Q: I use memory sticks frequently because they’re so handy for quick backups and copying or moving files to another computer. Also, I have a remote hard drive for regular backups that is designated my F drive. The memory sticks and the remote drive connect to the computer via USB plugs. So far, so good. But every now and then, when I try to back up to that remote F drive, I get a message that it’s unavailable and can’t be found—and, lo and behold, I discover somehow its drive letter has changed from F to E. I certainly didn’t do it. It’s like the computer has a mind of its own. What’s going on here?
A: Yes, computers sometimes do exhibit a mind of their own, but I’ll show you how to rein it in and stop your computer from switching your remote drive to another drive designation.
You should understand that each time you plug in your memory stick, it waits for the computer to assign it a free drive letter, and when the computer believes it has found one, it assigns it. You probably notice a message to that effect on the bottom of your screen.
But sometimes, as you’ve discovered, it doesn’t quite work the way it should. Instead of assigning what is really a free drive letter for the memory stick, it selects a drive that it incorrectly determines is free—and probably is free when your backup drive is at rest. So, when it looks at the F drive and discovers it’s not being used at the moment, it might assign the “free” F designation to the stick.
Worry not, that errant behavior can be corrected. I’ll show you how to permanently assign the F designation to your remote hard drive. Begin by right-clicking on My Computer and selecting Manage (see screenshot at right). When the Computer Management screen opens, click on Disk Management (see screenshot below)...
…and a new screen will display all your drives (see screenshot below).
Locate your F drive, which in my example displays as My Book (F:). Now right-click on it and select Change Drive Letter and Paths… (see screenshot below)...
…which then displays this screen (see screenshot below) that invites you to confirm that you want drive letter F to be permanently affixed to your remote backup drive. Click OK and it’s done.