So I was using 32-bit python on windows and trying to read a binary in System32.
with open(r'C:\Windows\System32\FileHistory.exe', 'rb') as f: content = f.read()
Then I was thrown the following error.
This makes no sense, I know the file exists in System32.
After some hair tearing and swearing, I figured it out. This error occurs because 32-bit applications are redirected to SysWOW64 when they try to access System32 and there is no
FileHistory.exe in SysWOW64.
To access the real System32 with 32-bit applications, replace System32 with Sysnative. Sysnative is a special alias that is only visible and accessible from 32-bit programs. So in this case I have to use the following path to actually read the file.
with open(r'C:\Windows\Sysnative\FileHistory.exe', 'rb') as f: content = f.read()
Microsoft wants to split the DLLs and other stuff used by 64-bit and 32-bit applications. 64-bit DLLs will be located in System32 because it is a hardcoded path by a lot of apps.
Intuitively SysWOW64 seems like it should contain 64-bit stuff, but WOW64 stands for Windows 32-bit on Windows 64-bit so it actually contains 32-bit stuff.
In computing on Microsoft platforms, WoW64 (Windows 32-bit on Windows 64-bit) is a subsystem of the Windows operating system capable of running 32-bit applications on 64-bit Windows.
Why not keep 32-bit stuff in System32 and apply the redirection to 64-bit apps instead, and name the 64-bit folder something more intuitive like System64 so it won’t be so confusing? Maybe Microsoft is in the forefront of implementing security by confusion.