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Mapping a Network Drive in Windows

written by: Jeffrey Davis•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/19/2011

Often it is easier to provide access to a network resource by mapping it to the Windows file system as if it were a regular hard drive. This simple tutorial explains the procedures for this simple task.

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    Introduction

    Commonly, people who use computers are familiar with the basics of using the file system to access computer resources on the local machine. Resources on other computers that are part of a network are another story altogether; these resources have somewhat archaic access methods such as \\this\that\whatyouwant that can make it confusing to people who are only familiar with accessing resources that are directly connected to the computer on which they are working. In many cases, it is also not beneficial -- and sometimes even a security risk -- to store files directly on the computer on which the user is currently logged in. So why not make it easier for the user by linking a commonly-used network path with the local file system to make it easy for him/her to locate the space where files need to be stored on the network?

    The process of creating a mapping definition for a network resource solves this problem by taking the location of a resource space on the network and assigning it to the definition of a virtual storage drive on the local file system. By mapping a network drive to a resource on another computer, you can provide quick access to a designated space for any number of uses, such as a project storage location for the purposes of group collaboration, a storage space for the sole use of whomever is logged in at the computer, or a designated space for the resources used by a specific department in a corporate setting. Addiitonally, since the network drive mapping is not dependent on the visibility of the location of the resource on the network to certain groups of users, this process can be used to provide access to a network location without having to expose sensitive areas of the network to people who do not need such access capabilities.

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    Manually creating a network map definition

    Of course, since not all implementations of computer networks have the sensitivities of a corporate or organization's network (such as in the case of home networking) it is often easier to manually define a network map on individual computers whenever possible. The following instructions detail the methods of performing this simple task:

    For Windows XP:

    1. Click the Start button, then click My Computer.
      Note: If you are using classic-style menus, the My Computer item will probably not exist on the start menu. In that case, you can open My Computer by double-clicking it on the desktop.
    2. On the Tools menu, click Map Network Drive.
    3. In the Drive selector, choose the drive letter you wish to use for the resource mapping definition.
    4. In the folder input, enter the path to the location on the network that you wish to provide access to within the file system. (Or choose browse to manually locate the path if needed.)
    5. If frequent access to the network location is a necessity, ensure that the Reconnect at Logon box is checked.
    6. Once all the information is entered, click Finish and Windows will apply your settings.

    For Windows 7/Vista:

    1. Click the Start orb, then click Computer.
    2. On the toolbar, click Map Network Drive.
    3. In the Drive selector, choose the drive letter you wish to use for the resource mapping definition.
    4. In the folder input, enter the path to the location on the network that you wish to provide access to within the file system. (Or choose browse to manually locate the path if needed.)
    5. If frequent access to the network location is a necessity, ensure that the Reconnect at Logon box is checked.
    6. Once all the information is entered, click Finish and Windows will apply your settings.
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    Automating the process of mapping a network drive

    In cases where the path for which a network drive map needs to be defined based on user access requirements as opposed to a hard definition of a predetermined location, it is often necessary in a corporate or organization's network to automate the process to ensure that the right network path is assigned to the right user based on access requirements. Mapping a network drive in this manner often involves using a logon script, which is beyond the scope of this article; however, as a reference for the definition of a network map in such a script you can use the following command (regardless of which version of Windows is installed):

    NET USE H: \\server\share (where H is the target drive letter and \\server\share is the path to the targeted location on the network)

    When the user logs out of the computer and the network drive needs to be disconnected to make room for another user's designated network access space, the following command releases the assigned network drive mapping when needed:

    NET USE H: /d

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    Conclusion

    In conclusion, mapping a network drive allows a computer user to access a network resource path as part of the local file system; thus making it easier to locate a commonly-used or specifically assigned network storage location based on the needs of the user in relation to his/her functional role in a corporate or organization's network, or in relation to a central storage location on a home network. By creating a network drive mapping for such a resource, it makes it easier to access a shared or personal common space for the storage of files and other frequently-used data structures without having to rely on the use of storage devices located on the computer on which the user is currently logged in.

    If this article has been helpful in explaining the processes, reasons and such for the use of a defined network drive for the storage of commonly-used personal and/or shared files on a network, then why not expand your research into other network and storage topics? If so, then be sure to check out some of the other hardware, storage and networking topics here at Bright Hub.