Build Your Skills: Fix unintentional drive letter changes with Win2K/XP Diskmgmt.msc

Learn how to use the Disk Management console in Windows 2000 and Windows XP to reorder drives.

In the discussion forum, I read a post from a member who had installed an Iomega ZIP drive and by doing so, had accidentally changed the drive letter of his DVD-ROM drive from D: to E:. At first, a simple drive letter change might not seem like that big of a deal, but it can cause problems. For example, if you’ve installed any software that requires the CD to be in the drive before it will run correctly, the software may not run if the CD-ROM drive’s drive letter has changed, because the system’s path to the necessary files will be incorrect.

The actual technique you use to correct the problem depends on which version of Windows you’re using. On Windows 95, 98, or Me systems, you can change CD drive letters through the drive's Properties window under the Device Manager. For Windows NT systems, the Disk Administrator utility allows you to shuffle drive letters. Windows 2000 and XP users need to use the Disk Management console to reorder their drives, and this is the method I will explain.

Using the Disk Management console
Although you can access the Disk Management console from within the Computer Management utility, it is quicker to enter the Diskmgmt.msc command at the Run prompt. When you do, Windows will load the Disk Management console. You can see an example of the Windows 2000 console shown in Figure A. The top half of the screen shows the partitions and logical drives that exist on your system, while the bottom half of the screen shows the physical devices present on your machine.

Figure A

Simply right-click on the physical device for which you want to change the drive letter.For example, if you had a system like the one shown in Figure A and you wanted to change the drive letter of the CD-ROM drive, you’d right-click on the gray area that says CD-ROM 0.

After doing so, you’ll see a shortcut menu appear. Select the Change Drive Letter And Paths command from the shortcut menu. You should then see a dialog box with the drive letter highlighted. There are also buttons for Add, Change, and Remove. Ignore the Add and Remove buttons because they are usually used for network and distributed file system (DFS) drives. Instead, just click the Change button and a dialog box will appear asking which drive letter you want to switch the drive to. Make the change and then click OK twice.

You may need to play musical drive letters
When changing a drive letter, you may find that you have to jump through some hoops to get the configuration that you want. For example, if your CD-ROM drive was on D: and you installed a ZIP drive that took over D: and moved your CD-ROM drive to E:, you probably want to reverse the drives and make the CD-ROM drive D: and the Zip drive E:. However, there’s no direct way to reverse the letters. Likewise, you can’t just change the CD-ROM drive to D:, because D: is being occupied by the ZIP drive. In such a situation, you’d want to change the ZIP drive to F:, change the CD-ROM to the now vacant D:, and then change the ZIP drive to E:.

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