Of all the phone calls I receive about computer related issues, one of
the most common is about where files are kept or where a file recently
saved has gone.
This tutorial is aimed at helping demystify files and folders.
On computers running Windows there is a program called Windows
Explorer. Windows Explorer is invaluable in looking at what is on your
computer. If you think of your computer hard drive as a huge filing
cabinet, Windows Explorer enables you to view anything in that cabinet
and to create, move, delete, copy, rename, etc. the files and folders in
the cabinet. Read the warning below.
How to open Windows Explorer
There are several ways to open Windows Explorer. Right click 'Start'
and choose 'Explore' or click 'Start',
move your cursor up to programs and a new menu will pop up. Windows
Explorer will either be somewhere on that pop up menu, usually down the
bottom or if you move your cursor to 'Accessories' it may be in
the menu that will pop up there. Click 'My computer' or 'My Documents'
on your desktop.
Take your time
Whatever you are doing on your computer, don't rush and don't panic.
If you have left clicked 'File' at the top left of your screen, and then
'Open' or 'Save As' a box appears. If you are not sure what to do with
that box, just have a good look at it, and if you want to walk away and
think about that box, it isn't going to do anything, it will still be
there when you come back (possibly now hidden behind your screen saver).
If you decide that you don't want to do anything with that box there is
a button that you can click to get out without doing anything, 'Cancel'.
Don't get panicked into doing something that you don't want to do or are
not sure of.
Are you sure?
Windows is paranoiacs heaven, it double checks almost everything you
do, which can be intimidating.
It's that 'O my god!' moment, what do I do now?' This tutorial is
designed to help you decide what to do and take control of your
Unless you know what you are doing never delete
files from any folder other than My Documents in Windows Explorer. If
you want to remove a program from your system you must use 'Add/Remove
Programs' in Control Panel. Control Panel can be found by clicking
'Start', 'Settings' and choosing Control Panel from the Pop up menu.
Indiscriminately deleting files from your system is seriously bad for
your computers health.
Before doing any work on your computer you must have somewhere to
save your work and, more importantly, be able to find it again easily.
Simply giving a file a name and clicking 'save' certainly means that the
file is on your 'hard drive', but where?
Modern versions of Windows creates a folder called 'My Documents',
this folder is the one that should contain all your working files and
folders. It is located on your C: drive, also known as your Hard Drive.
The pictures below were all taken from Windows Explorer, if you open
Windows Explorer (see 'How to open Windows
Explorer' on the left of this page) you will be able to view
this on your own computer. Your computer will not look exactly the same
as these pictures, but the basic structure will be very similar.
My Documents is the folder in which all the work you do on your
computer should be saved, whether you are saving word processing
documents, pictures and files from the web, pictures you have created,
sound files, whatever.
In the picture above you will notice that beside 'My Computer' there
is a minus sign and beside other folders, like 'My Documents', there is
a plus sign. A plus or minus sign means that by clicking the + or - the
drive or folder will expand or contract to show or hide what is in that
drive or folder.
In the small picture above there is a plus by the folder 'aup', to
view the contents of this folder I click the plus sign by 'aup', and
another one by 'images (see below),
and another by 'working files' until I can see all the folders
in 'aup' as in the picture below.
These folders branching off 'aup' are called sub-folders. On the next
page I will show you how to create folders and sub-folders using
When you are saving a file in a program e.g..
Word or MSPaint, the little plus does not appear beside folders that
contain sub-folders, you have to double click the folders to see what is
inside. So create a folder and sub-folder system that is clear and easily