How to rename drives in Windows

If you’re like me and have tens of USB thumb drives and external hard disks laying around, you may need to find a way to tell them apart easily. Scribbling something onto them with a marker is of course an option, but has its drawbacks: first and foremost, you may only write something onto them once and when you need to repurpose the same drive for another use, you’ll have to suck it up and live with having an external drive whose caption on it doesn’t reflect its actual content. A better solution would be to rename drives directly in Windows so that you can be sure of what you’ve just plugged in as soon as the operating system recognises the drive and mounts it.

Volume labels: What they are

Windows, as well as every other operating system out there, supports so-called volume labels, which are short alphanumeric strings whose aim is to help the user have a rough idea of what a specific volume may contain. Of course, you don’t have to give your disks a label, but doing so doesn’t hurt. There are, however, a couple things you should be aware when giving a disk, volume or drive a label.

How to set a volume label

Whether you’re setting the label for an internal or external drive, the procedure is identical. All you need to do is opening File Explorer, clicking on This PC and then right-clicking the drive you want to rename and choose Properties.

In the General tab you’ll notice a big text box at the top of the screen. It should be selected by default. Insert the name you wish to assign and click Ok. You will get a warning that only administrators are allowed to perform this operation. Click Continue and you’re done!

Volume labels restrictions

There are a couple things you should be aware of when choosing a volume label. These differ whether your volume is formatted using FAT32 or NTFS.

FAT32 restrictions

  • Up to 11 characters
  • No tabulations
  • The following symbols are not allowed: * ? / \ | . , ; : + = [ ] < > “
  • All characters will be converted to their uppercase variant

NTFS restrictions

  • Up to 32 characters
  • No tabulations
About Andrea Luciano Damico 133 Articles
Andrea Luciano Damico is a freelance translator from Italy. Among his interests are linguistics, technology, video games, and generally being a chill guy. He runs Let's Translate.it and Tech4Freelancers.net.