These days most computers come with at least 2 partitions on the hard drive although it’s quite common for you not to be able to see all of them because they have been hidden for various reasons. Windows can create a hidden boot partition of around 100MB and OEM manufacturers will often install a recovery partition of a few Gigabytes which again is often hidden away so you don’t cause any damage to it.
If you are letting someone temporarily use your PC for a short period of time and would rather they didn’t have access to any of your personal files, one of the easy and quick ways to do it is to hide the drive or drive letter so it cannot be accessed from My Computer or Windows Explorer by the average user.
It’s also the case that sometimes the inexperienced user will poke around on other partitions and perhaps delete files without actually knowing what they’re for. One of the favorites is created backups from the Windows Vista and 7 backup function for example, which would obviously go on another partition or drive and an ordinary user might not realize what it is.
1. Drive Manager
Drive Manager is useful tool to perform several drive related functions, one of which is to hide a selected drive from My Computer and Explorer for the current user. The program is also portable.
Simply run the program, click on the drive or partition to hide and select Hide from the toolbar. Alternatively, right click and choose Hide Selected Drive. After a reboot or log off, the drive will be hidden but still accessible much like how TweakUI works (no. 4).
2. Using Partition Manager Software
Using a piece of partition manager software to mark the partition as hidden is a slightly more secure way over the Computer Management console because once you have done this, Computer Management cannot access the partition at all. Although you can still see the partition through it, right clicking it will not allow you to add a drive letter to make it accessible, only an option to delete the volume is available.
There are many other free partition management tools available such as Parted Magic or Partition Wizard Home Edition, but for the purposes of this guide, we’re using EaseUs Partition Master Home Edition. The method to hide is broadly the same whichever software you choose.
1. Download and install EaseUS Partition Master Home Edition.
2. Right click the drive letter or partition from the list or graphical layout and select Hide partition. Or click on the option in the side bar if available. Accept the warning that the drive letter may change. Then click Apply when ready and Yes to confirm.
In GParted the option is in right click -> Manage Flags, and for Partition Wizard it’s in the right click -> Modify sub menu. To unhide again simply reverse the procedure.
3. NoDrives Manager
NoDrives Manager works in Windows XP, Vista and 7 (including 64-bit) and also comes with a couple of useful functions as well. Firstly it hides the drives for all users and not just the currently logged on user, and secondly it’s available either as a portable or setup installer program.
The program is pretty simple to operate, just tick the relevant boxes for any drives you wish to hide, or untick an already ticked box to unhide a currently hidden drive. Then tick Save Changes.
The password option when set will ask for a password when you run the NoDrives Manager program which is enough to stop the average user running it and enabling the drives again. More advanced users won’t have too much trouble bypassing it though as the password is simply stored as a value in the registry.
Once you have logged off and come back into Windows, the drive letter will be gone from My Computer and Explorer but still accessible from the address bar, Command Prompt or the Run dialog etc.
TweakUI is only for XP users and hides the drive letter from Windows Explorer but it is still fully accessible by the system. This function in TweakUI is also user account specific and does not work for all users at once.
1. Download TweakUI from the Microsoft website, install and then run it.
2. Expand the My Computer tree and click on Drives.
3. From the list of drives in the right window, untick the drive that you want to hide and click OK when you’re done.
Restoring the drive to Windows Explorer is simply a case of ticking the drive again.
5. The Computer Management Console
This method uses the process of removing the drive letter from the drive or partition completely, thereby rendering it unusable to anyone until the drive letter is restored.
1. Go to Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management, alternatively right click on (My) Computer in the Start menu or on the desktop and select Manage. Click on Disk Management under Storage.
2. Find the partition you want to hide using the list or graphical layouts, right click on it and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.
3. Make sure the drive letter is highlighted in the box and click the Remove button, then click OK.
To add the drive letter back to the partition, follow steps 1 and 2 and then click the Add button. Make sure Assign the following drive letter is selected and there is a letter in the drop down which you can change if you want to, and click OK to finish.
6. Using a Group Policy
The Group Policy editor in windows is able to hide drives from Explorer, but has a couple of drawbacks. Firstly it’s not available in Home versions of Windows (XP Home, Win 7 Home Premium etc), and secondly only drive letters up to D can be hidden unless you use the All Drives option.
1. Press Win key+R to get the Run dialog, type gpedit.msc and press Enter.
2. Navigate to User Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components and click on Windows Explorer. Double click on “Hide these specified drives in My Computer” in the right window pane.
3. Click the Enabled radio button and in the drop down box that appears below select the combination that best matches your needs. Click OK when finished.
There is also another option called “Prevent access to drives from My Computer” where users can browse the folder structure of the selected drives in My Computer or Windows Explorer, but they cannot open folders and access the contents. This does again though have the restriction of only going up to drive D.
7. Hide a Drive Letter with Diskpart
Hiding a drive letter in this way is pretty much identical to using the Computer Management Console apart from you’re using the Command Prompt to do it. Maybe a more useful method for keyboard and command line fans.
1. Press Win key+R for the Run dialog, type diskpart and press Enter.
2. Type List Volume to get a list of all available partitions and make a note of the volume number you want to hide.
3. Type Select Volume [number] where the number is the volume number you noted from step 2.
4. Now type Remove to remove the drive letter from the selected volume. If you type list volume again you should see the assigned letter in the Ltr column has now gone from the volume. Type Exit to quit Diskpart.
To get a drive letter back again using Diskpart, repeat steps 1 -3 and then type Assign instead of Remove.
Editor’s Note: Hiding a drive by removing its letter is slightly more secure than hiding the letter from Explorer but does come with a couple of drawbacks; one is that Windows 7 system image and file backup cannot backup or restore involving a drive with no letter. Another is that you, Windows or any other software cannot use the hidden drive for read or write operations. For outright security when hiding your drives, Truecrypt is perhaps something you might look at.