Fixing Drive Letter Assignments in Vista
Don Bradbury runs through the procedure to permanently secure drive letter assignments, whatever the order of device addition to a Vista PC
We all know the problem; we add our external disks, flash drives, and in short whatever device has a drive letter assigned by Windows, and then discover that while we'd previously backup up our system, saved our Word files, stored our MP3s, or loaded all our holiday pictures onto a device described as drive H:, say, the next time we come to the computer, most likely loading our devices in a different order, the flash drive or external disk is assigned the new letter F:.
It can be a substantial pain, and we could really do with fixing that drive letter assignment for all time. The process seems to get more convoluted with each new version of Windows, but here's how to do it in Vista.
Install your device, open Control Panel, select Administrative Tools, click on Computer Management and then Storage (in the list to the left) and then Disk Management.
On the graphic showing your letter-assigned devices, right click on the drive letter you need to change, and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.
Check the current drive letter, click on Change in the options, and click the current drive letter in the graphic that shows your entire range of letter-assigned devices. Activate the drop-down list of available letters, and locate and click on the required letter you need to assign to the device.
There'll be dire warnings thrown up about programs using the old drive letter possibly not working correctly if you make the change, click on OK to fix the new drive letter.
Do, before you make this move, check that changing the assigned letter will indeed not affect the operation of your current programs, but there may well be compelling reasons to make the change, or at least fix the drive letter assignment where it is. We have, for example, on a capacious external drive, many gigabytes of data files for which the software referencing them needs Registry entries to the location of the files on the network. If it doesn't find them where it expects them to be, it crashes out. Well, it would, wouldn't it?
Just being able to be sure where your files are located after a reboot is worth the effort. No more frustration of trying to find them on G: when Vista thinks they should now be on H:, no more groping around for that JPEG you know you'd saved to F: drive when it's now on G:. You get the picture. Windows may believe that you have both old and new device letter assignments in use when you've made the change until you reboot. Just ignore the old letter from here, stick to using the new one.
You wouldn't, of course, interfere with drive assignments A: or B: which are universally reserved for the old floppy drives, nor would you tinker with C: or D: or E: or any others which are used for the main drives on the computer. We think it best to allow a spacing in the letter assignments following these, in case you want to add an additional internal hard disk, say.
Any gaps can be taken by the OS as you add temporary devices, so there's no need to start assigning immediately after your CD/DVD drive letter, but Windows will remember thereafter not to assign to any new additions any drive letters that you've fixed; they'll just be hopped over, or even straddled, so that is you fix G: a new twin-partition USB drive, say, could be F: and H:.
You could consider marking devices with the new assignments, until you get used to them, and we try to make these assignments the same on different computers that the device is used on. That way we always know that, for example, our main documents backup are always on the Secure Digital media that is H: drive, say, and our Registry references to drive M: are fixed for the apps that need to know.
Windows may make its objections to changing device assignments, things it believes should be within its own domain, and it's true that, ideally, you'd make such changes/fixes before you run applications in conjunction with the device in question, but sometimes needs must; most apps can be pointed to new locations for their user files. In any event, if it doesn't work out, the same procedure can reverse the new drive reference you've made.