How to Organize Your Computer Files

Updated on June 25, 2019
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Eric loves explaining how computer software works. He wants to share his years of experience using computers with others.

Keep Your Computer Organized

We use computers often, and we most likely store many files on them, so it is important to keep everything organized. This article will go over all the ways to store and sort files to avoid potential issues.

Your Computer Has a Neat File System Set up Already

Use the File System Already There

Any modern computer is going to have a file system to work with. For Windows this your private account folder and subfolders (or directories as some nerds say) in it. On Linux, this is the home folder and the similar folders it has.

If you did nothing else than dump every picture in the pictures folder you are already heading in the right direction (I still would think that is somewhat messy, more on this later).

It Is Easy to Find Files When You Know Where They Are

Do the same for your music files and your video files. Having specific places for every file type makes things much easier to find in the future.

How to Use the Documents Folder

The documents folder is somewhat tricky as people may have different definitions of what is a document. I personally use Documents for text related files mostly. Text files, Word files, PDFs, Excel sheets are examples of some things I toss in here.

My documents folder.
My documents folder. | Source

What Computer Operating System Are You Using?

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Use Folders

Put Files in Folders

Maybe you have 1000s of pictures. You really don't want to have to sort through all this, do you? Well, there is something we can do to make this easier. Make your own folders and sort files into them!

Put Folders in Folders

Once the number of folders you make starts to grow, you are going to want to put some folders in other folders.

There Are Many Ways to Organize File Folders

There are multiple ways to do this. Just find something that works for you and stick to it. I tend to sort files by file type and sometimes by how the files are related to each other.

The Four Files Rule

I have found in the past that putting only a few files in a folder was more annoying than helpful. So, I made a rule called the four files rule I only put files in a folder if I have four of them.

Examples of How I Use Folders

  • I have a folder called HubPages pictures that I use for storing pictures I use in my writing.
  • I have a folder for pictures taken with a camera. I don't have too many of these, so they all fit nicely in a folder and subfolders.
  • I use a folder for documents I have made myself, and it is called personal documents. Inside this folder, I have other subfolders for the related things I write.

Give Your Files Meaningful Names

Why You Should Name Your Files

Give your documents and pictures meaningful names you know what they are. It will be a lot easier to find files and know what they are.

Give Pictures Names

By default, most cameras (smartphones included) just timestamp pictures. Some people may prefer to sort pictures by date, but even then, I still would take the time to name them something.

For example, cool_cat_picture.png tells me much more than a date and time does. Years later I still will know what it is as well.

Avoid Dumping All of Your Files on the Desktop

Don't Put Too Many Files on the Desktop

I know everybody uses their computer differently and you can sort files any way you want but hear me out. The desktop is not intended to be a place to put many files and documents on.

I view the desktop more as quick access place to get to the things I use often.

Keep Your Desktop Organized

Even if you want to store some files on the desktop, I recommend being somewhat choosy about it and at least use subfolders to keep things organized.

I Use the Desktop for Shortcuts

I use the desktop for shortcuts to files I use often. I often make shortcuts to specific files as this is an easy way to access them. I can also leave the files in their original locations without moving them.

I have found this is a nice way of doing things and everything is still neatly organized. If I use a certain folder often, I make a shortcut to it so I can access it frequently.

This is my desktop
This is my desktop | Source

Don't Dump Everything in the Downloads Folder

Clean Your Downloads Folder

As well use our computers we frequently download many files and documents. They often get piled up into the downloads folder.

However, if left unchecked there will be so much in here it will be hard to sort things and know what is worth keeping or not keeping.

Get Extra Hard Drive Space

Keep in mind keeping things you don't need any more are a waste of space and while computers these days have a decent amount of space there is no need to be wasteful.

I Use a Temporary Folder

If I need to keep a file for a while but I am not sure for how long I move it to a special temp folder that I have made. I mostly do this for when I take screenshots, and I need to edit the pictures but don't feel like doing it right away.

Don't Dump Everything in Recycle Bin

The Recycle Bin Is Used to Recover Deleted Files

The Recycle Bin is another place that files can pile up in. This location is so if you accidentally delete a file you need or decide you need a deleted file you can recover it.

Do Not Leave Files in the Recycle Bin Forever

So, letting some things stay in here is OK but eventually, you are going to want to clear everything out. If you are sure you no longer need something, there is no point in leaving it in here.

Don't Forget About Your Removable Memory Devices

Make sure to check your SD cards, flash drives, and external hard drives every once in a while, to make sure you still need what is on them. These are places to clean up files too. Don't forget to keep things organized here as well.

© 2018 Eric Farmer

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