Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
The Windows file system can be complicated, with folders scattered all over the place and even buried deep under other, hidden folders. If you need quick access to a variety of folders scattered across your file system — or you just want easier access to one or two folders you frequently use — there are a variety of ways you can bookmark these folders and make them more easily accessible.
Windows is packed with many different ways to do this, and that’s without even counting third-party applications that offer their own ways to quickly access files. Whether you’re using Windows 7 or Windows 8, these tips will give you quicker access to your most frequently used folders.
The easiest way to bookmark a folder is by using the Favorites section in Windows Explorer — named File Explorer in Windows 8. Locate the folder you want to bookmark, then drag and drop it to the Favorites section. You can rearrange your favorites by dragging and dropping them or right-click a favorite and select Remove to remove it from the list.
The Favorites section starts to become inconvenient if you want to keep track of a large number of folders, as you can’t create subfolders to organize the list.
The libraries feature in Windows 7 and 8 allows you to combine multiple folders into a single view. You can add new folders to the default libraries or create your own custom libraries containing as many folders as you like. This can be a good way to organize related folders in a single place.
Read our guide to getting started with Windows libraries for more information.
Taskbar Jump List
The jump list feature in Windows 7 and 8 allows you to “pin” recently used documents to your application’s taskbar icons. To pin a folder, drag and drop it to the Windows Explorer icon on your taskbar. You can also right-click the Windows Explorer shortcut on your taskbar, hover over a recently used folder, and click the pin icon to pin that folder.
When you want to access a pinned folder in the future, just right-click the Windows Explorer icon on your taskbar and select the folder you want to access. This works whether Windows Explorer is open or not.
Start Menu or Start Screen
For easy access to a folder, you could pin it to your Start menu on Windows 7 or Start screen on Windows 8. It will appear in the list of shortcuts or tiles just as a Windows desktop application would.
To pin a folder to your Start menu on Windows 7, drag and drop it from the Windows Explorer window to the Start button in the bottom-left corner of your taskbar.
To pin a folder to your Start screen on Windows 8, right-click the folder in a File Explorer window and select Pin to Start.
You could also keep track of your important folders by creating shortcuts to them. For example, if you use Pidgin as your instant messenger, your Pidgin chat log folder is located at C:\Users\NAME\AppData\Roaming\.purple\logs. It’s very inconvenient to access this folder. If you want to frequently access your log folder, you could create a shortcut that takes you there.
Just right-click the folder you want to create a shortcut of and select Create Shortcut. You can move your shortcut to another folder and even rename it, if you like. Double-clicking the shortcut will take you to the folder associated with the shortcut.
This can be useful if you just need easier access to a folder or two — you could create shortcuts and dump them in your user folder so they’d be easily accessible along with your documents, downloads, and other standard folders.
If you have more folders, you could create a hierarchical structure for all your shortcuts. In other words, you could have a Shortcuts folder containing subfolders for Development, Communications, Games and other categories of folders. You could place the shortcuts inside of those folders.
You may want to place shortcuts to your frequently used folders on your taskbar, but this doesn’t work on Windows 7 or 8 by default. Dragging a folder to the taskbar will just pin it to your Windows Explorer jump list.
However, Windows 7 and 8 still let you add special “toolbars” to your taskbar. These will work like the old quick launch bar, which was enabled by default on Windows XP. Just right-click your taskbar, point to Toolbars, select New Toolbar, and then create a new folder to hold your shortcuts.
The toolbar on your taskbar will display the contents of the folder you choose, so all you have to do is create shortcuts to the folder — as we explained above — and place them in this folder. You can also re-enable the old quick launch bar, but this isn’t necessary.
Change the Default Folder
While you can’t pin additional folder shortcuts to the standard taskbar, you can change the default folder that appears when you open your file manager. Just right-click the Windows Explorer icon on your taskbar, right-click the Windows Explorer option in the list (File Explorer on Windows 8), and select Properties.
On the Shortcut tab, add the path of the default folder you want to use to the end of the Target box. For example, if your user account’s name is Chris and you want to open your Downloads folder every time you open Windows Explorer from your taskbar, you’d use the following line:
If the path you want to use has a space, you’ll need to enclose the entire path in quotation marks. For example, if you wanted your Program Files folder to open every time you opened Windows Explorer, you’d use the following line instead:
%windir%\explorer.exe “C:\Program Files”
Third-Party File Managers
Some third-party file managers have bookmarks menus that work just like the ones in your browser. They allow you to bookmark many folders and arrange them into different categories, or subfolders.
Comedy Option: Bookmark in Your Browser
If you’re like most people, you probably spend most of your computer time in a browser. You could actually bookmark your favorite folders directly in your browser, so they’d be accessible from your browser toolbar — you could even store shortcuts to your folders in your bookmark folders along with your bookmarked websites.
To start browsing your C: drive, type file:///c:/ into Chrome or Firefox’s address bar and press Enter. You’ll see a special view where you can browse your file system. You can’t do much with this by default — just view your files in your browser.
However, if you install the IE Tab extension for your browser, you can actually get a Windows Explorer view in a browser tab and manage your files without leaving your browser. With IE Tab, this becomes a fairly practical option.
How do you keep track of all your favorite folders and quickly access them? Leave a comment with any other tricks you have!
Image Credit: Star via Shutterstock