How to Organize Your Computer

Look at ways you can get your computer organized
Published: Mar 13, 2006
Author: Michael E, Callahan
Related OS: Windows

This question submitted by Reginald McDonald, Ashlee Robinson, Franz Schmidt, Ann Potaski, William Emerson, and numerous others

From the moment you get a new computer it starts to accumulate things. Programs and files associated with programs. Pictures, songs, letters, documents, notes, icons, graphics - you get the idea. I've seen the problem that arises among my friends - they forget where they put things. Where is that download? Where is that picture of Mary? Where is that note to Gramma? What did I do with that cool graphic I wanted to print? You get so much stuff and that's a problem all by itself, but then you don't recall where the stuff is. That is a problem.

I'm an organized fellow and I'm very good at seeing patterns in things. Early on in my use of computers I realized it was important to know where you had things. If you can't find a thing than it's basically like you don't have it at all, right? Now, keep in mind that the advice I'm going to give is stricly my opinion. I don't know if anyone has written a definitive guide to organizing your computer, but I'm sure if they did that was their opinion too. My system works very well for me and I have lots of files. Perhaps it'll work for you as well. I hope so. Our focus here is going to be on home computers because many businesses have their own criteria.


The first thing you need to do is sit down and think about how your computer is used. You also need to think about who uses it. I also want you to think about the old saying:

"A place for everything, and everything in it's place!"

That really is the key to getting and keeping your computer organized. Think about it. Say you and your spouse have two children and all four of you use the computer. Okay, you have a My Documents folder. If all ofyou save all of your documents into that one folder, it's going to get crowded. That also means it's going to get harder to find your documents. So, create folder inside the my documents folder to deal with specific things, for example:

  • Mom
  • Dad
  • Sister
  • Brother
  • Family
  • Taxes
  • Scouts
  • And so on

Then get everyone in the family to save things into the appropriate folder. That will immediately make things easier to find because your things will be in your folder. You can put family-related things, like your plans for a vacation, in the "Family" folder. Documents for your Scout troop go in the "Scouts" folder and so on. A place for everything. Then, when you're trying to find something specific you know exactly where to look. Lets move on.


Way back, in the beginning,when I first started to download programs, I created a directory on my computer. They weren't called "folders" back then. And because you could only have 8 characters in a file or directory name, I named that folder DNLD. That was where every file I downloaded went. That was 25 years ago and every computer I've had since that time has also had a "DNLD" directory. Or DNLD folder if you prefer. Every computer on my network has one. My wife and daughters learned early on exacty where to save downloads to. Not the desktop, not the Family folder, not some random place, but in the DNLD folder! If you always save downloads to the same place you can't lose one. You'll always know where the files you've downloaded have gone. So, create a specific download folder for your family. Name it what you want -- Download, Our Downloads, Our Family Downloads, Stuff We Downloaded, but make a specific folder just for downloads. If you want, feel free to use DNLD also. Make sure everyone in the family knows where to save the things they download. Now you'll be one step closero being organized.

Program Organization

With very few exceptions, every computer I own has a similar directory (folder) structure. Why? Well, primarily because it makes everyone feel comfortable no matter what comptuer they're on. That's one of the big reasons behind the success of the fast food giants like McDonalds and Burger King and Taco Bell -- familiarity. You can go into a McDonalds in New York or one in Los Angeles and they're pretty much the same. Makes you feel at home and comfortable. It all seems very familiar. Why shouldn't your computer be the same way?

All of my data and most of my programs are on Drive D and the directory structure of every Drive D on every computer is the same. Each folder is for specific types of programs. So, a list of the folders looks like this:

  • Comm
  • Data
  • Editorial
  • Email
  • Internet
  • Tools
  • Utilities
There are some others, but these are the main ones. Having this structure makes it easy for me, and my family, to know where to install new software. Or to find software that's already installed.

The Comm (Communications) folder has every program that's used to communicate. Instant messengers like Yahoo, MSN, ICQ. My newsgroup reader, Agent by Forte. By the same token the Internet folder hold every program that I use on the Internet. My FTP program, every browser I use including Firefox, Netscape, NetCaptor, and Opera. All utility programs can be found in the Utilities folder. The Editorial folder also has multiple subfolders for all the editorial here on Tucows. So, if I'm looking for a "How To" article I've written, I know to look in the "How To" folder.

Having this uniformity on multiple computers also makes it easier to synchronize files between computers. I know that my email program on this computer is in:


And that it's in the same place on my laptops. Every "My Documents" folder has the same subfolders. And they are synchronized at regular intervals. So, if my entire computer were to crash and even my backups were destroyed virtually every file could be found on another computer on my network. Redundancy! It's as good as a backup.

Summing It Up!

Think of your computer like you would your house. If you just dropped things wherever you happened to be in your house, soon you wouldn't be able to find anything. Garbage, papers, clothes, toys, cans, bottles, milk jugs -- yeah, it would be a mess. Instead, most people have a special place for trash, a hamper for clothes, a recycling bin for bottles and cans. There's a place for everything and everything should be in its place.

Your computer should be no different. Documents go in the "My Documents" folder, but my wifes documents go in the subfolder "Carol", my pickle recipe is in "Family", my daughters massage therapy presentations are in her "Kadee" folder. If all of us just dropped our files anyplace, the computers would soon be a cluttered mess. Instead it helps to create a basic organizational structure on your computer. Just like in your house. Books go on the "bookshelf" -- software utilities go in the "Utilities" folder. Tools go in the garage -- computer tools go in a "Tools" folder.

Organizing your computer is relatively easy. Just rememember the key idea - there's a place for everything, and everything should be in its place. Look at your computer like you do your house and organize it accordingly. If you take the time to do it, you'll never be sorry and you won't spend nearly the time trying to find things.

I'd like to thank Reginald McDonald, Ashlee Robinson, Franz Schmidt, Ann Potaski, William Emerson, and numerous others for asking this question.

If you have a question on how to do something on the computer you can submit it via email by clicking HERE You will not receive a reply, but all topics will be considered.

About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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