External Hard Drive Letter/Usage Issues

A good friend of ours, Tony, wrote to us recently:

I wonder if you can help with something that’s bugging me and I need to sort out.

I have two 500Gb portable HDDs, both Western Digital ‘My Passport’ brand. One is mine which I use for backup, the other I have on behalf of …, which is going to be the storage for a photo archive. Both came with the same standard manufacturer’s built-in software. I need to be able to work with both linked into my computer at the same time.


Whichever one I plug into a USB port first is recognised by the OS (Windows 8) as drive E:\  When I plug the second one in it doesn’t show as a new drive in Windows Explorer, in fact it doesn’t show in WX at all, although the “Safely remove media” system does know about it. This means I can’t transfer files from one to the other, nor can I run software located on one to run a database on the other.

A completely different HDD, an Iomega, registers as D:\ so I know the system can cope with two.

I’m guessing that the assignment of the Western Digital drives to E:\ is something that happened the very first time I plugged each of them in and the OS isn’t able to distinguish between them.

Have you any suggestions how I can sort it? Is there some way of re-setting what seems to be a firmware(?) assignment of the HDD to a particular drive? Would formatting the whole HDD and starting again work? Any trouble-shooting suggestions would be much welcomed J

We looked at a few options, put our thinking caps on, and did some research in to the topic. Tried a few options. Made sure that independently, both the hard drives worked fine. However, some research helped Tony get to the answer:

Woohoo! Done it!

 Doing the format didn’t change anything – still the same problem. Then I found how to change the drive letter, so I changed it to D:\ Still no joy – now both drives were D:\ and the system still didn’t recognise one of them if the other was already connected.

 Then I found Control Panel – Administrative Tools – Computer Management – Disk Management. Here Disk #2 was shown as present but Offline. A right click brought a short menu including ‘Online’. One click, and the drive is up and running, and automatically assigned to D:\ while the first disk still shows as E:\


 This is GOOD!

 This was Windows 8. I gather there’s a similar route in W7 but with slightly different Control Panel folders.

Since this sounded useful, we asked Tony if we could publish this, and he let us. 

So there you go, if you have any issues like his, you already have the answer!

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