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Posted 2 Nov 2016

How to hide your files in windows using unmounted disk drives - a hack for novice users

, 9 Nov 2016
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A very simple way of hiding your files and folders using unmounted hard disk drives. It can work if the computer user isn't fairly technical.

Introduction

A very simple way to safeguard your documents from access, accidental deletes or modifications from other users who are using your computer specially kids. You can also use it for any user who is from non-computer background or anyone who doesn't know a lot about Windows internals of hard drives, partitioning, mounting etc.

Background

We all have computers at home and we have many confidential or important information as well kept on the computer. The problem I was facing at my home computer was the fact that it was a shared computer with my kids and they will often land into my directories having my office (related to professional work) documents etc. and then they do all the mess like deleting and modifying the files. Although they have separate user account on my computer but still they have access to all the hard disk drives where my files are kept.  So I finally decided to work out a hack for general safety of my files and directories. And trust me for one thing, every Tom, Dick and Harry knows the concept of hidden files and folders including kids and anyone can get to know about that option today or tomorrow. Even while using that setting of hidden files and folders the view is very irritating and you also have to change the setting every time to show/unshow the hidden files and folders. So I tried this idea of using unmounted hard disk drives in windows.

Using Disk Management Console

Disk management console is a Microsoft tool which comes by default with any installation of Windows operating system. You can start it by typing "diskmgmt.msc" command from run prompt and it will open the current state of all the disk drives on your computer as shown below:

Step 1: Press [Windows Logo] + R to open run prompt and type "diskmgmt.msc" in Open text box

Step 2: Click OK button to open disk management console as shown below. It shows that my computer has got two hard disk drives with drive letters C:/ and D:/ respectively. I've also got 106.45 GB of unallocated space which is not part of any hard disk drive.

If you open your computer explorer you will see the same set of two hard disk drives there also as shown below:

 

 

How to create a secret drive (aka unmounted disk drive)

My idea for hiding my files was by creating a new secret hard drive.  A hard drive which is not visible to any user of the computer whenever they open the computer explorer. Now, how to create that secret hard drive? That secret hard drive is nothing but an unmounted disk drive. The windows disk management console utility will come in handy here. Let's see how to do it.

Since you need to create a new hard drive you will need some empty space on your hard disk represented by black bar in disk management console. Here is the step by step procedure to create new hidden drive:

Step 1 : Right click on unallocated space and choose "New Simple Volume..." as shown in the below snapshot

Step 2: While going through the New Simple Volume wizard just choose the default options on all the wizard steps to complete the wizard except one of them. You need to change an option only on third wizard step namely "Assign Drive Letter or Path". On this particular screen select the "Do not assign a drive letter or drive path" option button and then click next as shown in the snapshot below:

 

The drive thus created is a drive without a drive letter i.e. a drive which doesn't have a mount point or a drive letter associated with it. I call this drive a secret drive because if you open your computer explorer after creation of this secret drive it will not show up there. It will still show your older disk drives only which had a drive letter assigned to them. Your new secret drive can't be seen by anyone. I followed the same wizard and created a new unmounted drive on my computer for this exercise.

How to access your secret drive (aka unmounted drive)

It is really simple to access your secret drive which doesn't have any drive letter assigned. By the way, it is simle only if you know this trick. Every disk drive is visible in your computer explorer as they have a mount point (an associated drive letter). The drive letter that you see are essentially a mount point or root of the starting point of hard disk drive. All the directories inside a hard disk drive are children of that mount point (aka root). So my drives have a mount point C:\ and D:\. To access my third drive I will have to use a mount volume instead of drive letter.

To get the mounted volume of your new drive simply run "mountvol" command on a command prompt window and the mount volumes of all your hard drives will get enlisted as shown below.

My new secret drive is shown with text "*** NO MOUNT POINTS ***"

Simply copy the full volume path e.g. " \\?\Volume{6ca71107-a087-11e6-88de-e4029b66bc0e}\" in my case and paste it on run prompt to open your secret drive.

 

 

How to convert an existing drive to a secret drive

Instead of a creating hard disk drive from scratch and then converting it to a secret drive you have an option of conveting one of the existing drives of your computer to a secret drive by simply modifying a property of the disk drive. Here are the steps:

  1. Open disk managment console (diskmgmt.msc) -> Right click the target drive -> Choose "Change Drive Letter and Paths..." option as shown in the snapshot below:

  2. Click "Remove" button  and press OK to get rid of the drive letter for your drive as shown below:

You just converted your normal drive to a secret drive.

Word of Caution: The moment you remove the drive letter of your hard drive, in effect you have unmounted your drive. So any of your application which are using the paths of this drive using drive letter mount point will stop functioning. This is the reason why I prefer creating a new drive from scratch and then copy my confidential files to the new secret drive.

What about Windows Search

A normal user will not be able to search the files kept in your unmounted hard disk drive. Windows search always operates on mounted drives. So any user even accidently can't reach to your files kept in unmounted hard disk drive by using search option of windows.

Word of Caution:

We have to understand that using unmounted disk drives  approach to secure your data in a production environment will not be sufficient. Through this article I tried educating you about basic cocept of unmounted disk drives in windows and how to create it through disk management utility. You can put this knowledge of windows internals to any use you want. I used it to hide my confidential files so that they aren't visible to my kids by any chance as we share the same computer at home. I rely on the fact that my kids are novice users who just know how to use the computer but don't know how the operating system internals work. I want to emphasize the fact that for a full blown data protection or security you will have to rely on various security techniques like access control list (ACL) in windows, encryption and stuff like that.

Points of Interest

You might want to explore this to pacify your inquisitiveness:

  • How to mount an unmounted hard disk drive (which doesn't have a drive letter assgined to it) to a folder/directory of your choice which is present in a mounted disk drive?

History

  • 02-Nov-2016 : First Draft
  • 10-Nov-2016 : Added a new section "Word of Caution" to incorporate reader's feedback about this approach not being a good fit from production usage standpoint.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

Rasik Bihari Tiwari
Software Developer 1E
India India
My professional details will hardly make a difference to you if you have come to know about me after reading my lengthy article but my intent will make a difference for sure. Why I write articles is for the sole motto which I got to know pretty late in my career and that is that there is ONLY and ONLY one way of enhancing knowledge and that way is sharing. Blogs, articles and white papers are nothing but a form of sharing. It also helps you creating a backup copy of the knowledge you have in your brain and nerves. This backup copy will surely outlive your life as this knowledge gets transferred to uncountable people through sharing. So start contributing today and always remember : "Knowledge is the ONLY antidote to all fears". Start reading a new book today. Don't seek Nirvana. Seek knowledge. Nirvana and knowledge are synonymous.

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Comments and Discussions

 
GeneralMy vote of 3 Pin
Member 1236439011-Nov-16 0:32
memberMember 1236439011-Nov-16 0:32 
GeneralMy vote of 1 Pin
dandy729-Nov-16 2:22
memberdandy729-Nov-16 2:22 
GeneralRe: My vote of 1 Pin
Rasik Bihari Tiwari9-Nov-16 3:17
professionalRasik Bihari Tiwari9-Nov-16 3:17 
GeneralRe: My vote of 1 Pin
dandy729-Nov-16 4:10
memberdandy729-Nov-16 4:10 
GeneralRe: My vote of 1 Pin
Rasik Bihari Tiwari9-Nov-16 13:58
professionalRasik Bihari Tiwari9-Nov-16 13:58 
GeneralRe: My vote of 1 Pin
dandy7210-Nov-16 4:35
memberdandy7210-Nov-16 4:35 
GeneralRe: My vote of 1 Pin
Rasik Bihari Tiwari10-Nov-16 13:13
professionalRasik Bihari Tiwari10-Nov-16 13:13 
GeneralRe: My vote of 1 Pin
dandy7211-Nov-16 12:19
memberdandy7211-Nov-16 12:19 
PraiseRe: My vote of 1 Pin
Rasik Bihari Tiwari11-Nov-16 22:42
professionalRasik Bihari Tiwari11-Nov-16 22:42 
GeneralRe: My vote of 1 Pin
dandy7212-Nov-16 3:53
memberdandy7212-Nov-16 3:53 
QuestionOne word (well, one acronym) Pin
dandy727-Nov-16 5:45
memberdandy727-Nov-16 5:45 
PraiseRe: One word (well, one acronym) Pin
Rasik Bihari Tiwari8-Nov-16 14:25
professionalRasik Bihari Tiwari8-Nov-16 14:25 
GeneralRe: One word (well, one acronym) Pin
dandy729-Nov-16 2:08
memberdandy729-Nov-16 2:08 
GeneralRe: One word (well, one acronym) Pin
Rasik Bihari Tiwari9-Nov-16 3:10
professionalRasik Bihari Tiwari9-Nov-16 3:10 
GeneralRe: One word (well, one acronym) Pin
dandy729-Nov-16 4:20
memberdandy729-Nov-16 4:20 
QuestionObfuscation Pin
irneb6-Nov-16 19:52
memberirneb6-Nov-16 19:52 
AnswerRe: Obfuscation Pin
Rasik Bihari Tiwari8-Nov-16 14:33
professionalRasik Bihari Tiwari8-Nov-16 14:33 
GeneralRe: Obfuscation Pin
dandy729-Nov-16 2:21
memberdandy729-Nov-16 2:21 
PraiseRe: Obfuscation Pin
Rasik Bihari Tiwari9-Nov-16 3:04
professionalRasik Bihari Tiwari9-Nov-16 3:04 
QuestionFound this useful Pin
kmoorevs5-Nov-16 6:50
memberkmoorevs5-Nov-16 6:50 
AnswerRe: Found this useful Pin
dandy729-Nov-16 2:15
memberdandy729-Nov-16 2:15 
GeneralRe: Found this useful Pin
kmoorevs9-Nov-16 4:06
memberkmoorevs9-Nov-16 4:06 
GeneralRe: Found this useful Pin
dandy729-Nov-16 4:15
memberdandy729-Nov-16 4:15 
QuestionWhat about cryptolocker Ransomware attack on this Drive ? Pin
Member 104852115-Nov-16 6:42
memberMember 104852115-Nov-16 6:42 
AnswerRe: What about cryptolocker Ransomware attack on this Drive ? Pin
dandy729-Nov-16 2:18
memberdandy729-Nov-16 2:18 

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