A location that is unavailable?? but it’s right there!!

I was asked to look into the error a client was receiving.  The user connected to a domain joined windows 2008 R2 server with an account that had local admin rights. Mapped a drive (M) to a file share browsed to a file and tried to copy it to the local D drive. He got the typical UAC prompts and then the following error message.


“M:\ refers to a location that is unavailable. It could be on a hard drive on this computer, or on a network. Check to make sure that the disk is properly inserted, or that you are connected to the Internet or your network, and then try again. If it still cannot be located, the information might have been moved to a different location.”



Some quick searches picked up lots of strange suggestions more than a few suggesting you just disable UAC and move on.  (Don’t do that) If you want to understand what actually happening read on, if not skip to the end….

When you logon to a system with UAC you get a split token at logon. You may have the option to elevate to admin rights but typically you are working away happily with normal user rights.

The secret here is to think of this split token almost like to separate sessions in this case, and here is the proof.

Logon and map a drive, then open a command prompt and do a “net use” to see the mapped drive.


Now at the same time run a command prompt as an administrator and do the same thing. Note Administrator in the title bar.

No mapped drive….

You start to copy a file using explorer.exe (running in your normal user process) you right-click on a file or folder in the mapped drive and select copy. (so far so good)

Now you go to a UAC protected location like the root of a drive, in this case D:\ and right-click paste. (everything still working just fine)

Now you get a UAC prompt and approve the move to the Administrator token.

The copy now tries to complete moving the file or folder you previously copied (m:\whatever.txt) but of course now that you are under the admin token M:\ doesn’t exist and the copy fails.



1) Create a folder and copy there. If it’s not UNC protected this is not an issue

2) Use a UNC instead of a mapped drive – Because this does not use a drive letter the copy does not fail.

3) Map the drive under your admin token as well and the copy will work.



I have found this issue happens even when logged on via RDP as a local administrator in this instance, but aside from that  this is a good explanation of whats going on. Regardless of the specifics you can use the above technique to see if this is causing your specific problem.

This could be an issue in a number of scenarios wherever you have a combination of UAC  and mapped drives so don’t worry too much about the OS version etc just try the test and see for yourself if you have this kind of error.