Creating Order From Chaos: 9 Great Ideas for Managing Your Computer Files

Aaron Couch 18-03-2018

It’s frustrating when you can’t find that file, isn’t it? When you’ve searched every folder imaginable on your computer, and somehow it got lost….or worse, deleted. Now, there are excellent search tools for Windows 6 Awesome Alternatives to Windows Search Does a Windows system search take you longer to find things than a manual search? You're not alone. Let us show you more efficient Windows search tools. Read More that allow you to find your files, but they only work if you know the name of the file. And you don’t want to open up a program to find every file and folder that you need. It’s just nice to have things neat and easy to access whenever you need them.


I’ve put together a list of 9 things you can do to manage computer files and get the most out of your computer. Because that’s its purpose – to be more useful, not less useful. But computers are often more complicated in some ways when they’re not set up and used properly, which is essentially counterproductive.

Start Now — Don’t Put It Off

“This sounds complicated. I’ll do it later”. Don’t let that thought creep in, or you may as well not read the rest of this article. This is more of a “no excuses” tip than a technical idea, but like a lot of things, very little skill is needed to actually be organized and efficient. The biggest resource is time, but even that isn’t required. Instead of telling yourself “I’ll get to this later“, just quickly do it right there and then.

Of course, priorities are always important to keep in mind and this isn’t a time management article. However, it’s surprising how little effort it really takes just to start the process. The greatest resource it takes is just an overall consciousness to put this file or folder in the right place.

Ask yourself this – would you just throw a bunch of files or folders all over your desk at work or home? What about all over your living room, floor, bed, closet… need I continue? The answer is hopefully you wouldn’t. Your computer can be compared to your house. Not just your office or workspace — we do everything on our computers now so it’s important that everything is kept clean, just like your house.

Use Folders… Please!

Let me tell you about a man and his flash drive. He plugged it into my computer once and it didn’t have any folders, just files… lots of files. I’ve already explained why you should organize your files, so I’m pretty sure it’s clear why you need folders. But in case it isn’t, folders are the backbone of organization, but even if you have folders, you can still be very unorganized.


A folder that’s not properly labeled or is in the wrong place is just as bad, if not worse, than files all over your computer without a home (folder).

One Place for Everything

Don’t mistake this with for putting all your files in one folder… or even all your folders in one folder… or worse, the desktop. But you do need a place where you know that you can access your files and folders there. The My Documents folder is the logical and perfect place for this — but again, this isn’t a place for stuffing all your files, this is a home for your folders, which contain your files. Think of it in the sense that you wouldn’t put your folders in the yard, nor would you put your filing cabinet in the yard… you put both of them in the house. Your My Documents folder is your “house” of sorts.

Organize by Category

One way to organize your folders and files is by category, or type. For instance, let’s say you have documents for school, work, personal and professional (separate from work), as well as music, photos and movies. Obviously music, photos, videos and documents should all be kept separate, but organizing goes a step further. For example, you should also organize the types of documents that you have. There’s a couple ways to do this.

You could organize by file type, which I don’t recommend very much. Sure it’s better, but it’s not ideal. It’s mostly used for mass-organizing and “quick fixing” although there’s not much “fix” involved. This method could mostly be helpful if you’re going through things you no longer need at the moment and/or don’t care to get too detailed. It does have its place, and I have some files which I’ve organized this way, but it always leaves you knowing that you need to organize “those files”. For this reason, it’s not a method that I highly recommend — there are better ways.


managing computer files

You could also organize by what category the file is most relevant to. For instance, a school document should go into a school folder.

managing computer files folders

Organize by Date

Organizing by date is also helpful, but shouldn’t be used solely by itself. The reason being, if you ever perform a search for a file, you might find it in a folder labeled “04-11-2006”. If that’s all you have to go by, you will likely have to open the folder to look at its contents to see what is in it. It can get worse if you file all files this way and have all kinds of types intermingled with each other. Again, this isn’t very organized and perhaps worse than nothing at all.


If you feel adding a date is necessary (which I’ll often do for time sensitive files or files which are updated often, such as a resume), add a description with the date at the end or beginning, depending on your preference.

Don’t Overdo the Subfolders

Subfolders are a necessity to organizing files. It’s one of the great perks that a computer has over traditional filing cabinets. An example of a good use of subfolders would be having your Work folder in My Documents, a Projects folder in the Work folder, “[Name of Project and Date] folder” in the Projects folder, and so on (if additional folders are needed).

managing computer files folders

However, be conscious of the number of folders within folders that you have because it can be a daunting task opening folder after folder looking for your files. If there are files that you know you need to quickly access, try to keep them only a folder or two away. Part of this has to do with the system that you are creating, have created or are just the most comfortable with, but it also must do with practicality and ease of access.


Naming Files and Folders: Short, But Precise

Another thing that is important to consider when you’re organizing your files is to be as brief as possible, but also as detailed as possible. For many cases, you might be the only one using the folders or files, but if you do decide to share something with someone, either on a personal or professional basis, you want it to be clear to them, as well as to you. You don’t want to have to think about what you were trying to describe in a folder title. Don’t name a folder “school stuff” name it “School” — notice the emphasis on capitalizing things, which also makes things look nicer.

Then under your school folder you can organize things by school (if there’s more than one). If you don’t have more than one school which you’ve attended you might name your folder “School: [Name of School].” If you want to abbreviate your school’s initials, that should be fine as you’ll likely know what they mean. However, be careful to not go overboard with abbreviations. Although they can be handy in keeping names short, the most important thing is that you understand what is in that file or folder.

Access Folders and Files Quickly

Like I was mentioning previously about make sure your files aren’t hidden deep in the Subfolder Forest, there are other things you can do to make your files easily accessible. Besides the obvious of being able to find a file quickly, it also plays a huge role in maintaining your file management status. In other words, it’s essential that you can quickly and easily save a new file to its correct spot on your computer.

Change Your View

In Windows Explorer there are numerous ways to view files. Along with viewing files in various icon sizes, there’s also a preview pane to see what the file looks like before opening it. You’re also able to sort your files by date, name, etc. This doesn’t directly correlate with managing files per say, but it allows for an overall better experience. What we’re aiming for is less work and more efficiency and how you view your files can do just that.

managing computer files folders

Another feature within Windows Explorer is the ability to add a folder to “Favorites.” If it’s a folder you access a lot, but isn’t a part of the set folders that Windows has dubbed your “favorite,” you can drag and drop folders into that section. Be careful not to drag the folder into another folder already in the favorites.

To ensure you actually have the folder in the Favorites section, look for the black solid line and a message saying “Create link in favorites.

organizing computer files

Jump Lists

Windows 7 has an awesome feature called “Jump Lists” which allows you to pin folders to the Windows Explorer pop-up icon near the Start button on the Taskbar. You can access this by right clicking and then choosing which folder to open. To add a new folder, simply grab it and drag and drop it onto the Windows Explorer icon in the Taskbar. Then you can move the folders around in any way you’d like.

organizing computer files

Organize Desktop Folders With Fences

In a previous article of mine, Clean Up Your Windows Desktop Once And For All How to Clean Up Your Windows Desktop Once and For All Do you look at your Windows desktop and wonder how to clean it up? Here are some decluttering tips that can make you productive. Read More , I mentioned both Jump Lists and Fences. Fences is an excellent program for organizing the folders that you do have on your desktop. I highly recommend checking out that article for a detailed glance into cleaning up your desktop too (which in many ways is managing your files, but in a different way). Although, I don’t like too many icons and shortcuts on my desktop, Fences provides a nice way to switch from icons to no icons with a simple double click.

Again, I only recommend having the essential folders on your desktop. If you access your folder with your resumes in it often, then go ahead and add it to your desktop and use Fences to hide the icons when you don’t need them. But in many ways, these folders could also be added to your Jump List and accessed with the same amount of time, clicks and effort.

With either of these options, you must be aware of what you are adding to make sure you don’t add too much and that you remove what you’re no longer using. Otherwise you’ll run into the same problem that you’re trying to fix right now — disordered chaos.

Creating Order From Chaos: 9 Great Ideas for Managing Your Computer Files Fences on desktop

Archive What You Don’t or Won’t Need

First, we must look at the term “archive“. It is not deleting files – you rarely want to do that (depending on the file). It is storing folders containing files in a designated folder titled “Archive” or “Old files”. Notice I said “folders containing files” as you don’t just want to throw a bunch of outdated files into a folder and call it good. That is just adding to the mess that you already have.

Now where should this folder go? Well, you probably don’t want it mingled with your other files, but that is entirely up to you. Personally I recommend still having it in the My Documents folder to keep things easy to remember and consistent. With a name like “Archive” it’ll likely be near the top of whatever folder you decide to put it in. To change this, you can add a “z” and a period to the beginning of the name, so the folder could look something like “z.Archive“. This will put it at the bottom of the list so you won’t have to worry about it being in the way all the time.

Remove & Refrain From Creating Duplicates

How duplicates get created often remains a mystery. Sometimes it’s by accidentally copying files to another location. Thankfully, there’s a free program that can help with removing duplicates of any kind from your computer. I’ve long used Duplicate Cleaner and highly recommend it. It gets recent updates, has an easy-to-use interface and just works.

organizing computer files

Don’t Make Copies, Make Shortcuts

To prevent future copies of files, it’s important to make shortcuts of files and folders, not copies. The difference between the two is that a copy is an exact replica of the first file or folder, whereas a shortcut simply leads to the file in the original location. Aside from not aiding in clutter as much, shortcuts also take up less space.

To make a shortcut, right click on the folder or file and click “Create Shortcut“. This will create a shortcut within that same location that the file is in. You can then take that shortcut, move it to whatever location you want and even rename it if you so desire. To create a shortcut of something on the desktop, right click and hover over “Send To” then click “Desktop“.

Prevent Clutter With Cloud-Based Note & Document Applications

There are things that you want to save, but it seems tedious to make an office document or text file and save it in a folder on your computer. Soon enough that folder becomes chock-full of all sorts of note-like documents and it becomes overwhelming to even look for a particular note. For this reason, cloud-based applications are consistently growing in popularity and there are many to choose from.

The ones I personally use extensively are Evernote and Google Docs.

Creating Order From Chaos: 9 Great Ideas for Managing Your Computer Files Evernote Example

The reason I feel that Evernote succeeds is primarily because of its local application. You don’t need a web browser to use it, but yet you can access your files in the cloud. I prefer Google Docs because it’s what I’ve developed my system around.

If you’re just starting (or still haven’t got settled in one or two programs, I recommend considering these four as well as any other similar apps and seeing which ones fit you best).

Creating Order From Chaos: 9 Great Ideas for Managing Your Computer Files Google Docs Example

The reason I recommend using these applications over the traditional way of creating a document in Microsoft Word or another office alternative is because it allows you to organize, search and create your notes very easily. There is a plethora of articles on MakeUseOf, as well as the rest of the Internet, which show how to do that. Just as the title of this section implies, it keeps the clutter down on your computer.

Sync Your Local Files to the Cloud

Syncing your local files to the cloud is different from creating notes and documents in the cloud. This is one of the last steps as it is important that you understand all the previous steps first. If you don’t, syncing more files to the cloud can actually aid in the chaotic mess of files and folders. There are a lot of options in this area, but the big players are SugarSync, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive. Those are my personal favorites and I use them all, but there are so many others like Mozy, iDrive, and so on.

managing computer files

I highly recommend SugarSync for an overall backup of your computers folders to the cloud. For individual files, Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive work very similarly. Whether you are a Google Docs fan or a Microsoft Web Apps fan may determine whether you use Google Drive or SkyDrive. Both are head to head and if you haven’t tried both, I recommend you do.

I like Dropbox for sharing files and SugarSync for backing up and accessing all of my documents on another Internet-connected device. I’ve set up SkyDrive to back up a lot of my other files on my computer and I use Google Drive to organize and add files to Docs without a web browser.

Stay Consistent & Prompt

This is one of the most important things to do. Once you start the process, you must continue it diligently otherwise it’s all for nothing and you will end up with a semi-organized-file-system. That’s not only non-productive, but it also reminds you that you never finished.

The key to this is to be prompt. The moment you need to save or create a file, you put it in the right spot and if there isn’t a spot for it yet, create one. Whether you do this in the cloud or locally, you need to remember all of the previous tips such as being brief, but detailed, refraining from making duplicates, and paying attention to folder hierarchy by organizing what makes sense, but not overdoing it by adding too many folders.

Start Organizing Your Files Right Now!

Remember the most important thing is to simply start. Don’t wait until you “have more time” – you’ll never have more time. Although right now may not be the best time to do a complete overhaul of all your files, you can still start making some folders and slowing start adding your new files that you save on your computer, whether they’re from downloading or creating. Time will allow you to then expand and focus more on your other files and getting them in order.

And if you need help with managing your files on Android Managing Files on Android: 7 Essential Tips You Need to Know Learn how to manage your files on Android with skill thanks to this comprehensive guide. Read More or want to know how to use iOS files app How to Use iOS 11's New Files App on iPhone and iPad iOS has a new new Files app that finally lets you manage your files on the iPhone and iPad, and in true Apple style it's done without exposing any kind of system functionality. Read More , we’re here to help you out!

Image Credit: A file cabinet drawer full of files and folders via Shutterstock

Related topics: File Management, Organization Software.

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  1. Nerd
    July 30, 2019 at 5:57 am

    The free version of Duplicate Cleaner is crippled, with all the great functions being made available only in the paid version.

    Great (subtle) plug for a fellow UK software publisher, though. Even if you didn't promote via your affiliate link. Sneaky. And cheeky!

    Anyway, I trawled up this article in Google-Search's "net" while searching for ways to organise installed programmes on my computer. I'm an indecisive techie aficionado hoarder unable to choose the 'right' (software) tool, so must try out all of them. Leading to multiple proggies installed for similar functions.

    Your article was of no help to me.

  2. Tom
    September 25, 2018 at 12:58 am

    Thanks a ton! Great tips that I thought I was too busy to read about :)

  3. Tracy Stevens
    September 20, 2017 at 4:45 am

    You tried to blur out the folder name , but you forgot about the sidebar. Haha! "Letters to Amanda". Great tips. Thanks!

  4. Mojtabaa
    June 4, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    I recommend you to create your main folders based on your common needs and references.
    That works for me fine.

  5. Cool Guy
    May 17, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Nice, 11/10

  6. Tilman
    March 19, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    I highly recommend PersonalBrain! Much better than any folder structure. I've been using it for years to organize not only all my files but also any content that can be stored electronically (emails, notes, etc).

  7. Anonymous
    July 12, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    But... at the end, the best would to not have folders right? :-P...

    • Anonymous
      July 12, 2015 at 11:32 pm

      I mean, metadata instead of folders.... folders as a unique way of organizing files is a mess...

  8. Anonymous
    July 5, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    I am currently cleaning up in anticipation of windows 10. I am at a loss however as to how to organize my files.
    I use both GDrive and Onedrive where I want to use GDrive mainly for documents (I like google write better than MS Word) as it integrates well with GMail. But I want to use Onedrive for projects.
    Problem is, I like to keep all project files together in one project-folder (with sensible subfolders). But this means my project related documents will be stored elsewhere. Truth be told I have a love-hate relationship with cloud storage. It has benefits but it also has some major redundancy problems. I upload pictures to both Google Pictures and Onedrive. And if I want to maintain a sensible folderstructure for projects I now also have to make either synced folders between Onedrive and GDrive or use hardlinks. Also, some projects contain enourmous files (video's) which I do not want to eat up my storage space.
    Anyone have any tips as how to organize projects using multiple cloud storage and offline folders?

  9. chandra
    April 18, 2015 at 8:03 am

    create an empty main folder and subfolder structure with permanent naming convention for required categories. This main folder needs to be copied to any new media as a first step, before copying files into it.

    • wilna
      April 22, 2015 at 8:14 pm

      Great tip tanx

  10. chandra
    April 18, 2015 at 7:59 am

    Excellent topic and needs some hard research. Most categories for folders will be common in life whether young or old and can be incorporated in OS design itself. Certificates, soft copies get created a million copies which need to be updated in one place like google docs. file organization is bewildering to say the least. There are different folders sets in different PCs we use. There are different folders in the email boxes. Then there are different USB, HDD storage media within which there are there own folder sets. There needs to be a program to copy the folder structure and keep it common across all media. It become easy to merge all of them into a HDD later.

  11. aphelix
    February 24, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    If you need to copy, delete or rename long files and folders you can use Long Path Tool.

  12. Tom Latch
    January 3, 2015 at 1:49 am

    Right ok.

    I was just wondering really when to use the underscore (_) and date (YYYMMDD) when naming files. I wouldnt have thought there would be any need to use both (_) and (YYYMMDD) on main folders, only documents.

    Thanks for the reply.

    • wilna
      April 22, 2015 at 8:12 pm

      Did you manage to create a filing system for the business?

  13. Tom Latch
    January 3, 2015 at 12:14 am

    Iv been working in a sign company for about a year now and realise that my file organisation is awful. I appreciate your tips and have been looking at others online. I am still abit confused when to use (YYYYMMDD) and also (_) methods when naming files. I also do the design work in the company. Therefor looking for customers work is important hense the reason for changing my organising method. I understand the (_) is used instead of spaces but is the (_) only used for Docs such as text, design, images and not the folder names themselves? Also I know it would make it easier to find work using (YYYYMMDD) but would this mean I would have to include a year_month_day code for all of my files? Apart from the customers name/ Job or folder/ sub folder?

    Thanks in advance :)

    • Aaron Couch
      January 3, 2015 at 1:15 am

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for your comment! To clarify, I am assuming that your are referring to Mister.Tech.E's method of naming files? I didn't mention using a "_" in my article, but I definitely agree with Mister.Tech.E that it's a great way to name files.

      If you were trying to ask him these questions, he likely won't see your comment since you didn't reply directly to his. However, I think the idea is that you would use this on all files. There's really no need to use the underscore "_" in folders, since spaces can be used. I think that's merely a stylistic preference and won't inhibit productivity one way or another.

      One tip that I will recommend that wasn't included (because this article isn't up-to-date with Windows 8) is simply changing the view of a folder to find files. You can do this by going to "View" -> "Current View" -> "Group by". Here you'll be able to change the order of folders/files to alphabetic, date, etc. It's something I've been doing lately and has helped me quite a bit in finding a folder that I can't remember the name of, but know when it was made (or vice versa).

      I also don't quite follow your very last question "Apart from the customer's name/ Job or folder/sub folder". Can you clarify?

      Let me know if these tips helped and if you have any further questions.

      Thanks for reading!

  14. Evan Mitchell Stark PhD
    January 1, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Great article.

    The bane of my existence is usings dupes instead of aliases. Great point, now if I could only put into habit. However, there's another point that may be relevant.

    For task management, obliquely related, some of the gorgeous GTD managers take more time to setup the tasks than to do them. I recommend web-based Trello—a list of lists. Note: I have no association whatsoever with whoever makes it.

    • Aaron Couch
      January 2, 2015 at 2:05 am


      Great recommendation on Trello. And you're right – so many to-do apps take a lot more time to set up and use than the task themselves.

      We actually highly recommend Trello here at MakeUseOf.

      Thanks for your input!

  15. Aimee Babcock-Ellis
    January 13, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    Great read. I will try these things.

  16. Shahbaz Amin
    December 4, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Good detailed article, I will try to follow it and hopefully it'll save me some time in future. Thanks!

  17. Richard Kirov
    October 3, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Great article and some quite useful tips (in the spirit of makeUSEOF :) )
    I know this is totally offtopic, but I wanted to ask which us the best way to organize my pdf collection(with Mac). I know iTunes is an option, but it's not ideal one, at least for me.

  18. Mister.Tech.E
    September 6, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Thanks for the well written, articulated excellent article! I will pass this along to my friends. A similar system is employed by me and my family for the past decade. As we move away from paper documents and more towards have an digital copy of documents (we have already) it is critical to have some sense how file organization.

    About ten years ago to minimize the clutter on my computer I came up with a standardized way of organizing files on my computer (similar to the one described in your article); later on the server as I started to accumulate abundant of documents (personal, work and business), media that includes photos, home videos, etc. were being generated by me and my wife along with multiple laptops being introduced in my household. Having those files in a central location, a dedicated computer used as a server, if you will, to house them all. That made backing up less of a hassle.

    On the desktop used as "server" a folder is created for each household member then shared out. Other folders such as Photos, Music, Movies, etc. were also created then shared. On each laptop/computer on my home network, the "My Documents" folder is linked to the server and then setup to synchronize, using Windows synchronize. That way Documents are available when off the network. I digress!

    No back to how I organize data. Documents are stored using a combination of descriptive file names stored in folders I designate. Sub-folders are used sparingly. Example: for a business letter I generate, I'll call the file

    "Business Letter_YYYYMMDD_[purpose of letter].doc"

    stored in the folder called "Business." That way when I'm searching for a letter, I'm able to locate it with ease. The files are also sorted properly. This works well when performing a search and the results don't necessarily tell you the folder its from (this is from the Windows XP days--I now use Windows 7; it's search function is far superior than its predecessor.)

    Over the years, I accumulated hundreds of gigs of photos, music and movies. Each type are stored in their respective folders, e.g. "Photos", "Audio" and "Movies."

    Downloaded photos from smartphones, digital cameras, etc. are dumped in folder called "2b Processed" then batch renamed using
    "YYYYMMDD_[time photo taken]_event"
    Example: 20120331_103506_Mats Birthday.jpg -- note the time 103506 is 10:35:06.

    Movies are stored in the movie title subfolders so that they can be properly tagged using a movie Media Center or MyMovies DB.

    Like you, I employ Google Docs and Evernote for general note-taking. For more elaborate and permanent notes, I use MS OneNote. I treat notebooks and sections in OneNote similarly to my folder structure. It's not feasible to sync all of my files (they're in excess of 2TB) to the cloud, so I don't do it. It will way too long to upload ;-).

    I typically don't delete documents but archive documents no longer in use using 7Zip (similar to WinZip).

    I understand that this kind of setup is not typical for a general user, but I find that it works great.

  19. Christine Hicks
    September 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Good Jhon starting fresh every year with a new folder is helpful and streamlines the search or sync process. The only other piece of advice I can offer that I do is not only make sure your folders are named "logically for you" but also your file names are descriptive enough so when you are looking for something it is easily recognizable. Pictures are good example...those camera assigned names "0123254123.jpg" won't mean a thing 30-days or 6 months down the road. Food for thought...

  20. Benjamin Glass
    August 24, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Good article. Mine are already organized, though.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 2:01 am


      That is exactly what I'm wanting to hear! The comments like this the better! It means us writers are doing our job to help others.

      Thanks for reading!

  21. xbalesx
    August 24, 2012 at 5:39 am

    I am always in need of organizational tips and tricks...from tech and computer insights to everyday business tips, any and all are welcomed.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 2:00 am

      Hopefully these were of some use then! Thanks for reading!

  22. Ellen Odza
    August 23, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Very useful - thanks! I have a "User" folder on my C drive that holds most of my folders and files. After that, the folders are organized by subject.

    My desktop is very organized with shortcuts grouped together by topic - all shortcuts to applications (word, WP, excel, SPSS, etc.) are center top, internet shortcuts (firefox, IE, carbonte, etc.) are grouped together at the top right, and so on. I use a lot of shortcuts to get to folders that I use regularly - rather than having to go My Computer and drill down to the folder that contains material for whatever courses I'm teaching this term, I have a link to the Courses folder on the desktop. (It is also fun to find cool icons to use instead of the boring manila folder ones Windows gives you). I want to check out this Fences thing, though.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 2:00 am

      Thanks Ellen! Boy you have a great system down! Thanks for sharing these techniques and keep it up!

  23. Kevin Fegan
    August 23, 2012 at 11:20 am

    This is a great article!

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:59 am

      Thanks for reading Kevin! Glad it helped!

  24. Teodoro Villamarzo
    August 22, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Here's a lazy man's style, but good for those who has a strong sense of time: folders named by dates instead of topics or subjects. Example: 2011Jan, 2011Feb, and the following year, 2012Jan, 2012Feb... As I said, only for those good in remembering events or activities in time. Files in the individual folders get cluttered very quickly, but there's only a limited number of files to search for, as well as limited number of folders.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:58 am

      I recommend a balance between dates and topics. I can't imagine if everything on my computer was organized by dates. I often include the date next to the description part of the folder or file name, but not solely the date.

      But, nonetheless, it seems like that system works great for you! Thanks for sharing your tips.

  25. Ahmed Khalil
    August 22, 2012 at 8:24 am

    nice artical

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:57 am

      Thank you for reading and for your support!

  26. Sebastian Hadinata
    August 22, 2012 at 3:39 am

    Great Tips! Bookmark :D

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:56 am

      Thanks Sebastian!

  27. Keith Ambrose
    August 21, 2012 at 12:38 am

    For folders like the downloads folder that chrome auto saves to, it's pretty hard to keep that organized. I save almost everything like that and never get around to organizing it as much as I like. So I guess I'm a hoarder. But thanks for the tips.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:56 am

      Keith, despite my OCD of file management, I've run into the same issue to be honest. My downloads folder is a dump. Like the the "archive folder", it simply requires moderation and management. It's the only way to keep it under bay without becoming too overwhelming to search though.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  28. Aimee Babcock-Ellis
    August 20, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Good advice!

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:55 am

      Thanks Aimee! You're awesome :)

  29. Eli
    August 20, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    The article misses a very useful feature of Win 7 - libraries. These are non file-system (virtual) file locations desgined for easy management and retrieval of files in folders. See for example
    becoming familiar with this feature is so important that it requires modification of the article.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:54 am


      Although I can't modify the article after it's published. I certainly agree that Libraries in Windows 7 are very helpful. Perhaps I should have highlighted that more. I will see if the topic could constitute an additional article focused on that feature.

      Thanks for reading and pointing this out.

  30. AP
    August 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Clearing files from Archives a very useful tip.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:53 am

      Thanks for highlighting this point AP!

  31. Leonard Ivan Padilla
    August 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    categorize files by video, music, documents, pictures, games, etc. and you're good to go.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:52 am

      Well, it's a start at least. But to really be efficient I think one has to organize my subject more than just file type.

      That is my experience in file management.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts Leonard!

  32. DI
    August 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Thanx for the heads up on archiving files.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:51 am

      You're welcome! And thanks for reading! Let me know how that technique works for you :)

  33. josemon maliakal
    August 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    this is better for women, they will be having most ugly unmanaged folders

    • Brixtonchix
      August 21, 2012 at 11:24 am

      If you don't have anything useful to say, why show your ignorance?

      • josemon maliakal
        August 21, 2012 at 12:36 pm

        I think i have the freedom for that...otherwise please specify that ' ignorance is prohibited here ' :P

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:49 am

      Oh! That's quite the accusation. Haha. I actually disagree some because I've seen some guys' flashdrives and computers with files everywhere. I think it deals less with the gender and more with the user's habits.

    • Bart
      April 17, 2015 at 5:54 pm

      Aaron - As a guy, I totally agree with you! I'm retired from IT/Upper Management, and the same issues that our staff encountered daily with files also plagued us in the IT department at times... especially when we had to update/upgrade a system, or install a totally different system, or do legal searches for archived data. Gender played no part in the efficiency (or lack thereof), then or now, when it comes to the digital age!

  34. Bill M.
    August 19, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Some points not mentioned: not to use exclamation point in file name (some backup systems have problems with that), not to have too deep of a folder structure (some backup programs have problems storing too deep a folder structure), not to load too many files on the device (especially thumbdrives) at the root level - Windows can't write to the directory TOC table on thumbdrives when there are too many files/users haven't created sub-folders.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:47 am


      Actually I did mention about the danger and counterproductivity of having a deep folder structure (i.e. too many subfolders). As far as not using an exclamation point in a file name, I guess I didn't know it was that common of a practice of that backup programs had issues with those. That's good to know.

      Can you explain more (perhaps in simpler terms for others to understand too) on what you mean by loading too many files on a device at root level?

      Perhaps this goes along with having too many subfolders...

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  35. The 24
    August 19, 2012 at 2:42 am

    I've gone mental with the sub-folders in the past. It really just ends up being counterproductive.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:44 am

      It absolutely does. In moderation, they're great and I usually have a few levels, but after that it gets obnoxious and should be reduced and managed.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  36. Kaashif Haja
    August 19, 2012 at 2:08 am

    Useful Tips. I have lot's of files, it would take a week to arrange them in a proper way
    and the search doesn't work well in Windows 7. I entered a keyword and it's showing all the files, except the file which i needed!!

  37. Darryl Gittins
    August 19, 2012 at 1:37 am

    Forget about trying to keep it all organized. It's pointless and futile. Instead, learn to use Windows 7's tremendous search tool (or install a search indexing tool such as "Windows Desktop Search"), and then also install Everything Search:

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:41 am


      I agree with using a search tool for sure. You contradict yourself when you say "Forget about trying to keep it all organized" since a major aspect of organizing files is properly naming them... which dictates how well you find them with a search tool such as Everything.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, even if I disagree slightly ;) I'm always open to others' views.

  38. Ravi Lamontagne
    August 18, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    I think the fences program does a great job in keeping the desktop clean

  39. James Jones
    August 18, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    All very good but one big one is missing: use a good desktop search engine. The article says you have to know the name of the file to do a search, but this isn't true. A good desktop search engine indexes the whole content, so you only have to remember some words in the file - if you remember the memo was in Word and came from Jane and was about the quarterly meeting, just enter "Jane" and "quarterly" and document type ".doc" and you'll get a list of everything containing those words. Then one click orders by date and you can look down the list for the right range, for example. And it does all the indexing in advance, so you see the list of answers right away, rather than an hourglass while it runs off and searches.

    The one that changed my life was X1, though it isn't free. Google Desktop is free and pretty good - officially discontinued but still around. There are others that are well spoken of - Copernic, Exalead.

    I still work hard keeping a good folder structure, but even having that, searching by hand is slow, while the engine will bring up answers as fast as you can type the search terms. And it often finds related stuff you've forgotten you had - that sometimes even generates new ideas. Best thing I ever did for my effectiveness at the office. (Except taking a typing course!)

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:37 am


      A desktop search engine is great for FINDING files, but it isn't necessarily a way to manage them. I suppose one could argue that finding and managing files are one in the same, and in some ways I'd agree. However, I still wouldn't say it's required and in fact some of the methods I mention are to prevent you from having to take the time to search through all the clutter to find what you need. A search engine can be somewhat a handicap in this way since it doesn't force you to organize your files.

      Still, great advice and I'd recommend using Everything by Voidtools for a search engine. It's, in my opinion, the best. I did write an article on other great search applications too though. Here's the link to that: //

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts and techniques!

  40. Desdemona
    August 18, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Forget the "My Documents" folder. I've never used it. It is simply another example of MS thinking that people are too stupid to do anything, which is the way it writes most of its programs.

    My problem with "My Documents" is that it is buried in other folders already. When you start adding subfolders two or 3 deep and then files to those, you can run into name problems because the total file name, including path, gets too long to handle and the files become inaccessible or a pain with which to deal. For example: "mydocuments/work/client 1/project 1/product aspect 1/references/factor 1/file name.pdf". When you have closely related references long file names often become important to easily distinguish them and will often include citations. Add in the rest of the path where "my documents" is buried and you can easily run into problems.

    For the last nearly 20 years I simply create one large folder for any sort of internet download that I sort in a few minutes daily, a work folder, and a personal folder in the c:/ directory and change defaut save locations accordingly.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:32 am


      The My Documents was simply what I chose because so many are familiar with it. I agree that it's annoying how other program files often get stuffed in there, thus cluttering it up... one of the drawbacks and few dislikes that I have with Windows.

      However, all you have to do is create a separate folder in the Libraries section (if you're using Windows 7) and make your own "Documents" folder and name it whatever you want.

      Problem solved.

      Thanks for pointing this out. I don't think I covered that aspect in the article.

  41. Jhon H. Caicedo
    August 18, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Very useful tips, I use a similar method for organizing files but with the following differences:

    - At the beginning of every year I start an empty folder and create folders inside by project/context, this method allows me to have a small number of files that I know are current and if I need a file from previous years I can find it and copy to this year.
    - The "current year" folder is small and can be synced more easily through computers, I currently use dropbox for this.
    - The previous years folders are moved to the "Archive" folder, and also put on DVD for a more permanent archive. The idea is that "old files" doesn't need to be touched again the are "final".
    - My file naming scheme uses the date as a prefix, something like YYYY-MM-DD and then the name of the file. This allows for easily sort the versions of a file through a project and avoid relying on the OS timestamp.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:30 am

      Thanks for sharing your techniques Jhon! I love hearing how other people do things.

  42. VS Vishnu
    August 18, 2012 at 9:47 am

    know all these...but lazy to do it..!

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:29 am

      Ah, that's too bad! You should try some of them. If you decide to, let me know how it helps.

  43. Shakirah Faleh Lai
    August 18, 2012 at 6:12 am

    You'd wrote great ideas for managing time instead of managing computer files, yeah we don't have more time.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:28 am

      My point of the article exactly Shakirah! The whole purpose of managing files IS to manage/save time. And of course convenience, but that's simply a perk.

  44. Catherine McCrum
    August 18, 2012 at 3:42 am

    "Don't Overdo the Subfolders" - useful tip

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 1:27 am

      Thanks Catherine! It really is important to have a balance. They can be helpful, but if used in excess can be overwhelming in the same manner that we're trying to overcome by managing files.

      Thanks for reading Catherine!

    • emo
      January 27, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      yeah right