The Truth about Network Drives

Network Operations Center -- Updated 6/21/2004

What you see is not necessarily what you get...

The manner in which Windows displays your network drives is deceiving. There are potentially several ways to get to the same file, through links on your desktop, in My Computer, in My Documents and elsewhere.

When you login and open "My Computer" you should see drives C:, F:, J:, K:, Q:, Z: and perhaps others. All of these drives, both local and network, may contain a heirarchy of folders. You can open a folder by double-clicking on it to reveal folders that may contain other folders as well as ordinary files. Folders can be nested inside folders, ad nauseum.

If you were to look carefully on your C: drive, you would see that there are two ways to find something you have saved in "My Documents":

  1. Open the "My Documents" icon on your desktop, or
  2. Open the "My Computer" icon on your desktop, then open "Documents and Settings", then open the folder that has your login name (like "SmithJ"), then open "My Documents". Whew!

Network drives operate in a similar fashion: folders can reside inside folders alongside documents, and there may be several ways to find the same file.

There are several network drives that everyone is given when they login. You can see them among the drives listed in "My Computer". Normally you'll see:

  • J:, which contains your personal documents. In most cases, no-one except you can view or edit the documents in your J: drive.
  • K:, which contains documents that you share with others in your department. Everyone in your department can see the files in your K: drive.
  • Q:, which contains documents visible to everyone who logs in. Q: is used for transferring documents among departments that don't share the same K: drive.
  • Z:, which contains shared programs used by all PCs. You can't save files on Z:.

Many people are confused about their K: and J: drives. They think that these are two separate sets of data, when in fact they are simply two views into the same data. Some drawings may help:

What You See

Doesn't it look like there's a duplicate of J: in K:\SMITHJ? Nope! There is actually only ONE COPY of what's in John Smith's J: drive, despite what he sees when he opens K:\SMITHJ.

The K: drive is a pointer to the directory ABOVE John's J: drive, in which both the EDUALL and SMITHJ directories reside.

What's Actually There

In this drawing, smithj\ is actually John's J: drive.

So please don't delete the directory that looks like a copy of your home directory, if you're looking in your K: drive. You'd be deleting your J: drive - your own home directory!

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