How to Make USB Memory Sticks and Flash Cards Easy to Recognize


These days it is not uncommon for a PC to have two, three or more external USB storage devices plugged in at the same time. Since Windows assigns drive letters in the order in which you attach a device, the same memory stick can be drive H: one time and drive F: another time. If you have several memory sticks or cards attached, you can’t tell from the drive letter which drive is which. Another problem is that Windows XP will ignore network drives when making the letter assignment.

USB Drive Letter Manager

Several free programs exist that help manage USB memory devices. One is called “USB Drive Letter Manager” and was briefly mentioned in Gizmo’s Hot Finds two years ago. This application allows you to control how drive letters are assigned to USB devices. Details of how to use the program are at the developer’s link.

Drive Manager

The previous application has to be installed, runs as a service and requires administrator privileges. Personally, I prefer something less obtrusive on the system and there is a free portable program called “Drive Manager”. Although this program does not provide for detailed managing of drive letters, it is a more general program and has a number of useful functions that are described at the developer’s site.

For example, it displays a list of all storage devices that are currently connected and gives an overview of information such as the drive letter, format, label, type, size, vendor, space available, and product id. Among other things, this variety of information can help you keep straight which drive has which letter.

Assign a Custom Icon to a Given USB Stick or Flash Card

This method requires no additional software and allows you to tag a USB device so that it always shows a custom icon in (My) Computer or a Windows Explorer pane.

1. Find an icon file that will be unique to your particular storage device. (Icon sources can be found here.) 
2. Place the icon file in the root of your USB device. Make sure it has the extension ico and is 32x32 pixels.
3. Use a text editor like Notepad to create a text file with two lines written as shown below:


4. Name the text file autorun.inf and make sure it has the inf extension and not txt
5. Place the file in the root of the USB device

Give a Name to the USB Device

Another approach simply applies a label to the device.

1. Right-click the icon for the drive in (My) Computer
2. Select “Properties”
3. Click the “General” tab
4. In the box at the top of the Properties window, enter the name you want to give the device. If it is formatted in FAT, there may be an 8-character limit.
5. Click "Apply" and "OK"

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs a Windows blog called The PC Informant and also operates a computer education website.

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