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Is it possible to map a network drive but conceal this in Windows Explorer? Currently users are all using different drive letters to access the same network resources, and I would like to standardise the drive letters to avoid problems with linked files etc. As part of the transition period though it'd be nice if the old letters were still available for any direct access, but not visible to the user.

For example, J:, E: and F: all point to the same resource on different machines, and we've agreed to only use F: in future. Only drive F: would be visible, but J: and E: would still work on those machines.

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3 Answers

Is this in a domain environment? Why not use a login script to designate which driver letter to use and where to point it?

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+1. This is how it should be done. Tweaking the Registry for this is an overkill! –  MarlonRibunal May 13 '09 at 15:43
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Follow the instructions below, this should be the solution. You have to make some registry changes. So, be careful! Make a backup before you start.

Open the Registry Editor (regedit.exe) and navigate to

 HKEY__CURRENT__USER > Software> Microsoft > 
             Windows > CurrentVersionPoliciesExplorer

Right-click the Servers key and select New DWORD value and name it "NoDrives."

Edit the DWORD value:

Using the list below, type a number that corresponds to the drive you want to hide in the value data text box:

 A: 1  B: 2  C: 4  D: 8  E: 16  F: 32  ...

If you need to hide multiple drive letters, sum up the values. For example, to hide drives E: and F:, change the value to 48.

Click OK and exit regedit. You'll have to restart the PCs in order for the changes to take effect.

You can find the documentation of the NoDrives setting in the TechNet documentation. This Microsoft support article contains further details, if you want to create a .reg file or a .vbs script.

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I'd say, do not standardize on drive letters for linking to files. Use UNC paths instead and get rid of the problem once and for all - especially if you're already going to go through the hassle of changing stuff for the users, some re-education won't be so much more a trouble ^^

An arbitrary drive letter that may or may not be mapped is simply not a good idea in my humble opinion - it can fail for so many various reasons like disconnected networks, reconnected through vpn and whatnot.

\\fileserver\shared\dailyreport.xlsx however is very clear and stable... and if you can, set up a dfs namespace or something to be even more futureproof so linking becomes \\mydomain.com\shared\dailyreport.xlsx and won't fail even if you switch out the file server naming scheme.

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While fine for developers, for an average office user those paths might as well not exist. A lot of office users can barely figure out where they have saved their documents in the first place - in most cases the user only understands a set of relative clicks from the open/save dialog (and those are the smart ones, the others dump everything into My Documents, and god help them if the default save/open path changes). This becomes obvious when they have to find a file outside of their favorite application. Typing a path, let alone a UNC path, is just out of the range of a lot of normal users. –  David May 13 '09 at 12:22
    
If the "Documents" folder is redirected to their personal home folder or whatnot (using just an UNC path) there shouldn't be much of a problem. As the question was about linking to files I think it's even more important to not try and use a locally defined drive letter - and depending on how you link, you'd have to educate the users in the rest of the path anyway? –  Oskar Duveborn May 13 '09 at 14:55
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