Windows Adjustments: Changing a USB Device’s Drive Letter

Having long ago lost count of the number of USB storage devices that litter our offices, we’ve learned how to manage the beasts. The list of these things list includes not only USB flash drives and external hard drives, but toys like iPods, which are also effectively USB storage.

One of the perennial issues surrounding these devices is the assignment of drive letters to them. Windows does this automatically, of course, which is why you’ll probably need to know to manually override its behavior in time.

Windows’ automatic drive letter assignment for removable storage devices can become something of a problem for two reasons:

  • Sometimes it assigns drive letters other than the one you’d like it to use, or assigns different drive letters in different sessions. This can be annoying if, for example, you have scripts or configured applications that expect to find your removable devices at specific letters.
  • Sometimes, Windows will assign the same drive letter to multiple devices – and yes, you have to wonder who thought that was a good idea. When this happens, only the first device assigned to a particular drive letter will be accessible. All the others will seem to disappear. Removing and re-attaching a removable storage device so afflicted won’t disabuse Windows of this behavior and persuade it to assign a new drive letter to your flash drive.

From time to time, you’ll need to be able to manually assign drive letters to your removable USB storage devices. Here’s how it works.

  1. Locate My Computer on your desktop and right click on it.
  2. Select Manage from the menu that appears.
  3. Locate the Storage item in the tree on the left side of the Computer Management window.
  4. Double-click on the Disk Management item under Storage.
  5. Locate the removable device you’d like to assign a new drive letter to in the list at the right side of the window – it should say it’s removable. This can be a bit tricky if you have a fair number of external devices. One fairly effective way of determining which item in the list pertains to the device you’re after is to remove the device from your computer for a second and see which entry goes away. The Refresh item in the Action menu can be used to refresh to list if it doesn’t update itself automatically. Be sure to stay away from the item that’s designated the Primary Partition – that’s your hard drive.
  6. Right -click on the entry for the removable device you’d like to assign a new drive letter to and select Change Drive Letter and Paths from the menu that appears.
  7. Click on Change in the Change Drive Letter and Paths window and select a new drive letter.

Your new drive letter assignment will be remembered between sessions by the Windows machine on which you made the assignment. This having been said, it’s not unheard-of for Windows to mangle drive letter assignments again, if you have multiple identical removable storage devices, such as a number of flash drives from the same manufacturer.

Please see the disclaimers for Windows Adjustments before you apply the information at this post.

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