There is a problem brewing with Windows. No it's not a security problem, although there are plenty of those. It's a problem with the rapidly diminishing supply of drive letters.
Now you may be saying to yourself, "How can we ever run out of drive letters? Who in their right mind is gonna put 26 hard drives in their PC?" The problem is not just a matter of having 26 different hard drives. The problem is that everything uses up a drive letter these days! Things such as USB keys, removable hard drives, external memory card readers, and mounted network shares all need a drive letter. For example, my current PC is as follows:
A: Floppy drive
C: Main hard drive
D: Secondary hard drive
E: DVD ROM drive
F: CD Burner drive
G: External hard drive
H: Secure Digital slot on external card reader
I: Memory stick slot on external card reader
J: SmartMedia slot on external card reader
K: Compact Flash slot on external card reader
L: USB thumb drive
N: iPod Shuffle
Add in a few mounted network shares in there and you can see how you could rapidly run out of space. Ever since I started learning about Linux and how it handles drives, I've come to the conclusion that the concept of drive letters on Windows is extremely archaic, poorly designed and bound to become a big issue soon. Fortunately, Microsoft seems to have already come up with a little known solution to this problem.
In the Unix/Linux world, you have the concept of 'mounting' a drive. This means that you basically attach a separate drive on your computer to a subdirectory, rather than a drive letter. This means that in Linux, instead of having multiple drive letters like above, you would have something more like this:
/mnt/floppy: Floppy drive
/mnt/cdrom: First CD ROM
/mnt/cdrom2: Second CD ROM
As you can see, all the drives appear to be located on the same hard drive! This is because Unix connects a drive to a subdirectory, rather than to a drive letter. This is the Unix concept of mounting. Because you can create as many subdirectories as you want, with whatever name you want, there is basically no limit to the number of external drives you can connect. At the same time, they all look like one big drive, so it's an easier concept to understand.
I recently discovered that Windows can do this exact same thing. Windows XP as the ability to mount any drive to a subdirectory instead of the standard drive letters. Here's how you do it:
- Right click on My Computer
- Choose the 'Manage' menu option. (Thanks to my friend Dave for this shortcut!)
- A program will start called 'Computer Management'.
- Click on the 'Disk Management' item on the left, underneath 'Storage'
- Right click on the drive in the lower right to change.
- Choose 'Change Drive Letter and Paths'
- Click the Add button
- Select the second option of 'Mount in the following empty NTFS folder'
- Click the Browse button to select the directory to mount this drive to.
- Hit the Ok Button
- Close the Computer Mangement program.
You can now access the device from a subdirectory rather than using up a rare drive letter!
I hope you enjoy this tip and find it useful.