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Article ID: 100027 - Last Review: May 6, 2003 - Revision: 2.0

This article was previously published under Q100027


To open a physical hard drive for direct disk access (raw I/O) in a Win32-based application, use a device name of the form
where N is 0, 1, 2, and so forth, representing each of the physical drives in the system.

To open a logical drive, direct access is of the form
where X: is a hard-drive partition letter, floppy disk drive, or CD-ROM drive.


You can open a physical or logical drive using the CreateFile() application programming interface (API) with these device names provided that you have the appropriate access rights to the drive (that is, you must be an administrator). You must use both the CreateFile() FILE_SHARE_READ and FILE_SHARE_WRITE flags to gain access to the drive.

Once the logical or physical drive has been opened, you can then perform direct I/O to the data on the entire drive. When performing direct disk I/O, you must seek, read, and write in multiples of sector sizes of the device and on sector boundaries. Call DeviceIoControl() using IOCTL_DISK_GET_DRIVE_GEOMETRY to get the bytes per sector, number of sectors, sectors per track, and so forth, so that you can compute the size of the buffer that you will need.

Note that a Win32-based application cannot open a file by using internal Windows NT object names; for example, attempting to open a CD-ROM drive by opening
does not work because this is not a valid Win32 device name. An application can use the QueryDosDevice() API to get a list of all valid Win32 device names and see the mapping between a particular Win32 device name and an internal Windows NT object name. An application running at a sufficient privilege level can define, redefine, or delete Win32 device mappings by calling the DefineDosDevice() API.

  • Microsoft Win32 Application Programming Interface, when used with:
    • Microsoft Windows NT Advanced Server 3.1
    • Microsoft Windows NT 4.0
    • Microsoft Windows NT 3.51 Service Pack 5
    • Microsoft Windows NT 4.0
    • Microsoft Windows 2000 Standard Edition
    • the operating system: Microsoft Windows XP
kbinfo kbapi kbkernbase kbfileio KB100027
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