In days of yore, filenames in Windows were limited to the 8.3 format — just eight characters for the filename, and three for the extension. With the arrival of Windows 95, Microsoft stripped away this limit and allowed for much longer names.

That said, the Windows file system still imposes some restrictions such as which characters can be used in filenames, and the overall length of paths. For some time the maximum path length has been 260 characters, but in the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview, it is possible to use Group Policy or a registry hack to remove this limit.

It’s not a feature that will work with every application you have installed, but it should work with many. As Microsoft’s description of the feature explains: “Enabling NTFS long paths will allow manifested win32 applications and Windows Store applications to access paths beyond the normal 260 char limit per node. Enabling this setting will cause the long paths to be accessible within the process.”

It’s likely that this feature will be made available in Windows 10 Anniversary Update when it is released later in the year, but you can enable it in the latest Insider build using Group Policy:

  1. Hit the Windows key, type gpedit.msc and press Enter.
  2. Navigate to Local Computer Policy > Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > Filesystem > NTFS.
  3. Double click the Enable NTFS long paths option and enable it.

If you’re using a version of Windows that does not provide access to Group Policy, you can edit the registry instead.

  1. Hit the Windows key, type regedit and press Enter.
  2. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USERSOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows CurrentVersionGroup Policy Objects {48981759-12F2-42A6-A048-028B3973495F} MachineSystemCurrentControlSetPolicies
  3. Select the LongPathsEnabled key, or create it as a DWORD (32-bit) value if it does not exist.
  4. Set the value to 1 and close the Registry Editor.
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Hat tip to Martin for this!

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