More quick fixes for common Windows annoyances

Dump the Insert key, rearrange drive letters, restore your Safely Remove Hardware icon, and get a free tool for easy Registry editing.

If you've got a multislot media card reader, chances are you face a mess of drive letters every time you double-click My Computer. I've finally outsmarted the Redmond kids in my battle with the dumb way Windows handles drive letters--and in this column I give you the fix. Plus, I share an easy way to restore the fickle Safely Remove Hardware icon to your system tray, and a trick to combat Insertus idioticus--by disabling the Insert key.

Disable unused drive letters

The Hassle: My PC has a built-in memory card reader, and the only slots I use are for CompactFlash and SD cards. Yet when I try to find the card I've just inserted in Windows Explorer, I always seem to click the drive letter of an empty slot. Do you have a fix?

The Fix: First, let's start by eliminating the card reader drive letters you don't use. Log in as Administrator, open Windows Explorer, and insert your memory cards into the card reader slots. Jot down the corresponding drive letters and, using the Safely Remove Hardware icon in the System tray, remove the memory cards.

From the Start menu, run diskmgmt.msc. Under Disk Management, you'll see all your drives. Find the unused drives in the lower panel--they're listed with a drive letter, a disk number, and a 'No Media' designation. Right-click, select Change Drive Letter and Paths, click Remove, click Yes, and say adios. Cool, no?

My preference is to push the drive letters of the remaining memory cards near the end of the alphabet--and to use mnemonics for easier recall. I use drive letter "W" for the wide CompactFlash card and "S" for the smaller SD card. (I've also assigned mapped network drives to Y and Z.)

From that same spot in the Disk Management applet, right-click, choose Change, and pick a letter from the end of the alphabet.

This reassignment trick also keeps the drive letters of my temporary USB devices--two hard drives, an MP3 player and flash drive, and a GPS unit--all neatly stacked just after my last fixed drive.

Restore the safely remove hardware icon

The Hassle: Where's my Safely Remove Hardware icon? One day it's here, the next day it's missing from the system tray!

The Fix: The icon is probably just hidden. Right-click Start, select Properties, choose the Taskbar tab, click Customize, scroll to Safely Remove Hardware, and make the behavior Always Show. Alternatively you can keep the icon hidden (and your Systray uncluttered) and force it to appear when you need it by creating a desktop shortcut. Right-click your desktop, choose New, Shortcut, insert the line C:\WINDOWS\system32\rundll32.exe shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL hotplug.dll in the 'Type the location of the item:' field, and click Next. Rename the shortcut USB Remove.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Steve Bass

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?