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. It's not required in Windows 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:

NTFS Drives

  • Maximum of 32 characters
  • No tabs

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 label on an NTFS formatted drive will retain its case while one on a FAT drive will be stored as uppercase no matter how it was entered.

For example, a 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 it through the Windows Registry, but it's not the quickest or easiest method.

How to Find the Volume Label

To find the volume label with Command Prompt requires a simple command called the vol command.

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 File Explorer, This PC, Computer, or My Computer, depending on your version of Windows.

Windows 10 This PC screen

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.

If you don't see the drives in Windows 10 after using that hotkey, select This PC from the left side of File Explorer.

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

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

label z: External
Label command in Windows 10 Command Prompt

As you can see in this example, the volume label of the Z drive is changed to External. 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 it on the "main" hard drive that has Windows installed on it, 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.

Here's what to do:

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

    \SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\
  2. Make a new key called DriveIcons if one doesn't already exist.

  3. Select that key, 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, as you'll see in the image below, 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.

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

  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. Enter whatever volume label you want, and then press OK to save the changes.

    volume label option in Windows Registry in Windows 10
  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.

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 one 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.