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Ever noticed the names of hard disk drives? If yes, then have you ever wondered why the drive names start from the C drive? Where did the drives A and B vanish? Curious case. Well, read on to find out.

Well, 90s kids might just remember. Long long ago, in the days of yore (ummm.. not so long ago actually) there existed FLOPPY DRIVES!

“Once upon a time, our ancestors, the floppy drives existed.” –Hard Disk Drives

Floppy Disks

Here are more details for the uninitiated. Before the dawn of the Hard Disk Drives (HDD), the most common medium for information storage was floppy disks. They came into existence in the 1960s (now that is quite a while ago!)  Essentially, there were two sizes of floppy disks, 5 1/4 inch and 3 1/2 inch. The 8 inch floppy disk came into existence only after hard disk drives became the norm.Floppy Drive

IBM is generally credited with the idea of designating different storage devices with simple letters. IBM’s early machines in the 1960s – their CP-40 and CP/CMS systems, had floppy drives for storage. The same convention was followed in the CP/M operating system created by the company Digital Research, Inc. In the early systems (CP/CMS) the letters were used mostly to designated logical drives, although later (such as with CP/M), they were used to specify physical storage devices.

Sometime down the line, Microsoft purchased a license to a CP/M clone called the 86-DOS. Microsoft then adapted the 86-DOS for IBM’s new PC, with a significant amount of changes thrown in for good measure, and sold it as MS-DOS.

The earlier personal computers didn’t come with internal mass storage, owing to the large expenses involved for such storage devices. They usually had some sort of a floppy reader; the “A” drive in MS-DOS (and other OS) was the disk reader used to read the 5 ¼ inch drive, and the “B” drive, for reading the 3 ½ inch floppy drive.

Present scenario

Years later, when the hard disk drives became the common standard, the hard disk drive was logically named the “C” drive. The C drive soon became the primary drive and stored the most crucial information, such as the operating system.

Decades later, although the floppy technology became obsolete, the naming convention stuck. The drive names “A” and “B” are not generally used these days. However, at present, the C drive is either the first partition on the hard disk or the system partition, where the OS is installed on the hard disk.  Subsequent hard disks are named D, E and so on. Whereas, the DVD drive and USB drive are labelled F, G, etc.

Although the default drive continues to be labelled as the “C” drive, it is possible for the user to change the naming system, if they have the administrative rights.

Why is C drive the default drive?

Why is C drive the default drive?
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Amanjot Kaur

Amanjot Kaur is a 2nd year ECE undergraduate at NSIT, Delhi. An avid writer and a voracious reader, you will often find her nose deep in a book, lounging amid the silent recesses of nature. When she isn't buried in a book, you'll definitely find her glued to a computer screen.

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