Drive letters: Microsoft should get rid of them.


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Ice_Blue

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?

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argonite

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.

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Phouchg

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

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Ambroos

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:\...

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Azusa

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.

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Active.

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.

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George P

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.

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Karl L.

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.

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George P

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?

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theyarecomingforyou

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

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Raa

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)

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Mark Robinson

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.

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Growled

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

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greenwizard88

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.

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cybertimber2008

I did notice in Windows 8 under task manager, it refers to disks by "Disk #" and serial number. Possibly for a transition after Windows 8?

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George P

I did notice in Windows 8 under task manager, it refers to disks by "Disk #" and serial number. Possibly for a transition after Windows 8?

I saw that but didn't think much of it till now. It could be interesting if they switch to a disk # type system in windows 9.

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Dot Matrix

Maybe not. But a couple bits of legacy junk might still rely on drive letters, but I think this is something that will be going away in the next few years. I think Microsoft will implement a more user friendly file management system soon.

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n_K

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.

Are you 100% sure about that? Is it not application specific to only those that use a special library becuase that is NOT normal unix-like behaviour.

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Azusa

If they were to phase out the need for drive letters i guess they could add something to windows that you could set up a list of volume labels and then match them with a drive letter/port. So when you attach a drive with a volume label like like Disk 1 which you assigned the letter F to then it would set it to F sort of like an IP address reservation and i guess you could set multiple labels for a single letter if you use one or two flash drives.

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abecedarian paradoxious

If programmers would have stuck to the recommended best practices such as environment variables instead of assuming things won't ever change and thus used hard-coded drive and path information, it wouldn't be a problem.

What are %windir%, %UserPath%?

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sc302

many applications get married to a drive letter. Even windows itself gets married to a drive letter...Go ahead change the c partition letter after you have installed windows and see what happens. Many legacy applications and current applications get married to a drive letter. besides what is the alternative? using a long alpha numeric drive name that makes absolutely no sense to anyone or anything but the os...yeah lets make things harder than they already are.

You see it isn't just for programmers, it is for the average user too. The average user can understand c or d or f or whatever.

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Panda X

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.

Vista onwards allows you to rename a file in use. I've done it plenty of times.

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Active.

Are you 100% sure about that? Is it not application specific to only those that use a special library becuase that is NOT normal unix-like behaviour.

I don't think I've ever noticed an app not behaving like that on OS X. It's certainly expected behavior for (document-based) Cocoa apps, and it registers the change, even if you made it in the Terminal using standard UNIX command line tools..

Vista onwards allows you to rename a file in use. I've done it plenty of times.

Sure, it allows you to do so. But the application (try Notepad as an example) doesn't then go ahead and update the reference to the file. If you've been working on Tst1.txt and rename it to Tst2.txt, Notepad still thinks you're working on Tst1.txt and will save to the original location.

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BajiRav

I did notice in Windows 8 under task manager, it refers to disks by "Disk #" and serial number. Possibly for a transition after Windows 8?

I saw that but didn't think much of it till now. It could be interesting if they switch to a disk # type system in windows 9.

I have seen that in XP as well, I think NT internally uses that internally and shows drive letters for compatibility?

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