How to Assign a Storage Device a New Drive Letter in Windows

It’s possible to change the letter assigned to a storage device. The question remains: Why would you want to? Don’t change a drive letter “just because,” though! Randomly reassigning drive letters can lead to unimaginable woe, especially if a program is installed on a drive and you change the drive’s letter. End of warning. Here’s how to assign a storage device a new drive letter:

  1. Ensure that you’re not using the drive.

    Make sure no files are open on that drive and no programs are being run from the drive; not even folder windows from the drive are open.

  2. Open the Control Panel.

  3. Open the Administrative Tools window.

    • In Windows 7, choose System and Security and then choose Administrative Tools.

    • In Windows Vista, choose System and Maintenance and then choose Administrative Tools.

    • In Windows XP, open the Administrative Tools icon.

  4. In the Administrative Tools window, open the Computer Management icon.

    In Windows Vista, click Continue or type the administrator’s password.

    The Computer Management window appears.

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  5. On the left side of the window, choose Disk Management.

    It’s beneath the Storage heading.

  6. Right-click the storage media you want to modify.

    The storage media are listed by drive letter in the upper center part of the window.

  7. Choose the command Change Drive Letter or Paths from the shortcut menu.

    A Change Drive Letter or Paths dialog box appears. It sports the icon and letter for the drive you selected and lists any associated drive letters and pathnames.

  8. Click the Change button.

    The Add Drive Letter or Path dialog box appears.

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    A warning dialog box appears if you attempt to change the system drive, such as drive C, or the drive where Windows is installed. Click OK and then Cancel, and then choose another drive.

  9. Choose a new drive letter from the drop-down list.

    Only drive letters not currently used by other devices or network drives are available. Because of the limitations of the Latin alphabet, only 26 drive letters are available.

  10. Click OK.

    An important warning appears. Some programs rely on consistent drive letters. For example, older software may always insist that the optical drive have the same letter now as it did when the program was installed. Changing the drive letter means that the program cannot find itself and will then refuse to run.

  11. If you want to proceed, click Yes to confirm that you read the warning.

    The drive is instantly assigned a new letter. Further, a new window opens, displaying the drive’s contents.

  12. Close any windows that remain opened.

To reset the drive letter, just repeat these steps. You can assign and reassign drive letters all the do-dah day.

See Video 622 for an onscreen demonstration of changing a drive letter.

  • It is not advisable to change the drive letter on an internal drive — including internal hard drives, optical drives, and any memory card readers you might have installed. Doing so may screw up previously installed programs.

  • Be careful when you work with storage media on a technical level! You can easily and irreparably damage the media, losing data stored there. That’s a bad thing, especially for your PC’s main hard drive. Back up your data!

  • The drive used by Windows is known as the system drive. Its drive letter cannot be reassigned while Windows is running, nor is there really any reason to do so.

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