How To: Access your Zune hard drive in Windows Explorer

The Microsoft Zune portable media player contains a miniature hard drive that is used to store your music files, videos and pictures. Unlike most other portable media players, iPods, MP4 players and the like, the Zune does not appear as an external hard drive in My Computer. You cannot copy files to and from it using Windows Explorer. You have to use the somewhat clunky Zune software to add and remove files.

This article describes how you can make your Zune portable media player appear to your computer as a portable hard drive so that you can access it using Windows Explorer. However, due to the way the Zune has been designed, there are some limitations to Explorer access that cannot be overcome.

Note regarding Zune 2

Zune version 2 has been released and according to several reports the registry hacks described on various websites and used by this utility do not work with this version. It would not be surprising if this was a deliberate action on the part of Microsoft. The author of this article no longer has a Zune so it is unlikely that the utility will be updated even if a solution becomes available.

Zune software controls access

Microsoft included a way to allow the Zune's hard drive to be accessed using Windows Explorer, but by default it is turned off. There is a good reason for this. Allowing songs, videos and pictures to be added to the player only using the Zune software means that after adding new files, the player is ready for immediate use. The internal database of what's on the player gets updated as files are added and removed. Other players that do allow direct access to the hard drive take time to start up, as they have to scan the drive to see what content has been added or removed before allowing the device to be used.

Even though you can enable Explorer access so that you can view the files on the Zune's hard drive using Windows Explorer, you cannot add or remove files unless the Zune software is running on the computer. You cannot copy files to the Zune at all using Windows Explorer. If you try, you'll see an error message. The only way to add songs, pictures and videos is through the synchronization function of the Zune software. This means that you cannot add or remove content using a computer on which the Zune software has not been installed.

You won't see all of the files on your Zune hard drive, either. You'll only see what Microsoft wants you to see. The Zune hard drive is partitioned into two, with one partition holding the system software or operating system. You won't see those files at all.

Although your Zune will appear in Windows Explorer looking like a removable hard drive, you can't access it as a normal hard drive. It won't have a drive letter, so you can't access it directly from other software. And it doesn't behave like a real hard drive, so you can't use data recovery utilities like Music Recovery to restore songs that you have lost or accidentally deleted.

Zune Explorer Enabler

If you still want to enable Explorer access to your Zune hard drive, despite these limitations, then it's easy to do. The method described on most sites involves making changes to your computer's Registry, a complicated and risky process unless you are a computer expert. However, you can download a free utility Zune Explorer Enabler (ZEE) which will make these registry changes for you, and allow you to undo them equally easily, making enabling Explorer access to your Zune hard drive a risk-free process.

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Download Zune Explorer Enabler, then run the downloaded file to install it. You should find a ZEE icon created on your desktop. Run the program, and you will see a window like this:


If the Zune software has not been installed on the computer then the utility will tell you so, and the big button will be disabled. If the registry entries that show Zune has been installed are detected, then Zune Explorer Enabler will check whether Explorer access has been enabled. The current state will be shown in the status bar.

Explorer access

To enable Explorer access to your Zune, click Enable Zune Explorer access, close ZEE and restart the computer. Then open My Computer and you should see your Zune appear under Other devices like this:


(The Zune device in the screenshot is called Betelgeuse.) Double-click this icon to open the device. You will then be able to see the files and folders containing your music files, photos and videos.


Zune Explorer Enabler only changes settings in the registry. Access to your Zune files is enabled by Windows and the Zune software itself. Any problems accessing are not the fault of ZEE, but are inherent within Windows and the Zune software, due to the fact that this is an unofficial registry modification. Tech-Pro Limited cannot provide support for this modification, and accepts no responsibility for any loss or damage to files, or to the Zune player itself, that might occur as a result of your use of this software.