(Where are A and B Drives in Windows) – As you probably know, any time you use a Windows PC, you’re typically always going to see the main installation drive as the C drive, and you’ve probably seen that whenever you plug in additional storage devices,
Whether a USB drive, an internal drive an SD card, or whatever, that it will get assigned some other letter after C, like D, E, F, and so on.
But you may have wondered why is the main drive? C, wouldn’t it make sense to make the main drive, and why, if you plug in more devices, do they never get assigned as A or B, and how does Windows assign drive letters anyway? And weight operating systems like Mac and Linux don’t have drive letters at all. How do they work? Well, hold on.
Let’s take this one at a time and by the end, you’ll know more than you’ll ever need to know about all these questions. But it’s still pretty interesting.
First off, let’s not keep you in suspense any longer about A and B drives. The reason you never see A and B drives automatically signed is they are basically reserved for floppy disk drives.
A Little History of Drives
Yes, you heard that right. It’s a holdover from the old days. You see back in the early 1980s, the first personal computers actually rarely had hard drives.
They were an optional but very expensive feature. Instead, computers just used floppy drives. In fact, the first version of DOS 1.0, only supported floppy drives,
Not hard drives at all. Microsoft then bought DOS and rewrote much of it and rebranded it as MSDOS and MSDOS 2.0 did support hard drives.
But even though MSDOS version 4.0, when the computer booted up floppy drives were assigned letters before hard drives were.
For Example – (Where are A and B Drives in Windows)
If you had four floppy drives and a hard drive, these floppy drives would get A, B, C, and D and it would have signed a hard drive as E as an afterthought. It wasn’t until MSDOS 5.0 that the letter C was always assigned to the first hard drive.
A and B were still only for the primary and secondary floppy drive, but any additional device after that would just go down the Alphabet from D on.
And I was curious if Windows 10 would actually assign a floppy drive to A to this day. So I actually ordered a USB floppy drive, plugged it in and sure enough it did get assigned to the letter A.
Now you may notice here that I do actually have an SSD mounted to be. That’s because the A and B reservation is only for Windows automatically assigning a drive letter.
But you can actually do it yourself through the disk manager and you can even assign a drive letter to the letter A if you want.
I still have C as my main drive, of course, but figured why not use B too for one of my extra drives, though I did keep open for whatever reason, having a drive just didn’t feel right.
And actually, from what I’ve been reading, it is technically possible to change the main drive letter on Windows from C to something else, although it does involve a little bit of work and messing with the Windows registry.
I think so it could potentially break some stuff. However, that might not be the best idea for compatibility because some programs may just assume C as the main drive path because it pretty much always is, which might cause issues with that program if it’s not.
Over the years I have seen the occasional program. It’s very annoying, but it’ll only let you install the program to the C drive. So I have no idea what they would do if there was no C drive.
All right. So now we know how Windows works with drive letters, but.
What About Linux and Mac?
Well, they don’t even have drive letters. The drivers just have names. But it is a bit more complicated than that.
With Linux. You have what’s called the root directory, which is the highest level path of the entire file system.
You can’t back up any further, so to speak. Sort of like the my computer view in Windows also called this PC in Windows 10, where it shows you all the stuff attached.
Of course, my computer view isn’t really a path in itself. It just shows you the devices except in Linux. The root directory is an actual path.
And it’s also sort of like the main C drive in windows. If you open the root directory, you do see a bunch of folders.
These can be either actual folders on the drive or so-called Mount Points, which you can sort of think of like virtual folders or shortcuts.
You might be thinking, wait, if the root folder is as far back as you can go.
How Does it Handle More Drives?
Because there is no computer equivalent in many Linux Destress. Well, instead of getting a drive letter, you would instead mount a drive with a pathname.
Let me Explain
So say you install a second hard drive, you can mount it as a /secondary/ where the first slash is the root directory and then secondary becomes the name of the Mount Point, which again will basically appear as a virtual directory that goes into the root directory.
And then if you enter into that directory, it’ll go and show you what’s ever in that hard drive. And by the way, you can call it whatever you want, though it doesn’t have to be secondary. I just made that up.
But now for any files that are in there, the path for them will start with /secondary/ and then whatever else.
But what’s also different in Linux is many devices are commonly mounted with a mount point in the path called Mount or possibly MNT.
For Example – (How Does it Handle More Drives)
If you have a USB drive. It might be mounted as /MNT/USB, so to get to it, you would have to go to the root directory and then MNT and then USB, you could mount it into the root folder.
But apparently it’s common practice to organize mounded things into their own director. Don’t worry if you can’t quite wrap your head around the file system and Linux,
Just know that instead of drive letters, Linux lets you mounted as any name and path.
When it Comes to Mac OS
It’s actually similar to Linux because again, there are no drive letters. It just shows the driver’s name.
Though Mac does make it a little bit easier on users by simplifying everything, by hiding the root directory and stuff. Instead, if you use the file explorer code finder, you can view the equivalent of my computer from Windows where it does actually show you the drives, the network devices, etc.
So I would say it’s way more intuitive on Mac and it doesn’t just show you a bunch of root folders, at least to the user in the back end. I do believe Mac OS still has a file structure similar to Linux because they’re both based on Unix after all.
Now you might be thinking this is so confusing.
Why is Linux so Weird?
But you might be surprised that Windows can also mount drives as parts, not just letters.
For Example – (Why is Linux so Weird)
If I plug in a USB drive, you can see it gets auto assigned to the letter L in disk manager.
I can right-click it and select change drive letter in parts where I can change the drive letter where it shows l but I can also add a mount point by hitting add.
Now see the option that says mount in the following empty NTFS folder. Now NTFS is just the Windows file system. So basically it’s saying you can pick any empty folder.
So I’ll make a folder anywhere like on the desktop called whatever USB and then navigate to it and select that as the mouse pointer. So now if I go into that folder, it’s not really a folder, but it looks like one.
Well, this is weird. It actually goes into the USB drive and from here the path is listed as being in the C drive, then users Joe desktop, whatever USB and instead if I go to this PC like I normally would,
I can also see the same USB drive as the letter L with all the same stuff inside it. So it has to mount points or two paths that access that directly into the drive.
I can even remove the letter L completely and it will warn you that some programs only work with the drive later paths.
But if I do it anyway now it doesn’t even show under this PC, but it still is mounted and accessible from that desktop path.
Now what’s also interesting is if I unplug the USB drive, the Mount Point actually sticks around on the desktop, but it’s just inaccessible.
Then if I plug it back in, I can once again access the drive from that mouse point.
Another Notable Thing About This Method of Mounting
Is you’re obviously not restricted to just twenty six letters in the event that you somehow have more than twenty six storage devices, So say that you do and you actually run out of letters. What you could then do.
For Example – (Another Notable Thing About This Method of Mounting)
Is create a folder path in your main C drive called something like mounted, Then create as many folders as you want in there, and then using the disk manager link each of those folders to a different drive.
And instead of their paths being with a letter, they’d start with C Mounted. You might realize this sounds awfully similar to how we just explained how Linux works, except instead of beginning with the C drive mounted,
It’s just the root directory mounted that might make it a bit easier to understand how the Linux system works, now that you’ve seen how it works in windows.
All right. So I know we went a lot further than the initial topic of the blog about A and B drives, but hopefully now you’ll have a much better understanding about how drive letters and drive mounting works in windows in general.
So let me know where you think down in the comments. thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the next blog.
Good Bye 🙂
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