My disk icons are now folders — why?

October 18, 2010

After my husband’s computer was reinstalled a few weeks back, he noticed that one of his hard drives now had no drive icon in Explorer (instead, it was a funny shaped squarish thing), then a few days later the icon changed to a folder, then back to the squarish non-icon. I had no clue how or why it changed, but I wasn’t really concerned about it.

Until the guys at PC Guru needed to reconnect his computer to the new server… We discovered that his D and F drives (one internet and one external hard drive) had an “Access Denied” message when we tried to open them via My Computer. We set and reset the permissions and sharing options several times, rebooted the PC and the server, logged out and back in again, and generally faffed around (that’s a technical term!) trying to get rid of the message, all with no success.

Surprisingly, I found that I could still open all the folders and files on those two drives via Explorer — just not via My Computer. After trying lots of things, I left it with my PC Guru guy to see if he could find out from the other guys in the office and from Google what was going on.

Some minutes later he came back with a possible solution — and it worked! Not only could we open the D and F drives from within My Computer, but we also got the drive icons back for those drives. It seems there’s a file that ends up on a computer (possibly some sort of virus?), that doesn’t get picked up by the anti-virus software (Trend in my husband’s case) or Super AntiSpyware or MalwareBytes. The file is called autorun.inf and it appears to be more of a nuisance than anything else.

However, it’s a file that can’t be seen and can only be removed via the command prompt window.

  1. Open the command prompt window (Start > Run > cmd).
  2. Type cd\ to get back to the root of the current drive.
  3. Type attrib -r -h -s autorun.inf — if the file doesn’t exist on that drive, you will get a message saying so and can skip to Step 5. If the file does exist, you will be returned to the drive’s prompt.
  4. Type del autorun.inf to delete the file.
  5. If you have other drives, check each one. Change the directory to the drive you want to check (e.g. cd d: to check your D: drive).
  6. Repeat Steps 3, 4, and 5 until you have checked and cleaned all drives.
  7. Reboot your computer.

You can find further information here: http://en.kioskea.net/faq/4487-can-t-access-drives-folders-due-to-infection

[Link last checked October 2010]


  1. A couple points to flesh this out a little bit. autorun.inf is the kind of file they put on CDs so that they automatically bring up an install program. They’re text-only files, which means that you can open them with any text editor (Notepad, Wordpad, etc.). Use a text editor to open the autorun.inf file. At that point, you can see what it wants to do. The autorun.inf file will contain a text string that begins with open=. This is a direct pointer to the executable file that will be run whenever you access the drive via My Computer… it tricks the computer into thinking it’s a CD that you’ve inserted into the computer and that it should automatically execute the file.

    Now you know what the virus wants to do, you can make sure your virus protection software gets rid of it.

    The other pointer is make sure you check all your flash drives and external backup drives. Many viruses that install autorun.inf files will install them whenever a flash drive is inserted into your computer. However, just inserting the flash drive into the computer when you’re running windows will likely cause the autorun.inf file to do its evil deeds. The best way to get check your flash drives is to actually boot into DOS (not open a command window). Then follow steps 3 and 4 above for the flash drive (the drive letter may vary depending on what other drives you have attached to your computer).

  2. Thanks Mike! I thought autorun.inf looked familiar. Your explanation really helps.

  3. owh use your script to my computer
    and its work
    thanks your info

  4. Thanks alot it work perfectly.

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