Stopping Excel from Converting UNC Paths to Mapped Drives

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 16, 2014)


Kimani has noticed that links in his workbooks are automatically updated from UNC paths to the mapped drives of the user who opened the file. This causes problems because other users don't use the same drive mapping. If Excel didn't do the conversion, then those users would be able to use the links via the UNCs that were used when the workbook was created. Kimani wonders why Excel updates the links based on the local system drive mapping and how he can force it to use the original UNC paths.

The short answer is that there is no way to stop Excel from doing the link updating. This can be a real bother, too. Microsoft discusses the problem in the following Knowledge Base article:

The Knowledge Base article indicates that if a workbook is opened from a mapped drive, and the UNC refers to that same drive, the UNC in the link is updated to the mapped drive designation. The article doesn't provide any solution to this problem, other than the implication that the user could open the workbook using a UNC instead of a mapped drive. For most organizations this isn't a real solution.

One approach is to not allow people to change the workbook. Make it read-only and force people to save their changes at a different location. This is a viable approach if the workbook serves as a way to distribute information where changes don't need to be available to others in the organization. If others need to see the changes, however, it isn't terribly viable.

The only possible approach we've run across is to do away with the direct UNC references and use the INDIRECT worksheet function to build your references. These would not be rewritten by Excel, but it does present other drawbacks. (For instance, the target workbook must be open in order for INDIRECT to fetch the linked information.)

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (7301) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 1 + 5?

2017-04-06 11:45:56

Terry Groves

Wow, I cannot believe that it is 3 years later and this same issue still exists. The situation for me is huge as I am trying to support many workers who all need to be able to access and update a series of interlinked spreadsheets on a network drive. There is no way control how everyone maps their drives. My main spreadsheet contains more than 15,000 links to external spreadsheets. To turn these into INDIRECT() addressing would require minutes for the spreadsheet to gather the required information rather and the almost instantaneous linking using UNC addressing.

I will try to mitigate the problem by distributing shortcuts to the main spreadsheet that utilize UNC addressing but there is no way to prevent people from inadvertently opening the spreadsheet from a network share.

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