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As a normal user, I'd edited some files that ordinarily ordinary users wouldn't be editing (specifically, Intellij IDEA .vmoptions files, in C:\Program Files (x86)\JetBrains\Intellij IDEA 10.5.2\bin), without the effects I was hoping for, and I saw some noise elsewhere on the web about administrators and normal users seeing different versions of these files (???!), so I decided to try to edit them as administrator.

I launched Windows Explorer using "Run as administrator" and navigated to the folder. As far as Windows Explorer was concerned, the files didn't exist. (Note: "Show hidden files and folders" was AFAICT enabled for both me as ordinary user and for administrator.) I tried using Notepad (again as administrator; administrator-Notepad's File|Open dialog couldn't see the files either) to create a new file and save it over one of the files I couldn't see, and this appeared to succeed but did not change the file. (It did, however, change the modification date of the directory.)

Finally, as myself, I moved the files to the desktop, and then dragged them into the admin Explorer window, at which point they became visible and I was able to change the ownership from myself to administrator. They seem to have stayed visible since.

But what the @$#! is going on? I assume Windows 7 is doing something terribly clever and helpful, but I have no idea what it is.

(FWIW, my original edits were done with XEmacs under cygwin, and the problem, as best I can make out, was a straightforward one of the wrong type of line ending. But with Explorer behaving this way, I can't be sure.)

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Looks like the answer is here:

Due to security features introduced with Windows Vista (UAC) any non-Administrator program that tries to write to protected locations such as "Program Files" will get their writes caught and redirected to an alternative "user friendly" location.

The program that made the file will be able to see the file, but most other programs will not.

Files written to "protected locations" will end up in a parallel file structure under C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\VirtualStore, but will appear to the program that created them as if actually in the intended location.

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Thanks for touching back! –  sysadmin1138 Apr 6 '12 at 23:58
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