How to Change Drive Letters

The question of changing drive letters on a computer is a bit more technical than some of the other questions I've answered. See inside for how to go about it correctly.
Published: Nov 28, 2005
Author: Michael E, Callahan

This question submitted by Andrew Fontana, Paulette Tringali, AdamClaypool, Shirley Watson and numerous others

This question about changing drive letters on a computer is a bit more technical than some of the other questions I've answered. Changing drive letters on a computer can have a serious impact on programs that are already installed. At the same time, it's a question that I can identify with because I usually change drive letters on most of my computers. Let me get into that aspect just a bit.

My new computer, a Dell XPS 400, has a 160 gigabyte hard drive. Now, in the old days it was a big deal when hard drives got big enough to be able to partition them. You know, like 40 megabytes. So, most early users, like myself, started dividing hard drives into multiple partitions. Until recently, my personal system always had hard drives C, D and E. The DVD drives would be F and G. I'd have the operating system and basic programs on C. On drive D, I have documents, music and many program files. And on drive E I had all my Internet-related programs -- browsers, FTP clients, e-mail and so on. In just the last 6 months I've eliminated drive E and now all my computers have hard drives C and D. To me, the thought of having a drive C that's 160 gigabytes in crazy.

The problem arises because most of the biggest computer manufacturers send out computers with one, big drive C. If you have a CD or DVD it's probably drive D. Some of the computers with the multi-card readers will come with the additional drives using letters like Q, R, S, T and so on. If you want to partition your hard drive and have the new section be drive D, then you'll have to change drive letters. Why? Because Windows will automatically assign the new partition a driver letter and they run in sequence. So, your new partition would probably be drive E. To me that's confusing. More logical to have the hard drives in order -- C and D - and then get into the DVD and other drives. So, I go in and change the drive letters.

NOTE: Change drive letters at your own risk! Up until this point we've just been talking about the reasons for changing them. Now we're going to talk about how to do it. IF you follow directions you'll be fine, however, I take no responsibility for those who mess up their computer. I'm just answering the question of how to do it.

The reason you can have a problem if you arbitrarily change drive letters is because programs are associated with a particular drive. So, for example, say I have Firefox in the folder:


If I change drive E to F then Firefox doesn't know where it is. Programs that automatically loaded that were on drive E will now give error messages. Programs installed on drive E have put entries in the Windows registry and they now have no idea what's going on. It's no different than if I physically deleted the drive. To your computer good old drive E is history. And that is what causes the problems. If you change drive letters on a new computer you shouldn't have any problems.

The example I'll give will use Windows XP Professional. Using the Classic Start menu, you'd click:

Start -- Settings -- Control Panel -- Administrative Tools

Using the standard XP Start menu you'd click:

Start -- Control Panel -- Performance and Maintenance -- Administrative Tools

Once inside Administrative Tools select Computer Management. Then on the left-hand side, click on Disk Management. Here you'll see the representation of your drives -- hard drives, CD drives, DVD drives and so on. Just for example, lets say that your CD drive is drive D and you want it to be drive F. To make this more complex, le say you also have one of the 13-disk readers and they are using up 5 drive letters: F, G, H, I and J. Remember, you can't have two drives with the same letter. What do you do?

Drive F, the letter you want for you CD is currently in use. So, in order to free it up you have to assign it a new drive letter. So, right-click on drive F and you'll see the option "Change Drive Letter and Paths." Click on "Change" and then select a drive letter that is free. The dialog will only show you free drive letters. So, lets assign it to K, which is right after your current drive J. Click OK. You'll get a message that says, in effect, that changing the drive letter might cause programs not to run, are you sure you want to do it. If you are, click Yes. Now, go back and do the same thing with drive D. Right-click, select "Change," select F (the letter you want), OK, and Yes. That's it. You now have your drive letters the way you want. One final reminder:

Do not change drive letters of drives that have programs and or data on them.

I'd like to thank Andrew Fontana, Paulette Tringali, Adam Claypool,Shirley Watson and numerous others for asking this question.

If you have a question on how to do something on the computer you cansubmit it via email by clicking HERE. You willnot receive a reply, but all topics will be considered.

About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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