A CDE Definition
Win Folder organization
All the software and data in a computer are stored on internal storage (hard disk, SSD) as "files," and files are organized into "folders" in a hierarchical structure. A folder simulates an ever-expanding paper folder in a file drawer, and the route to a file is called the "path." The folder hierarchy is visually navigated with the Explorer file manager that comes with Windows. To launch Explorer, right click the Start menu and select File Explorer, Open Windows Explorer or Explore, depending on the Windows version. See Win Explorer.
The Hard Drive Is Local Disk C:
The "C:" is a legacy designation. The first personal computers had two floppy drives labeled A: and B:. Thus, when the hard drive was added, C: was the next letter. Additional data and programs may be stored on external hard or solid state drives that are connected when needed, and they become drives D:, E:, etc.
Windows comes with predefined folders, and applications default to saving data in Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos (WinXP and 7 have a "My" prefix (My Documents, My Music, etc.). However, the exact location of these folders changes with each version of Windows.
Notice the folder hierarchy in the example below. The white, right facing triangles indicate that there are subfolders in the folder, and clicking the triangle makes the next subfolder level visible. When the subfolders are displayed, the triangle turns dark and faces downward.
Windows 7 and 8 Hierarchy
Windows XP Hierarchy
The Explorer file manager is used to view files as well as create, copy, move and delete files and folders. Also called "Windows Explorer" and "File Explorer," it displays the folder hierarchy in the left windowpane of all the internal drives and any connected external drives. To learn more about how files are organized, see Win Folder organization.
When you click on a folder in the left Explorer window, its content appears in the right window.
You can launch two or more instances of Explorer and drag and drop between them, although you can use Cut, Copy and Paste with only one instance of Explorer (see Win Copy/move files/folders). Following are the basic Explorer operations:
Right click the Start menu, and select File Explorer, Open Windows Explorer or Explore, depending on Windows version.
DISPLAY CONTENTS OF A FOLDER
Click the folder in the left windowpane, and its contents are displayed in the right windowpane.
OPEN FOLDER IN A NEW WINDOW
To open a folder into a new window, right click the folder in the left windowpane and select Open in New Window (Win7, 8.1 and 10) or Open (XP).
DISPLAY NAMES OF SUBFOLDERS ("Expand the Tree")
A greater-than sign (Win10) or right-facing triangle (Win7 and 8.1) or a + sign in XP to the left of the folder means that the folder contains subfolders (other folders inside). Click the triangle or + sign to reveal the subfolders beneath, and the triangle becomes dark and points downward, or the + sign changes to a - sign.
DISPLAY CONTENTS OF A SUBFOLDER
Click once on the subfolder icon in the left window, or double click on the subfolder icon in the right side.
An Explorer Window
In the left window, click the drive or folder icon in which the new folder will be placed and select File/New/Folder. The new folder will be created at the bottom of the right window.
DELETE FILE OR FOLDER
Right click the file or folder icon and select Delete.
RENAME FILE OR FOLDER
Right click the file or folder icon and select Rename.
Click the drive icon of the drive you want to change to.
COPY AND MOVE FILES AND FOLDERS
There are several ways to copy and move files and folders with Explorer. See Win Copy/move files/folders.
SELECT MULTIPLE FILES THAT ARE NOT IN ORDER
To select several icons that are not next to each other, hold the Ctrl key down and click the icons one at a time.
SELECT CONTIGUOUS FILES
To select several icons that are contiguous, click the first one and then hold the Shift key down and click the last one. You can also lasso them by clicking to the right of the file name on top or bottom and dragging to the diagonal corner. See Win Highlighting items for more detail.
Before/After Your Search Term
Terms By Topic
Click any of the following categories for a list of fundamental terms.