Creating Mapped Drives

Many users have to save data on other computers on the network; the remote computers are usually acting as data file servers for software. To open or save a file on a remote computer you might have to travel through the network hierarchy to select the folder on the remote computer that has the files you need.

It’s faster to get to these remote folders if you use a mapped drive. In many companies, IT professionals set up mapped drives, but it saves time and energy if you teach users how to do it themselves. Share these instructions with users who need mapped drives instead of going to their workstations to perform the task.

Mapping a drive means you assign a drive letter to a shared folder on another computer. On your computer, some drive letters are already used, such as C, D, and perhaps others (depending on how many hard drives, CD-ROM drives, or other removal media drives are already attached to the computer).

When you go to the Computer folder in Windows Vista (or My Computer in Windows XP/2000), you see all the physical drives on the computer. After you map a drive to a folder on another computer, you see that drive too when you open the Computer folder. It also appears as a drive in the drop-down list you see at the top of any Open or Save dialog box in which you’ve selected Computer. This makes it easy for you to get to the appropriate folder to open or save a file.

To map a drive, go to the Network folder in Vista (or My Network Places in XP/2000) and double-click the listing for the computer that holds the folder you need, to display the shared resources on that computer. Right-click the folder you need and choose Map Network Drive to open the Map Network Drive dialog box.

Windows automatically chooses the next available drive letter, and you can accept that choice or choose a different (unused) letter. Vista and XP select Z for the first mapped drive, then work backwards through the alphabet as you add more mapped drives. Win2K offers the next available drive letter (usually E or F, depending on the number of drives attached to your computer) and works forward. Choose Finish to save your selection.

Be sure the option "Reconnect at Logon" is selected, so every time you start your computer it connects to the folder represented by the mapped drive letter. Otherwise, you have to go through the process of mapping the drive every time you start your computer, or you have to navigate through your network to reach the server and the shared folder every time you need it. If your computer can’t connect to the mapped drive when you start up (perhaps the other computer hasn’t been started yet), the drive remains mapped. When you select it later, you’ll connect--assuming the remote computer is now running.

If you make a mistake, or don’t need the remote folder anymore, you can delete the mapping by right-clicking the mapped drive’s icon in the Computer folder and selecting Disconnect. Disconnect doesn’t mean "disconnect," which seems temporary--it means "delete." When you remove a mapped drive, that drive letter is available for the next mapped drive you want to create.