Eric Baker

Hints & tips
Files & folders

v7.2  28 November 2019  © Eric Baker

How do I view and find the files on my computer?

This is fundamental to getting in control. Older versions of Windows looked a bit different from Win 10 but the fundamentals are the same.

File Explorer is the usual way to view files and folders. Most programs (photo viewers etc) have a similar folder view for finding and saving files. You can also create a desktop shortcut to your most used folders (photos etc).

It is very important to get comfortable with the idea of folders. In the Win10 graphic to the right you can see that I've ignored the pre-set Microsoft locations for data (Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos) because they are confusing synonyms for silly locations:

Folders bar

That has caused endless confusion over the years and it's a bad idea anyway to mix your data up with Windows and installed programs on the same drive/partition. That makes system images and data backups so much more difficult. So on our two computers all our data is on D:\ (a partition on the laptop and physically separate SSD on the PC).

You can use the mouse or the arrow, Backspace and Enter keys to navigate around your folders. Double clicking a file runs it with the appropriate application. The up arrow symbol is useful for moving to the folder at the next level up. You can also click anywhere in the folder address to go there.

Folders bar

The arrow head symbol to the left of folders (on the right) just means it has subfolders which are not shown. Click on the symbol and File Explorer shows folders at the next level.

Once you learn to navigate, create and delete folders and how to copy, rename and move files around them you will find it much easier to keep your documents and data tidy and to find what you are looking for.

If you use different Windows logins for different people then you'll only see files relating to the current login - very confusing, and fiendishly hard to back up too. I've never needed multiple logins.

Folders tree

How do I select multiple files to copy, move or delete?

To select a single file or folder just left click on it with the mouse in File Explorer. To select multiple ones click on the first then let go of the mouse, hold down the Shift key and use the keyboard arrows to highlight them. To highlight selected files hold the Ctrl key down and left click on the ones you want with the mouse.

Once the files or folders are selected you can delete, move or copy them. The Win 10 example to the right shows a few files selected.

How do I copy or move files or folders?

Do this in File Explorer, opening two copies of Explorer if that makes it easier. The quickest way is to learn the keyboard shortcuts. First select the folder(s) or file(s) to copy or move then hold down the Ctrl key. Tap C to Copy them into memory or X to delete them (and copy them into memory). Go to where you want to copy or move them to, click once Move files or folders on the right hand area in Windows Explorer and Ctrl V drops them in that place. Try it out - it's easily the quickest way.

Edit, Copy/Cut/Paste are the menu alternatives. Right click then copy, cut, paste works well too.

To use the mouse, open two copies of Explorer, one showing the origin and the other showing the destination folder, and drag a file or folder across (to the right hand area of the destination) to move it or Ctrl drag to copy it. The desktop is a valid destination for a move or copy but can make things confusing and cluttered (and doesn't tend to get backed up). If you're dragging a file or folder onto a removable device, eg a music player, it will be copied rather than moved.

How do I see how large files are?

View, Details in File Explorer shows files in a list with size etc.

File list
Select files

How do I find a file from way back?

Windows has its own indexed search facilities - just search from Explorer.

As long as all your files are indexed (which may slow the system down at times) you can find files pretty well and quickly. But somehow I don't find the inbuilt seach, which looks within files, very reliable.

Of course with music files and especially photographs this approach depends completely on the meaning of the file being in the filename. If you leave all your photos as DSC01372 or similar then how on earth can the search service know whether the content is a beach or a barbecue?

If you keep your files on a separate partition (or even disk) from your programs and operating system it all gets a lot easier, as searches stop getting spurious results from, for example, images buried deep under applications. It also makes backing up so much easier.

I swear by the wonderful, and free, Everything search tool. It doesn't scan inside files, just looks at the file names, and is blindingly fast. I've excluded my C drive from searches and you can also use all sorts of search tricks. It means that I usually make file names longewr and more meaningful nowadays and can find most things very quickly:


How to make a new folder?

Just left click in a folder in File Explorer then right click and select New Folder.

Create new folder

How to rename a file or folder?

In Explorer left click it then pause and left click it again. You can then edit it - remember that when it's high-lit you will delete the text as soon as you start typing so click once more (or use your left arrow key) to amend the existing text. Try it - it's easy. F2 is the rename shortcut if you want to show off (or do a load of renames quickly).

Files move to their new sort positions as soon as they are renamed.

Disk space pie chart

How do I find if my hard disc's full?

In File Explorer right click on the disc drive (usually C:) then choose Properties.

You can do this on other drives (eg D: or E:) as well, eg a music player or phone or memory stick you're filling up with your favourite music, videos or whatever.

How do I find out what's clogging up my disk?

In File Explorer it's very difficult. Our data drive, D:\, has 160GB of data spread over 64,000 files in 3,500 folders! How can you check out that many folders?

It's worth emptying the Recycle Bin and your browser cache.

A brilliant piece of freeware from Holland is Windirstat, which graphically pinpoints which are your lurking disk hogs. It could be just a long forgotten video clip. See below. As you hover your mouse cursor over the schematic it tells you where the big culprits are. The purple area top left is all our rock and classical CDs in mp3 format. Top right is videos and top centre is photos.