What Is a Volume Label of a Drive?

Volume label definition, restrictions, and more

A volume label, sometimes called a volume name, is a unique name assigned to a hard drive, disc, or other media. In Windows, a volume label is not required but it's often useful to give a name to a drive to help identify its use in the future.

A drive's volume label can be changed at any time but is usually set during the formatting of the drive.

Screenshot showing how to view and change the volume label through Disk Management

Volume Label Restrictions

Certain restrictions apply when assigning volume labels, depending on which file system is on the drive — NTFS or FAT:

Volume Label on NTFS Drives

  • Maximum of 32 characters
  • No tabs

Volume Label on FAT Drives

  • Maximum of 11 characters
  • No * ? . , ; : / \ | + = < > [ ]
  • No tabs

Spaces are allowed in the volume label no matter which of the two file systems is used.

The only other important difference between volume labels in NTFS vs FAT file systems is that a volume label on an NTFS formatted drive will retain its case while a volume label on a FAT drive will be stored as uppercase no matter how it was entered.

For example, a volume label entered as Music will be displayed as Music on NTFS drives but will be displayed as MUSIC on FAT drives.

How to View or Change the Volume Label

Changing the volume label is helpful to distinguish volumes from one another. For example, you might have one called Backup and another labeled Movies so that it's easy to quickly identify which volume is used for file backups and which one just has your movie collection.

There are two ways to find the volume label in Windows, and three ways to change it. You can do so through Windows Explorer (by opening windows and menus) or with the command line via Command Prompt. You can also change the volume label through the Windows Registry, but it's not the quickest or easiest method.

How to Find the Volume Label

The easiest way to find the volume label is with Command Prompt. There's a simple command called the vol command that makes this really easy.

The next best method is to look through the volumes listed in Disk Management. Next to each drive is a letter and name; the name is the volume label. See How to Open Disk Management if you need help getting there.

Another method that works in most versions of Windows, is to open Windows Explorer yourself and read what name is displayed next to the drive. One quick way to do this is to hit the WIN+E keyboard combination — the shortcut to open This PC, Computer, or My Computer, depending on your version of Windows.

Screenshot of File Explorer in Windows 8
File Explorer in Windows 8.

As you can see, this lists the drives plugged into your computer. Like with Disk Management, the volume label is identified next to the drive letter.

How to Change the Volume Label

Renaming a volume is easy to do from both Command Prompt and through Windows Explorer or Disk Management.

Open Disk Management and right-click the drive you want renamed. Choose Properties and then, in the General tab, erase what's there and put in your own volume label.

Screenshot showing how to change the volume label from Disk Management in Windows 10
Changing the Volume Label From Disk Management (Windows 10).

You can do the same thing in Windows Explorer with the WIN+E shortcut. Right-click whatever drive you want renamed and then go into Properties to adjust it.

See How to Change a Drive Letter if you'd like to do that through Disk Management. The steps are similar to changing the volume label but not exactly the same.

Like viewing the volume label from Command Prompt, you can also change it, but the label command is used instead.

With Command Prompt open, type the following to change the volume label:

label z: Seagate

Screenshot of the Windows 10 Command Prompt with the label command
Label Command (Windows 10).

As you can see in this example, the volume label of the Z drive is changed to Seagate. Adjust that command to be whatever works for your situation, changing the letter to your drive's letter and the name to whatever you want it renamed to.

If you're changing the volume label of the "main" hard drive that has Windows installed on it, you might need to open an elevated Command Prompt before it will work. Once you've done so, you can run a command like this:

label c: Windows

To change a volume label from the registry, you have to make a few registry keys and modify a registry value. It's pretty straightforward but definitely not as quick to do as the above methods.

Screenshot showing how to change the volume label from Registry Editor in Windows 10
Changing the Volume Label From the Registry (Windows 10).

Here's what to do:

  1. From the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE hive, navigate to the following key:

  2. Make a new key called DriveIcons if one doesn't already exist.

  3. Click or touch that key to select it, and then make another key inside it, and name it the letter of the volume you're wanting to change the label for.

    For example, in the image above, I made mine read F since that's the name of my hard drive I want to change the volume label on.

  4. Make yet another key inside that one that's called DefaultLabel.

  5. Select the DefaultLabel key to see its (Default) value off to the right. Double-click or double-tap that value to open the Edit String window.

  6. Press OK to save the changes.

  7. Exit Registry Editor and restart your computer for the changes to take effect.

Don't want to restart? Another way to make the changes show up is to restart Explorer. You can do this by opening Task Manager and ending the explorer.exe process, and then using the File > Run new task option to start a new instance of explorer — type explorer.exe in that box to do that.

Take special care to avoid spaces in Step 3 and Step 5. Those keys have to be labeled exactly as shown above, without spaces, or the registry tweak won't work.

More About Volume Labels

The volume label is stored in the disk parameter block, which is part of the volume boot record.

Viewing and changing volume labels is also possible with a free partition software program, but it's much easier with the methods described above because they don't require that you download a third-party program.