Windows

How do I force Windows to assign a drive letter to an external hard drive when attached?


Here is the question I received via email.

"I often recieve external hard drives containing large amounts (10-500+gb)of data from vendors.  Each time I connect the drive, Windows assigns it to my G: drive which is currently mapped by GP to a network location.  Is there a registry edit I can make to force Windows to assign a drive letter, say Z:, to external drives when they are attached?"

I never really thought about what drive letter I was assigned when I plugged in an external hard drive but wondered how I could assign the drive letter of my choice. Here is how I figured out how to accomplish this task in Windows Vista.

Every time I attach a drive (Figure A) in Windows Vista, it assigns drive letter E. No matter how many times, I disconnect or reboot, it always assigns drive letter E.

Figure A.

In order to get the drive to use a different drive letter, you must go into Disk Management by typing Computer Management in the instant search field of Windows Vista (Figure B).

Figure B.

Next, click Disk Management and right-click on the disk in question and choose Change drive letter and paths (Figure C).

Figure C.

Click Change and assign the new drive letter. Now each time you connect an external drive, it will be given the drive you have chosen (Figure D).

Figure D.
27 comments
Gr11zzly
Gr11zzly

I have multiple partitioned HDDs. HDD0 was and is drive C and M. HDD1 was D and S but was dynamic---changed it to Basic, reformatted and repartitioned. ( might mention that before this drive D was actually 2 partitions---now one). After this the machine show the new drive letter for D as H with no option to change this since letter D is not availalble on the list nor is it visibly assigned to any other device shown in Computer management/Storage/Disk management. However when I look at windows explorer there is a device marked with the letter D---its a non existant DVD drive. I'm assuming its a BIOS function to find and assign letters but not sure how to get the D drive assingment back wher it belongs and lose the non existant DVD.

jruby
jruby

I have 3 external drives that I use for different purposed - one is documents for my current live project, one is for backups, and one is for multimedia. Rather than keeping track of drive letters, I use the "mount in empty ntfs folder option". I first created a directory named C:\USBs, then inside that directory, I created Backups, Live, and Multimedia. Last, I connected each drive and used DiskMgmt.msc to remove their drive letters and mount them in the correct directory. No more worries about conflicts with network drives or any new drives that may use a previously assigned drive letter. Couple of benefits/caveats: 1. Documents deleted from the drives mounted like this go to the recycle bin. 2. Using DIR from a command prompt in the C:\USBs subdirectories will report free space on the device, not the C: drive. 3. Make sure C:\USBs\Backups is excluded from the list of directories being backed up when you are backing up to C:\USBs\Backups! Although it may not solve all the problems listed in this forum, hopefully it'll ease somebody's headaches. Jim /* Remember, we're all in this together - I'm pulling for ya. Red Green */

pepoluan
pepoluan

Please check this out: USB Drive Letter Manager http://www.uwe-sieber.de/usbdlm_e.html I have been using this for some months now. It's freeware for personal use. Tell me if it answers your needs. Note: I am not the maker of this utility. Edit: Apparently Techno Rat has beaten me to it, durn :p :)

dlthomas
dlthomas

it would have been nice to see an answer for Windows XP and also if there is an answer for a standard XP user who has no administrator privileges

zhogdr
zhogdr

Using Vista and IE7 on a fairly capable computer, I can't get the pictures to show for this article. - Stan

OldPgmr
OldPgmr

I'm pretty sure you can do this in XP also but can't remember how.

craftamics
craftamics

It has been my experience (with Windows XP Pro) that the drive letter is only good for repeat connections of the drive so set up. A drive your PC has never seen before will require the same type of setup. I think that is why your emailer was asking for a registry setting for next available drive letter. When I connect different external drives or flash drives to my PC's for the first time, I have to log in "workstation only" in order to even see them. I use an admin account to do disk administration.

Gr11zzly
Gr11zzly

All fixed---Gave up and recovered a Ghost copy of the C drive.

bobby
bobby

I support a bunch of remote laptops and each use an external HDD for a backup. The guys also use flash cards, usb thumb drives, etc. The backup program used to send data to the external HDD maps to a certain drive letter. They use laptops out and about, and unhook the external HDD daily. When plugged back in the drive letter will often change and then they have to alter the destination of the backup program. Is there a way to assign a permanent drive letter to the external backup in XP? (moving to an off-site backup soon, but still will keep the local backup going)

troy.kutil
troy.kutil

Wasn't there a way to do this in previous windows versions. I thought for sure you change drive letter assignment to start backwards in the alphabet

nepenthe0
nepenthe0

1) Connect the device 2) right click 'start' and explore 'all users' 3) locate the device in the left window and note the drive letter 4) open Control Panel > Admin Tools > Computer Management > Disc Management 5) Scroll to your hard drive and right click for the context menu, then select 'Change Drive Letter or Paths' 6) Select the preferred available drive letter from the drop-down box 7) Ignore the warning that you will trash your computer. You're done. Hope this helps. Rick/Portland, OR

Tearat
Tearat

The only time it changes is if another drive is already using that letter What would help this person is to be able to reserve a drive letter Or he could reconnect his network share to a different drive letter I have always left a few letters unused for removable drives It is easy to change the cd/dvd drives to higher letters eg G and above I recommend changing them right after installing the OS The letters D E F are then available to removable drives You can also change the letters of non-system drives (System is usually C) Added to avoid confusion A drive letter can also be assigned to a partition or part of a physical drive so it is always possible to have more than one letter assigned to a physical drive

dleippe
dleippe

Instead of tilting at windmills and messing with the removable drive letters, just go to My Computer and edit the volume names. This is most useful if you find yourself in a Dos mode, when all the letters are assigned according to Dos rules. If you have labeled all the drives and or partitions (CD/DVD's excepted)then you can easily pick out the correct device by its name instead of shifty letters. I have assigned a unique named to each of my USB memory sticks, and external hard drives. I don't have to keep track of which letter is assigned to a particular removable device when inserted in different computers.

The Cars Forever
The Cars Forever

Hello, I regularly change the drive letter for external Hard Drives to something like Q: just to prevent the issue of a powered down or disconnected drive ending up with a different letter than noted in the backup application. The steps to change a drive letter is pretty much the same in XP as it is in Vista. In either OS, do the following: 1) Right Click My Computer (XP) / Computer (Vista) on the desktop. - If you don't see these on the desktop, open Windows Explorer and right-click on My Computer/Computer in the folders pane. If you don't see a list of folders on the left side of the window, click the FOLDERS button and scroll to the top of the folder list to locate My Computer/Computer. 2) Click on MANAGE in the new menu which opens Computer Management. - In Vista you will likely need to click CONTINUE at a UAC prompt. 3) In the left hand pane, you will see Disk Management. At this point, follow the directions in the original article. Hope this helps out, Chris

peter
peter

Why does it matter what letter the portable drive is. It will always appear after the last drive in your system unless you have camera type sockets which are usually forced up the alphabet tree.

dip golf
dip golf

That works in the majority of cases but a small fraction of users depend on the same drive letter. For example, I use a Sprint Mobile Broadband USB modem in the field and then connect to an external hard drive at home. Often, I connect my hard drive and it is assigned a new letter due to the fact that my modem took over the drive's letter. This screws up my iTunes library requiring a restart.

The Cars Forever
The Cars Forever

Glad to know the info given in this thread helped you out. Tech Republic can be a real handy resource - hope you enjoy it! Chris

Thomas0303
Thomas0303

I know its been seven months, (according to the dialog box) But I was researching this very subject today and I managed to reach this thread. I was thinking of joining Tech Republic anyway, but now I have to certainly join today, to say THANK Q... as this topic had been a massive headache for me for ages. (I have Two major externals for storage and back-ups, and various usb flash sticks. So you can imagine the changing letters scenario's I have been having.) Once Again THANK Q Thomas J (Extenal HDD Letter Q).....lol

scotth
scotth

Chris, Thanks, but the steps you describe are exactly what I'm trying to avoid every time I connect an external HDD. Currently, I have added the Disk Management executable (C:\WINDOWS\system32\diskmgmt.msc) to my quick launch, so one click elimnates your steps 1-3. However, I still have the original problem of having to re-assign the drive letter and all the pop-up warnings that go along with it. Thanks anyway. Sparcboy

wratholix
wratholix

I believe the bios assigns the A: drive to external stiffy drive. Solution is either to disable the floppy drive or the onboard controller in the bios. Then use it only via USB detection. Now unless your bios supports booting of USB drives it would remove the ability to boot from a stiffy. Should it be needed on that rainy day you know how to get it back, so no problem. In the first bios configuration option it should show your current bios time and drive configuration, change the 1.4mb floppy drive to none. Alternatively you may be to disable the controller all together and free up some resources. Which is somewhere else in your bios settings and is not hard to find.

Brian.Packard
Brian.Packard

Disk managment is located at c:\windows\system32\diskmgmt.msc. If you create a shortcut on your desktop and point it here it will open up disk managment. (atleast on XP)

dariced
dariced

My external floppy drive. I'm an old floppy drive user. I save stuff on them. My new external floppy (the internal died is A and D. Very bizarre. It still recognizes the removed external floppy and that has two letters also B and (can't remember.) Can I fix this and just have an a: drive? Thanks Dawn

Steven Warren
Steven Warren

but this particular person cares. Everybody has there thing. I hate a cluttered desktop but I have friends who have 200 + icon on a desktop.Sheesh

scotth
scotth

It appears windows cannot be forced to assign a drive letter. Can anyone tell me how to create a shortcut to Disk Management (not just Computer Management) that can be placed in the quick launch bar? Even this would help the situation. Thanks in advance.-scott

mkramer
mkramer

If you have any mapped drives windows will not recognize them as used drive letters. If your last drive is e: and you have a network drive mapped to F: when you plug in the removable device it will make it drive F:.

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