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  1. #1
    Star Lounger
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    Drive letters and names and such

    I've worked with every flavor of Windows since 3.1, so you'd think I'd know this, but it still sometimes confuses me.

    When an application accesses a particular drive, what does it normally use as the identifier, the drive letter (like J:\) or the drive name (like "External Drive 2")? Specifically, if I've been using an external USB hard drive as the target for my back-up program and I replace that drive with a new one, do I need to assign the new drive the same drive letter, the same drive name, or both for a program to recognize it? Or do programs use a unique identifier, like a serial number, to identify a drive?

    I'm going through that process right now (replacing an external drive). I have a bunch of programs that use the external drive for various purposes, and I'd like to avoid having to change any more program settings than necessary.

    I doubt if it makes any difference, but the PC is running Windows 10. And my question concerns locally attached drives, not drives somewhere else on a network.

    Larry

  2. #2
    Silver Lounger
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    My External USB drives are identified first by Drive letter then whatever label/name I've assigned to them. I use something like Lexar64GB for one Thumb drive and USB HDDs are named such as WDC_2TB_1 for the first Western Digital 2TB drive, second one is WDC_2TB_2, etc. My internal drives are names according to size, e.g. WDC250GB and WDC500GB for C: and D:, pretty much the same as back in MS-DOS 5 with Win3.1 running on it. The Label may not be necessary but does help to keep things sorted out. When necessary Disk Management can be used to assign or change drive lettering. By default Win7 and later start lettering NAS/Network Attached Storage drives beginning with Z: and working back up the list, probably the same for drives on other computers when mapped.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator RetiredGeek's Avatar
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    Larry,

    Your program will be using the Drive Letter. The problem w/USB devices is that the USB driver software assigns drive letters via windows. These can change and a new drive will most likely get a new letter. I use a program called USBDLM (USB Drive Letter Management) to insure that my devices get the same drive letters each time they are plugged in. I highly recommend it and it is free. Give it a look.

    HTH
    May the Forces of good computing be with you!

    RG

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  5. #4
    3 Star Lounger
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    I don't think you need a program such as USBDLM, although by all means use it if found useful. I do my backups to an external USB drive which has the drive letter I, and the name Image Bkup. I disconnect this drive and remove it when not actually doing a backup, but next time I plug it in, it is still drive I with the same name. I assigned the drive letter, and the name, in Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Disk Management.

  6. #5
    5 Star Lounger
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    I know that recent versions of Acronis will try to back up (incrementally) to the last-used destination letter and claim something to the effect of 'no such address', without giving the user much of a chance to change the drive letter manually from the current letter to the previous letter. It can be done using the aforementioned Disk Management method, which I have had occasion to use any number of times, but I don't know how 'sticky' that change is. I do know that it can be done - in olden days I had an external Zip drive to which I permanently assigned the letter 'Z'.

  7. #6
    5 Star Lounger
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    Shortly after my posting to this thread I encountered drive letter problems, and I have been tied up with it ever since. (Well, nearly.)

    I wanted to restore a ‘known good’ installation on a drive with which I was having trouble (which was admittedly on a different partition), and I anticipated no trouble in restoring it from (an incremental) backup which was right up to date.
    What I did not anticipate was that there would be missing increments.

    I had been swapping external hard drives and flash drives in and out over the period, the initial drive letter for the drive to which the initial image was saved was ‘E’ and it was not fixed, and every time the backup software saw an ‘E’ drive it figured that that was the destination for increments. I have yet to find the missing two.

    Lesson learned: I am fixing drive letters for backup destinations (alphabet soup), and I can confirm that Windows own Disk Management appears to do a fine job, and (so far) the assigned letters are sticky.

  8. #7
    3 Star Lounger
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    If you plug in more than one USB/external drive, the drive letters are first come first serve.
    Need to use Disk Management if that happens and scrambles the letter assignment.
    USBDLM remembers the drive letter assignment to specific USB drive(s).
    More important, the letter is 'occupied', not assignable, even if the specific USB drive is not plugged in. Not even assignable if you add an internal drive.
    (I don't know what happens when all the letters are used up. I have yet to reach that. And you can always release the letter from USBDLM assignment.)

    If you want none of this stuffs, best way is always start with no external drive plugged in. Then the first USB plugged in will always use the first available drive letter.
    Of course, this will change if you add an internal drive to your PC. Now the 'next available' drive letter would be moved down 1 letter. Your software will then find your new internal drive as the target drive!

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