Native symbolic link behavior is broken and makes backups using Cygwin command line tools impossible

Jeffrey Altman
Mon Jan 4 15:46:07 GMT 2021

On 1/4/2021 10:27 AM, Matt D. via Cygwin ( wrote:
> I am using symbolic links native to Windows. My CYGWIN environment
> variable has been set to "winsymlinks:nativestrict" and my account has
> permission to make symbolic links. This is an issue specifically with
> Cygwin; I have no problems making links at the windows command line.
> Cygwin also does not have a problem making symbolic links-- if the
> target already exists. The issue is that I cannot create native
> symbolic links with Cygwin for targets that DON'T exist.
> The normal behavior for both Windows and Linux is to create the
> symbolic link whether the target exists or not. I don't know why
> Cygwin fails to do this only for native Windows symbolic links. It
> does not have a problem creating links to any target with the default
> Cygwin (non-Windows) symbolic links.

Windows native symlinks encode the object type of the target and the
encoded type must match that of the target or the link will not work
when the target exists.

A UNIX symlink does not encode any details of the target.

Cygwin doesn't know what type of native symlink to create if the
target does not exist.

I hope this knowledge helps.

Jeffrey Altman

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