Why do local drives in Windows boot from C?

Windows allows its users to partition their hard drives to create logical local drives. These local disks are used to store user data, but one of these disks is typically reserved for the operating system, the “C” drive or Windows partition.

Almost all of us have accepted the “C” drive as the default Windows installation location. In fact, all new programs are installed on this drive by default. But have you ever wondered why local drive names start with C and not the letter A? Also, does Windows allow you to change these drive names? Let’s find out.


What about drives A and B?

Back when floppy disks were the main source of storage on computers instead of hard disks, the letters A and B were assigned to the first floppy disk and the second floppy disk, respectively.

Similar to how local drives are labeled today: C for the drive containing the operating system and consecutive letters referring to drives containing user data, drive A (first floppy) was used to boot the PC and drive B (second floppy) was for storing user data.

The hard drive debuted later but did not immediately make floppy disks obsolete. Instead of replacing floppy disks with hard drives on their computers, people started using both at the same time. And as it is obvious, the next drive letter “C” has been assigned to the additional storage disk, i.e. hard drive.

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Years later, when hard drives completely replaced floppy disks due to their portability, speed, and storage capacities, manufacturers stopped including floppy disk drives in computers. But still, drive names A and B have been kept reserved for floppy disks to ensure backwards compatibility.

Previously, Windows was not a standalone operating system like it is now, but rather a program that ran under DOS. When hard drives became the norm, Windows used the C label for its installation drive.

Modern computers do not use floppy disks, but even now this convention is followed by automatically assigning the hard drive label C to the primary installation drive. The reason behind this is that most software is written with the hard-coded C drive as the operating system’s primary drive and changing Windows drive labeling can affect how programs run on your computer. .

Can you use drives A and B for hard drives?

If you are still using floppy disks on your PC, you will not be able to use these labels. But it is highly unlikely that your computer has a floppy drive.

In modern computers, logical hard disk partitions are not given A and B labels by default, even if you use all available labels (up to Z). Windows users can manually change the label of their local drive to A and B, however, keep in mind that Windows does not index these drives as they were originally intended for removable disks like floppy disks.

Windows has come a long way!

Long before Windows existed, DOS powered computers and provided users with an interface they could use to interact with computers. Initially, Windows was an interface manager that required MS-DOS to run, but later it was revamped into a standalone operating system independent of MS-DOS.

Most of the development at this time was aimed at competing with rival companies. Fast forward to now, Microsoft’s own operating systems are fighting in the battle to become the best operating system for users.

Take Windows 10 and 11 for example. While there are plenty of reasons to choose Windows 10 over 11, the latter includes the latest features and brings a whole new style of desktop computing to the table.


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Steven L. Nielsen