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Drive letters: Microsoft should get rid of them.

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#1 Ice_Blue


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Posted 20 January 2013 - 20:30

I use a lot of portable software. Some of them are on my hard drive, some are on removable (flash drives, external HDDs).

Windows is sometimes unpredictable in its assignation of drive letters, so that means I cannot create a shortcut to a particular program that will work reliably when I re-insert the drive.

I have never used a Mac to any great extent, but one of my friends who owns one tells me he has no such problem. This is how things should be on Windows, IMO.

If I name my drives/partitions, Windows should keep a record of the drive/partition and enable it to be used in the same way as when it was previously attached.

I do not know much about the inner workings of Windows, but would this be difficult for Microsoft to implement?

#2 billyea


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Posted 20 January 2013 - 20:45

Windows does remember that certain USB devices (that are consistently plugged into the same USB port) are associated with a drive letter. These letters get shifted if, and only if, you add a new device and have your previous one unplugged. You can solve this problem by unplugging the new device and restarting, at which point plugging in your old device (in the same USB port) will give it its previous drive letter.

For instance, I have an external hard drive that is always drive G and is assigned drive G if i unplug and replug later.

#3 Phouchg


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Posted 20 January 2013 - 20:47

I think you can avoid this by mounting partitions to folders instead.

#4 Brian Miller

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Posted 20 January 2013 - 20:49

/End Thread.

#5 Ambroos


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Posted 20 January 2013 - 20:51

It might indeed just be better to create empty folders and then mount drives to those folders. Create a 16MB or smth partition on a drive always in your PC, mount it to X, create some empty folders and then just mount your external drives to those folders. I think Windows should remember those, but I'm not sure. Then you can just use X:\USB1, X:\Data, X:\...

#6 Azusa


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Posted 20 January 2013 - 20:52

or maybe make it slightly easier to change the drive letter cause if you're using flash drives alot then having the ability to change the letter via a dropdown menu or on the auto play window would be very handy.

#7 Active.


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Posted 20 January 2013 - 21:09

I agree. The other thing is, that a Mac allows you to move and rename files even while they are opened without applications losing their reference to the file. I'd like to see the same thing on Windows.

#8 George P

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Posted 20 January 2013 - 21:14

The idea to drop letters was one of the things they had in mind for the original longhorn but it got scrapped. Libraries sorta fix this but in the end we still have them and unless there's some deep file system changes we're stuck with them.

#9 Karl L.

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Posted 20 January 2013 - 21:20

I agree that drive letters are a very poor way of organizing mounted partitions, but Microsoft probably can't change it at this point because switching from drive letters to folder mount points wholesale would break assumptions made by many programs - sacrificing legacy compatibility - which they won't do.

When a flash drive is inserted into a computer running OS X, Finder will automatically mount its partitions to /Volumes/Some Partition Name. If there is already a partition mounted at /Volumes/Some Partition Name, Finder will mount the partition to /Volumes/Some Partition Name 1 instead. Nautilus (the default file manager in Ubuntu) does something very similar, except partitions are mounted to /media/Some Partition Name and conflicts are resolved by appending (number) to the end of the mount point. Therefore, so long as the label of the partition on your flash drive is sufficiently unique, you can reasonably expect that it will be mounted in the same place no matter which USB port you plug it into or which Mac you use.

As others have already mentioned, Windows also allows you to mount partitions to folders - which might solve your problem - but I'm not sure if those mount points are persistent. Based on the way that Windows remembers drive letters (which billyea nailed in the first reply), I would guess that it behaves similarly for folder mount points.

#10 George P

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 00:14

They might be able to fake older programs who look for drive letters with some sort of fs trickery etc. I wonder how winrt apps handle locations and if they even care about drive letters?

#11 theyarecomingforyou


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Posted 21 January 2013 - 00:19

There's no need for drive letters in this day and age.

#12 Raa


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Posted 21 January 2013 - 00:21

Absolutely not. Windows *should* be more intelligent about how it allocates drive letters, however.

A bit of standardisation never hurt anyone in that department! :p

As a side note : I've frequently made use of the program "USBDLM". It's a great little addon. (Y)

#13 Mark Robinson

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 00:31

If you have a specific thumb drive that has apps you want to create shortcuts to, go into Disk Management and manually change the drive letter to either A or B. These drive letters are normally reserved for legacy disk drives, so no USB drive will automatically take that letter (unless it is an actual floppy drive), even if your A/B thumb drive is not there.

I've tried it out, and it seems to work. I guess Windows can recognize each thumb drive as unique.

It would be nice if they made shortcuts and drive mapping more automatic and easier, though.

#14 Growled


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Posted 21 January 2013 - 00:34

Yeah, I agree Windows still has a long way to go in this area.

#15 greenwizard88


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Posted 21 January 2013 - 00:41

Win RT uses the same drive letter format, however, Applications only have access to local locations (thisApp.folder/myfile.txt) or libraries, so Microsoft could remove drive letters completely without sacrificing backwards compatibility at some point in the future.