Drive letters: Microsoft should get rid of them.


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Arkose

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?

This is just a new presentation of an existing feature; open Disk Management and you'll see that both hard drives and optical drives have IDs as well as letters. This feature has been in place for a long time but isn't normally important for everyday use (with some exceptions, e.g. older games with CD audio tracks on the disc--the disc must be in CD-ROM 0 for in-game music to work).
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Ice_Blue

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.

I get what you're saying, but wouldn't it be easier on users (and tech support personnel) if Windows referred to drives by their label?

Just as the OS does not allow files of identical names in the same folder, it could be set to disallow drives with identical labels.

I know of quite a few people who have Windows installed on drives other than C:.

During installation, windows could label the drive as "Windows", and you would tell the user to go to their Windows drive.

Another thing I noticed is that, if you have an existing installation of Windows on one partition, and you set up a dual boot by installing Windows on another partition, one of two things happen:

1. If you run the setup from within Windows, the new installation keeps the drive letters as they are in the current Windows installation. When you boot into the new installation, the Windows drive will be the drive letter of the partition you selected during the setup.

2. If you boot the computer from the installation media, and initiate setup, Windows marks whatever partition you designate, as C:.

This is highly inconsistent, and can be very confusing to some people.

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George P

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

Yeah but I don't think they ever brought it up front to the user like now, or maybe I don't remember it as well. Still I think the easy fix might just be to assign a letter to a volume label and have it stay unless changed by the user. If you can do that then regardless of the plug in order etc the same volume name will have the same letter set to it.

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n_K

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..

That is one hell of a nifty feature! :D

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Detection

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.

Wouldn't that cause similar problems to if we scrapped IP addresses and just used domain names for sites ?

Windows needs something to look for, drive letters seem a fairly good way of doing that vs naming drives, if someone inserts a flash drive called "Drive" and C: is also called Drive... what then? Windows would have to rename it as it does with drive letters

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hjf288

/etc/

/usr/

/home/ ftw

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The_Decryptor

Wouldn't that cause similar problems to if we scrapped IP addresses and just used domain names for sites ?

Windows needs something to look for, drive letters seem a fairly good way of doing that vs naming drives, if someone inserts a flash drive called "Drive" and C: is also called Drive... what then? Windows would have to rename it as it does with drive letters

Drives and partitions have ID numbers to uniquely identify them, Windows doesn't know your secondary drive as "D:", it knows it via it's GUID and maps that to "D:"

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Detection

Drives and partitions have ID numbers to uniquely identify them, Windows doesn't know your secondary drive as "D:", it knows it via it's GUID and maps that to "D:"

Ah ok, thanks, so what is the point of drive letters if windows doesn't need them? Just for user ease ?

And as before, using names vs letters, wouldn't windows still have to rename a drive if it conflicted?

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The_Decryptor

Yeah, just having drive letters is easier than mount points (Windows NT has supported mount points for ages, barely ever use them)

Windows will just mount a partition/drive under another letter if there's a conflict, which is useful but can also break things (A while back I added a second hard drive to my system, pushing my DVD drive from D: to E:, apps then broke because D: was no longer an optical disk, etc.)

Edit: The drive name is purely for an end user, the system doesn't take it into account (Even *nix just uses it as a visual mapping, underneath it works on block devices and you can mount that anywhere)

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George P

It really is just a case of not breaking apps that look for a drive letter instead of a name or something like hard disk 0 like how NT itself does it. That said I think they can change it and maybe fake older apps so things don't break. Hell just having it not automatically shuffle around letters when you make a change to your drives unless you do it yourself would be a good start.

I like others have a few hard drives in my system and at this point iirc, because I'm not at my desktop atm, my dvd drives letter is something like I: or j:. Why can't it have stayed as d:?

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BajiRav

Yeah but I don't think they ever brought it up front to the user like now, or maybe I don't remember it as well. Still I think the easy fix might just be to assign a letter to a volume label and have it stay unless changed by the user. If you can do that then regardless of the plug in order etc the same volume name will have the same letter set to it.

That's true. I think it's visible only during the safe mode boot and you can see it in the text scrolling up as Windows boots.

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ahhell

/etc/

/usr/

/home/ ftw

:rolleyes:

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n_K

So is the outcome of this that windows should get rid of drive letters - or that software and APIs should be coded better to not rely on drive letters?

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Karl L.

So is the outcome of this that windows should get rid of drive letters - or that software and APIs should be coded better to not rely on drive letters?

Well, there has been significant disagreement, but I think the answer is both.

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George P

So is the outcome of this that windows should get rid of drive letters - or that software and APIs should be coded better to not rely on drive letters?

Either option works really. I'm still wondering if metro apps take drive letters into account.

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Growled

Well, there has been significant disagreement.....

Aren't there always? :D

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Skyfrog

My external hard drive is assigned B: so that no other devices will ever steal it. Also I like that B: can stand for backup. :p

As for getting rid of them, I've used them as long as I've used computers (starting out in DOS) and personally I'd rather keep them.

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The_Decryptor

So is the outcome of this that windows should get rid of drive letters - or that software and APIs should be coded better to not rely on drive letters?

At the least software shouldn't rely on them, there's better ways of identifying a unique partition/drive than just the letter Windows assigns to it on boot/connection.

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Nashy

No. Windows shouldn't get rid of drive letters just because you want to use a few portable apps.

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abecedarian paradoxious

/etc/

/usr/

/home/ ftw

Eunuchs

Unix

... same difference.

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atariPunk

Came on the internet wants a head of someone because the Start Menu disappeared in Win8 what do you think it would happen if the driver letter also disappear...

As for the MacOS renames open files it's not that difficult to understand why it works, the name of the file is only a more simple way(for the user) to identify the file, ate least in Linux the open files are represent by a file descriptor that is connected to the iNode(in Ext filesystem the number of the iNode is the real identifier of a file. there are more filesystems that also use this approach) that represents the file on the disk, the name associated with a iNode are stored in a special file called directory. I'm assuming that the internals of Linux and MacOS are similar since both derive from Unix.

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Rudy

It would make a lot of sense but it would also be very complicated (although the OS could reassign calls to c:/ to /, d:/ to /mount/whatever etc etc for legacy apps)

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George P

Just stop drive letters from being reassigned unless the user changes it. That alone would get rid of most issues. They could also slowly work off of drive letters over time. Start with things like external devices, card readers, optical drives and so on so people and revs can get used to the change before you start doing it for internal drives.

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Nick H.

I would remove drive letters only because when a user says, "I want to have access to the U drive" I need to inform them that the U drive is meaningless for us, and that they need to provide the address that they want mapping. I've got a template email reply set out and everything, it happens so often.

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