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Computer File Management for Dummies

Updated on September 26, 2014

There isn't much that irritates me more than trying to find a file on my PC and not being able to. Sometimes it’s because I didn't name it what I thought I named it. Sometimes I didn't save it as the proper file type, and sometimes…I was just too lazy to put it where it should go. Okay, so I'm human.

Everyone has their own idea of how to manage their files but if you just think of your personal computer as a file cabinet, it can get easier.

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By default, saving files to your hard drive is predefined by your operating system. Music goes one place, videos another and documents, yes, yet another. If you’re a file junkie like me, your photo file alone is enough to blow your mine when you’re looking for a particular image.

To minimize my own confusion and streamline the process of finding files, I have created a my own scheme for maintaining the files I use frequently. I’ll explain.

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For starters, I'll confess - I am a dinosaur. Well, my PC is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fast, has a monster graphics card, and more than enough memory and storage space. When I say dinosaur, I mean I’m still using Windows XP – because it works for me. It ain't broke so I ain't fixin’ it.

My concept for managing your files will work on any operating system; but it might take a little creativity on your part. For you Windows XP or older system users, this is it:

First, I create a subfolder under my root directory (C:\) and I name it with my name. Brilliant, right? Seriously, it’s called Linda’s folder.

Typical Windows OS file structure
Typical Windows OS file structure

Within that folder, I have created folders for subfolders for “Linda’s music”, “Linda’s photos, “Linda’s Resume”, “Linda’s Medical Info”, “Linda’s Legal Things”. You get it, don’t you?

But that’s not where it stops. Within each of those folders, I have subfolders. For instance, under “Linda’s Music”, I have subfolders for “Bob Marley”, “Stevie Nicks”, “Cold Play, “Maroon Five, “Journey”, “Arlo Guthrie” and hundreds of others. When I save a song, it goes in the artist file. If I save an entire CD, I create a subfolder for that CD. Easy, huh?

Now, here’s the cool part, for me anyway. I go back to that original folder that I titled “Linda’s folder” and I create a shortcut to it on my desktop. Now when I want to find a file, I can go directly to the folder from my desktop

Okay, you computer wizards, I know I only eliminated two steps:

  • Clicking on My Computer
  • Clicking on the root directory (C:\).

II know its not much but two clicks is two clicks and sometimes I’m really busy, like when I’m trying to write another hub. It’s called time management. And, not only am I saving time, but my files are organized. I know where to look now.

I’m not a computer professional so for me this was huge. Maybe it will be for someone else who needs to be better organized. Happy filing!


Confessions of the author

I'm all about telling the truth so here goes.

I am not a computer expert. What I know about computers would fit on the head of a straight pin. I don't keep up with the technology and I've never read a computer magazine. What I am is someone who is impatient and scatter-brained. As I've gotten older, I have realized that I need a lot of help organizing my life. Sadly, I must admit that I'm always looking for a faster way to do the things I hate to do. Backing up my personal files is a chore and I don['t do it nearly as often as I should. Over the years, I've suffered those damn computer crashes that resulted in the loss of everything that mattered, I swore that I would never let it happen again and still, I don't back things up with any frequency.


Getting my files organized has helped with the lack of discipline in my life. I no longer have to spend hours selecting files that I want to protect and save. With all my files under one subfolder, backups are easy. One click on the subfolder name and all my music, photos, correspondence, finances, and recipes are saved to the external hard drive. Since I have made the process so simple with this easy file management system, I'm much less reluctant to back up my files. It's a win/win for me and I hope it will help you too.l

First...Organize. Then...Backup.

All the backing up in the world won't help you find your files if you haven't planned ahead with some organized file management. So, before it's too late, get those files in order. Create a subfolder with your name then start filling your file cabinet with folders that even you will recognize.


Once you're organized, then it is tijme to decide what system you want to use for backup storage. If like me, you want to use an external hard drive, purchase one with lots of storage space. You never want to have multiple drives with multiple copies of your files on them. That is a recipe for disaster. There are also dozens of internet site that provide backup and storage services. Do your homework. Some are free and others charge a monthly fee. Consider the security you expect and make sure you choose a reputable company if you are going to store personal information. A little research could be the difference in protecting your data or getting hacked and your identty stolen.

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© 2012 Linda Crist

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  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Jen, thanks for the visit. I appreciate your time and that you would share this hub. I do hope it helps someone.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hello christin53! Thanks for stopping but. It sounds like you're probably more organized than I am. Good for you!

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Mark! I agree but it's usually because no one ever explained the value of file maintenance and organization. Thanks for reading although I know it was below your pay level. lol

  • jenbeach21 profile image

    jenbeach21 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

    Great info! Shared and voted up.

  • christin53 profile image

    Ann-Christin 4 years ago from UK

    Very good advice there is nothing more frustrating than trying to find a file on your pc especially if you are in a hurry. I'm lucky to be a very organized person so all my files are in the correct folder neatly labelled :)

  • Curiad profile image

    Mark G Weller 4 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

    Linda, these are simple tips, but great and it is amazing how many people don't do this!

    Mark

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Dana. Thank you for confirming what is common sense to me. I am an organizer that needs to know where things are. While I worked in the health care industry for 38 years, it was one of my pet peeves. Although I wasn't an IT professional, I served on many implementation committees for hardware and software changes for both PC's and mainframes. When I looked at the file structure of some computers I wanted to just hit the power button and walk away. lol Thanks for the read and the comment!

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hello midget38! Thanks for taking the time to read my little hub. I hope it's helpful to others and appreciate your nice comment and sharing too.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Mary! I'm so glad you didn't laugh at my simple little instructions. :-) I wrote it thinking about people like my parents who are in their 80's and still struggle with the basics. You have made me feel better. Thanks so much.

  • DanaTeresa profile image

    Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

    Great advice! Organization is so important. It saves a lot of time and stress! I think everyone knows that, but not everyone knows how to do it. A little help can be a godsend..... I also am big on standardized FILE NAMES. So that I can sort files certainways. Or if I forget where I put something I know what it is called and I can do a search for it (rarely happens at home but used to happen at work when I managed thousands of files)... Nice job with this.

  • midget38 profile image

    Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

    This is useful for anyone who has got tons of files and is really frustrated always looking for them. Great advice, IRC! Sharing it too!

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

    While this may seem simple to you and me there are lots of people who don't know this yet! This is definitely helpful as we all know finding files can be difficult. I have an external drive that I save everything to just in case my computer crashes.

    Voted up and very useful.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi CWanamaker! Pretty simple, huh. I'm always amazed at how many people use computers for years and never think about managing files in a more personal and structured way. I almost felt silly writing about it. I took a peek at your titles and felt better instantly. You made a great hub on "turning on a PC", another simple process that a lot of people don't understand. Go figure! I appreciate your taking the time to visit.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hello Deepak! Thanks for reading and sharing this hub. It's such a simple concept but being organized saves so much time that is better used for other things. Thanks!

  • CWanamaker profile image

    CWanamaker 4 years ago from Arizona

    This is almost exactly how I organize my files. I guess I am not the only one...

  • Deepak Chaturvedi profile image

    Deepak Chaturvedi 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

    Linda I find this hub more useful for any condition.It is because you sometime waste your time looking for your saved work.Thanks to share voted it as useful and shared too.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    lol davidivermore, you're probably right, but, I grew up on DOS, when you had to work a command language to make things happen. I told you I was a dinosaur. Macs make me feel like I've given up control. I'm a control freak, I think. lol Thanks for reading and commenting though. Always appreciated!

  • davidlivermore profile image

    David Livermore 4 years ago from Bakersfield, California, United States

    I recommend buying a Mac *chuckles* Don't really have to worry about file management much there. At least not in this way. But for windows users, it could benefit them.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    you're probably right!!!!

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Or another planet.....!! ha ha!

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Shauna, are you my sister from anothr mother? lol

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Linda, I've recently done that with my emails. I get so far behind, I've created subfolders to stash items I want to save, such as "HubPages Tutorials", "HubPages Keepers" and even "HubPages Need to Read".

    I've done the same with my Pictures Folder. I create subfolders for my Green Tips, Nature, Cats, whatever. It makes it much easier to find something when you're looking to add to a hub.

    Great advice. Organization is the key!