Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Drive letters, like C:, D: and so on are assigned by Windows to reference your hard disks. They are not cast in stone: drive letters can be changed.
I have 2 hard disc drives and a cd rom drive on my computer. The HDDs are C and E, and the cd rom drive is D. Is it possible to swap the HDD letters, i.e C becomes E and E becomes C? Or are the letters fixed at the time of format?
Drive letters are not assigned at format time, and yes, they can be changed. In fact, it's quite easy to change them, and I do it all the time.
For every drive except "C:", that is. "C:" is special.
First let's look at the how.
The utility we want to run to manage our disk drives is, surprisingly enough, the disk manager.
Right click on My Computer and click on Manage and you should see something very much like this:
Now, click on Disk Management, and you should see something like this (You may need to resize the window larger, as I have, in order to see everything):
You'll see that I have several disks listed ... C: is my system drive, E: is my external USB/Firewire backup drive, F: and G: are drives representing the slots in a small 8-in-1 memory card reader. Off the screen also is D:, my DVD/CD drive.
To change the drive letter assigned to a drive, right click on the drive in disk manager. For example here I've right clicked on my E: drive:
Click on Change Drive Letter and Paths... and you'll get this dialog:
You can guess where this is headed by now ... click on he Change... button for this dialog:
In the picture above I've already clicked on the dropdown list that will allow me to select which of the available drive letters I want to assign.
Since you can only assign to unused drive letters, swapping is a three step process. Say we wanted to swap D: and E: -
assign the disk known as D: to any unused letter, say Z:, which frees up D:.
assign the disk known as E: to D:, which frees up E:.
assign the disk now known as Z: to E:, and you're done.
An important word about C:
I don't recommend that you ever use the disk management tool to try to rename C:. C: is, most likely, where Windows is installed, and Windows will not respond well at all to the drive letter being changed out from underneath it.
There's also a good chance that this will not do what you want anyway. The Disk Management utility only affects how Windows looks at the drives - it won't change which drive you boot from, since booting happens before Windows has access to this information.
While there are utilities out there to move things around, changing your boot drive is best and most reliably done before you install Windows. That way the drive you want to be C: is color: from the start, and Windows is installed to it from the beginning. My approach to changing the boot drive on a running machine would be just that - I'd wait until I was going to reinstall Windows for some other reason, and do it at that time.
Exactly how you change your boot drive is typically either a BIOS setting, a disk drive jumper setting, or a combination of both. In any case, it's specific to the machine you have and the drives you happen to have installed.
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