Navigate Mass Storage Devices in Your Windows PC - dummies

Navigate Mass Storage Devices in Your Windows PC

By Dan Gookin

Mass storage devices are used to store your files in your PC. Windows provides ready access to storage media in your computer via the Computer window. In Windows XP, the window is titled My Computer.


Windows assigns storage media in your computer by using a letter of the alphabet: a drive letter. The main hard drive is usually, though not always, drive C. The drive letters are then assigned to any additional storage media from letters D on up. On the Computer window, you may see the following items:

Hard drives: Drives C, D, F, and H are classified as hard drives. Drives C and D are two logical drives on a single physical drive, though that’s difficult to determine by looking at the Computer window. Like most PCs sold today, drive D is used for recovery purposes. Drive F is a second, internal physical drive. Hard drive H is an external backup drive.

Optical drive: Drives E and G are optical drives.

Media drives: Your computer may or may not have media drives. If it does, they would be listed in the second area, Devices with Removable Storage.

Network drives: Any drives shared on the local network, or FTP sites on the Internet, appear in the Network Location area. Network drives accessed by your computer can be mapped to unused drive letters. They appear primarily in the Network or My Network Places windows, and they have “plumbing” beneath their drive icons.

The number of disk drives available on your computer is different. You may have more, you may have less.

  • Drive letters are followed by a colon, as in C: or D:.

  • A single physical hard drive can be divided into multiple logical hard drives. For instance, drives C and D can be and frequently are two logical drives on a single physical hard drive.

  • You can reassign and change the drive letters.

  • Icons shown for drives can be either generic or specific, sometimes even looking like the drive itself or the media read by the drive.

  • Optical disc icons change depending on the disc’s contents. For example, a musical CD uses a custom music icon.