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Tool helps admins manage assigning drive letters to folders

Some admins create shortcuts to their often-used folders. Others assign a drive letter to the path using the SUBST command. Neither way is very elegant. A utility changes all that.

Just about everyone who maintains a system, whether a server or simply their own desktop, has a host of directories in various places that get used a lot.

For instance, on my own system, I have a bunch of directories in the root of the D: drive that get accessed a great deal. But depending on what's going on at a given time, the real object(s) of attention may be folders several layers deep in the hierarchy.

One way to deal with this situation is to create shortcuts to the often used folders. But shortcuts are not always the most elegant solution—especially if you need to address the target items programmatically.

Another way to do it is to assign a drive letter to the path using the SUBST command. But managing such substitutions isn't always very elegant either. Worse, substitutions using SUBST aren't preserved automatically between user sessions unless you implement them in a script.

I recently came across a utility that addresses these issues in a straightforward, friendly way. Visual Subst is essentially a GUI frontend for the SUBST command. It uses the exact same APIs as SUBST, so it functions more or less the same way. Nor does Visual Subst need installing—it runs wherever it happens to be residing. And it's a mere 55K.

Two things make Visual Subst particularly attractive:

  • It doesn't require use of the CLI.
  • It includes the option of preserving the drive assignments between user sessions, via a checkbox labeled "Apply virtual drives on Windows startup." The list of files is saved into an .INI file that's kept in the same directory as the program.

However, the program has four limitations.

  1. It only runs in Windows 2000/XP or higher; Windows 9x support is not available.
  2. It doesn't appear to recognize different drive scenarios for different users; it only sets up one set of drive mappings for a given machine.
  3. Unicode directory mappings can be created, but they do not appear to be saved correctly in the .INI file.
  4. In Windows Vista, if you run the program in a given user mode (such as administrative mode vs. limited-user mode), the drive mappings created with the program are only visible to the command-line version of SUBST unless you run SUBST in the same user mode.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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