Why is the Program Files directory called Program Files instead of just Programs?

Raymond Chen

Some people suggest that one thing Microsoft Research could do with that time machine they’re working on is to go back in time and change the name of the Program Files directory to simply Programs. No, it really should be Program Files. Program Files are not the same as Programs. Programs are things like Calc, Notepad, Excel, Photoshop. They are things you run. Program Files are things like ACRORD32.DLL and TWCUTCHR.DLL. They are files that make programs run. If the directory were named Programs, then people who wanted to run a program would start digging into that directory and seeing a page full of weird DLL names and wonder “What the heck kind of programs are these?” And eventually they might figure out that if they want to run PowerPoint, they need to double-click on the icon named POWERPNT. “Computers are so hard to use.” WLCM2DOS

If you want to find your programs, go to the Start menu. The Program Files directory is like the pantry of a restaurant. You aren’t expected to go in there and nibble on things that look interesting. You’re expected to order things from the menu.


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