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Version Control with Subversion
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Version Control with Subversion - Client Interoperability - Microsoft Web Folders

Microsoft Web Folders

Microsoft was one of the original backers of the WebDAV specification, and first started shipping a client in Windows 98, known as “Web Folders”. This client was also shipped in Windows NT4 and 2000.

The original Web Folders client was an extension to Explorer, the main GUI program used to browse filesystems. It works well enough. In Windows 98, the feature might need to be explicitly installed if Web Folders aren't already visible inside “My Computer”. In Windows 2000, simply add a new “network place”, enter the URL, and the WebDAV share will pop up for browsing.

With the release of Windows XP, Microsoft started shipping a new implementation of Web Folders, known as the “WebDAV mini-redirector”. The new implementation is a filesystem-level client, allowing WebDAV shares to be mounted as drive letters. Unfortunately, this implementation is incredibly buggy. The client usually tries to convert http URLs (https://host/repos) into UNC share notation (\\host\repos); it also often tries to use Windows Domain authentication to respond to basic-auth HTTP challenges, sending usernames as HOST\username. These interoperability problems are severe and documented in numerous places around the web, to the frustration of many users. Even Greg Stein, the original author of Apache's WebDAV module, recommends against trying to use XP Web Folders against an Apache server.

It turns out that the original “Explorer-only” Web Folders implementation isn't dead in XP, it's just buried. It's still possible to find it by using this technique:

  1. Go to 'Network Places'.

  2. Add a new network place.

  3. When prompted, enter the URL of the repository, but include a port number in the URL. For example, https://host/repos would be entered as https://host:80/repos instead.

  4. Respond to any authentication prompts.

There are a number of other rumored workarounds to the problems, but none of them seem to work on all versions and patchlevels of Windows XP. In our tests, only the previous algorithm seems to work consistently on every system. The general consensus of the WebDAV community is that you should avoid the new Web Folders implementation and use the old one instead, and that if you need real a real filesystem-level client for Windows XP, then use a third-party program like WebDrive or NetDrive.


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Version Control with Subversion
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