Universal Naming Convention (UNC) definition

Contributor(s): Dave Plummer

In a network, the Universal Naming Convention (UNC) is a way to identify a shared file in a computer without having to specify (or know) the storage device it is on. In Windows operating systems, Novell NetWare, and possibly other operating systems, the UNC can be used instead of the local naming system (such as the DOS naming system in Windows).

In Windows operating systems, the UNC name format is:


The share name is sometimes said to logically identify the volume or storage device that the file is on, but the idea is to free the user from having to know this. The path is zero or more folder or subfolder names (in other words, the file name may exist directly under the sharename). For example:


might specify on a server in the corporate main office a shared file (patentap.html) kept with other legal forms that members of a corporation's legal department might download and read or print and use. Printers and other devices can also be addressed using UNC.

This was first published in April 2005

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