Non-existent local drives

David Waldmann

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Feb 6, 2002
Chester, Vermont USA
Vermont Hardwoods
I got a new computer last week that has started something strange. I had it all set up and working fine, with two mapped network drives, F & G. After logging in one time I got a "Disconnected network drives" message, so I went to Windows Explorer to take a look. They didn't show as disconnected, so I selected them, and there were files there, but not the ones that actually are on the server.

Examination of the properties showed "Disconnected Network Drive". My first thought was that the network drive caching feature was somehow turned on, though I was sure I had disabled it. I was able to browse to the server and real drives through My Network Places and everything was still as should be. I tried refreshing the view without any change. So I then disconnected the network drives F & G - but they are still there, only now they show as Local Drives, with the same files and folders.

F: has a bunch of files in the root that almost sound like system files:
There's one folder - \Dell that has a few .bmps and deltree.exe and restart.exe

G: has folders like Bat, Bin, Img and Src1 - Src5

Device manager only shows one drive, and I can't find Disk Administrator (if XP has it?). Explorer shows drive F: as being 62.5MB, with 7 in use, and G: as 2.84GB, 370MB in use. My real local drive is a 140GB SATA, formatted with NTFS. If I open Disk Defragmenter it shows F: as bing a FAT drive, and G: a FAT32.

It is a Dell, with XP Pro and SP2, and I'm connecting to an NT4 Domain. I have McAfee Antivirus and Firewall, and connect to the internet through a router.

Any ideas?
Good morning David,

You've discovered Dell's hidden diagnostic partition. Although it "appears" to be a different drive, it's actually just a "partition" of your single drive.

They install a small partition on hard drives with some diagnostic utilities. (30-50mb often) Control+alt+d at the dell bootup logo will usually get you into that menu. It's formatted in FAT for compat reasons.

Have you installed Roxio EasyCD or Napster lately? Each of those programs has a side effect that they un-hide this invisible partition. It's fairly harmless to keep it there and can be moved to a higher drive letter if it conflicts with your network drive letters.

The XP manager is at: start -> control panel -> performance -> administrative tools -> computer management -> storage/disk management. Right click on the partition and change drive letter

If you have Partition Magic, it can be made invisible again. (there may be other ways, too) Some folks opt to remove the partition completely, and leave the empty space vacant.

I haven't heard of them using 2 paritions, but its possible.

I hope this is useful.

I did install Roxio, probably before it happened. Thanks for the tips - I'll check it out and see what I can find.

The right-click context menu on the main partition and the larger extraneous one shows a list of items - Open, Explore, Mark as Active, Change Drive Letter and Paths, Format, Delete, Properties & Help.

I was able to delete the larger one (Change Drive Letter and Paths was greyed out). But the smaller one you can't do anything with - it only shows "Help", not even anything greyed out, just not there.
I figured out how to overcome the problem. Apparantly Dell uses a mounted volume to store the hidden partion and for some reason Roxio reveals it. By using Mountvol I was able to delete the reference to drive F: and make it available for network connectivity. I don't expect to ever be able to use those partitions, but I guess I'll deal with that when the time comes, if necessary.

I doubt you'd ever need them anyways. The utilities also came with the computer, on CDs.

They're mostly there to make it easier, should you ever call Dell tech support within the warrantee period. (without searching for the original CD etc)