It can be frustrating when the right information is not available. In Windows there are tools designed to help determining disk configuration but for whatever reason, they are fairly hidden. Perhaps this is intentional to protect the system from the user. It would not be hard to make a mistake that could potentially disrupt the entire machine. For those that are more curious than wanting to change things, it really does not need to be so hidden.
This post is going to take you on a quick tour of the “Disk Management” tool present in Vista. You can get to the tool through the Control Panel if you really pay attention. To make it easier, there are screen captures of the decision points.
Choose “System and Maintenance” first.
Then pick “Create and format hard disk partitions”. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do either in order to see what is going on. The default view inside “Disk Management” is to show the volumes.
This can be switched to disk view on the menu.
Recently I was playing with using VHD files with VHDMount. The “Disk Management” tool was very helpful in figuring out what drives existed. Not only that, it volunteered to prepare (MBR) and format (NTFS) the blank VHD drives. It also was nice enough to offer the drives be mounted as specific drive letters.
Showing my ignorance yet again, I had no idea that my system had a second drive before a few weeks ago. The tool revealed what was out there. I had assumed that D: drive was the DVD drive.
If you were paying attention to the output, you might have noticed some strange listings. This is due largely to have a SanDisk USB Flash Drive inserted. The SanDisk UFD shows up in two places since it is pretending to be a CDROM for the sake of loading code during insertion. There is also a backup external drive present.
The table of drive types with formats and connectors could prove to be very useful for identification. At the very least it would help to show that certain drives are not active (and might be missing completely). The tool can also handle building more complex drive arrangements including spanned and striped volumes. The included help in the tool should be enough to get going.
If you would rather just shortcut the control panel path, the filename of the tool is diskmgmt.msc and can be located in the \windows\system32 directory. If you create a shortcut on the desktop to this file, it will start the tool directly. Of course, you will need administrator rights to run this tool.