19/2010 03:16 AM 0 Test.txt
120 Test.txt:♣DocumentSummaryInformation:$DAT
220 Test.txt:♣SummaryInformation:$DATA
0 Test.txt:{4c8cc155-6c1e-11d1-8e41-00c04fb
1 File(s) 0 bytes
0 Dir(s) 483,427,966,976 bytes free


We can try to view the contents of an ADS stream using MORE: (This doesn’t always work very well)

S:\>more < "Test.txt:{4c8cc155-6c1e-11d1-8e41-00c04fb9386d}"