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Mapping a Network Folder to a Local Drive Letter

Navigating a computer's shared folders is straightforward, and is no different from navigating the folders on your own computer. However, you might find that you need to access a particular folder on a shared resource quite often. That's not a problem if the folder is shared directly—see, for example, the shared Data folder in Figure 8.3. However, the folder you want might be buried several layers down. For example, you may need to open the Data folder, then the Documents folder, then Writing, then Articles, and so on. That's a lot of double-clicking. You could use the network address, instead, but even that could get quite long and unwieldy. (And, with Murphy's law still in force, the longer the address, the greater the chance of a typo slipping in.)

You can avoid the hassle of navigating innumerable network folders and typing lengthy network addresses by mapping the network folder to your own computer. Mapping means that Windows assigns a drive letter to the network folder, such as G: or Z:. The advantage here is that now the network folder shows up as just another disk drive on your machine, enabling you to access the resource quickly by selecting Start, Computer.

Creating the Mapped Network Folder

To map a network folder to a local drive letter, follow these steps:

  1. Select Start, right-click Network, and then click Map Network Drive. (In any folder window, you can also press Alt to display the menu bar, and then select Tools, Map Network Drive.) Windows Vista displays the Map Network Drive dialog box.
  2. The Drive drop-down list displays the last available drive letter on your system, but you can pull down the list and select any available letter.
  3. Use the Folder text box to type the network address of the folder, as shown in Figure 8.6. (Alternatively, click Browse, select the shared folder in the Browse for Folder dialog box, and then click OK.)
    Figure 8.6

    Figure 8.6 Use the Map Network Drive dialog box to assign a drive letter to a network resource.

  4. If you want Windows Vista to map the network folder to this drive letter each time you log on to the system, leave the Reconnect at Logon check box activated.
  5. Click Finish. Windows Vista adds the new drive letter to your system and opens the new drive in a folder window.

To open the mapped network folder later, select Start, Computer, and then double-click the drive in the Network Location group (see Figure 8.7).

Figure 8.7

Figure 8.7 After you map a network folder to a local drive letter, the mapped drive appears in the Computer window for easier access.

Mapping Folders at the Command Line

You can also map a network folder to a local drive letter by using a command prompt session and the NET USE command. Although you probably won't use this method very often, it's handy to know how it works, just in case. Here's the basic syntax:

NET USE [drive] [share] [password] [/USER:user] [/PERSISTENT:[YES | NO]] | /DELETE]


The drive letter (followed by a colon) of the local drive to which you want the network folder mapped.


The network address of the folder.


The password required to connect to the shared folder (that is, the password associated with the username, specified next).


The username you want to use to connect to the shared folder.


Add YES to reconnect the mapped network drive the next time you log on.


Deletes the existing mapping that's associated with drive.

For example, the following command maps the shared folder \\PAULSPC\Data\Writing\Books to the Z: drive:

net use z: \\paulspc\data\writing\books \persistent:yes

Disconnecting a Mapped Network Folder

If you no longer need to map a network resource, you should disconnect it by following these steps:

  1. Select Start, Computer to open the Computer window.
  2. Right-click the mapped drive, and then click Disconnect.
  3. If there are files open from the resource, Windows Vista displays a warning to let you know that it's unsafe to disconnect the resource. You have two choices:
    • Click No, close all open files from the mapped resource, and then repeat steps 1 and 2.
    • If you're sure there are no open files, click Yes to disconnect the resource.
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