Frequently Asked Question

Managing and Navigating the Windows File System (Folders, Files, etc)
Last Updated 2 years ago

The Windows File System is something that I see quite commonly underutilized. People tend to either not understand how it all works, or just not embrace it. However, understanding and utilizing the Windows File System can greatly increase your productivity. A brief overview is included below with some tips, tricks, and recommendations for organizing and optimizing your files.

File Explorer

File Explorer is a built in Windows tool that allows you to do exactly what its name implies, explore your file system. It can be accessed a few different ways, but my favorite is definitely with the shortcut (Windows Key + E). Other common methods of accessing it are by going to the Start Menu (Windows Icon in the bottom left of your screen) and searching for "File Explorer", or if you haven't moved your taskbar icons around (Taskbar is the name for the bar at the bottom of your screen), you can find it as a little manila folder.


Once inside the File Explorer, it will look a little something like this:


Yours will likely have a white background, unless you have changed your theme to dark as I have, but the general premise remains.

File Explorer loads up with a Quick Access menu that allows you to quickly get to your most frequently accessed files and folders. You can dive deeper into your files by selecting one of these folders in your Quick Access menu. For example, in the image above, you can see that my Desktop, Documents, Downloads, and Pictures folders are all available directly in Quick Access.

You may also notice the panel on the left hand side of the File Explorer. This gives easy access to many of the things not featured within Quick Access. Such as your C: Drive where none user specific files are stored. Files in the C: Drive are usually not needed to be touched by an average user. However, something else that will pop up in this panel are any external drives that you may have connected to the system. So if you're looking for where your DVD or Flash Drive appear in your system, this is where you'd find them.


Files in Windows are anything you've saved to your computer. These can be pictures, videos, word documents, etc. These files will all have a name and a type. Names are pretty self explanatory. These are what you or one of your programs has named your file and they must all be unique within a single folder. This can be changed at any time by right clicking the file with your mouse and selecting "Rename".


The type of the file is denoted by the extension after a file. This could be something like .png which is an image file, or .docx which is a Microsoft Word file. The extension for the file is typically hidden from the user in File Explorer as it's infrequent that you want to change the extension of a file directly within Explorer as this can corrupt your file! However, File Explorer does provide the information of what your file type is in the column to the right of the Date Modified Column. I've expanded that column a bit in the screenshot below so that you can read the file types for a few of my files.


Different types of files can only be opened by certain applications. Occasionally, when attempting to open a file, you may be approached with the message below. This means that no application on your computer has claimed that file type, and so Windows doesn't know how to open it. If you're unsure of what program you should tell a certain type of file to open with, feel free to reach out to us for assistance.



Folders in the Windows File System are exactly like their counterparts in real life. They are a way of organizing your files and documents into a neat and tidy package that can be labelled organized. New folders can be created anywhere within the Windows File System by right clicking withing File Explorer, going to "New" and selecting "Folder" and then typing a name for your newly created folder. This can also be done with the shortcut


Moving Files and Folders

It's not uncommon that you'll create a file or folder and then decide you'd like to move it. This can be done simply by dragging and dropping the file or folder, or for a more complex move, like moving a file to a folder within another folder, you can utilize the Cut and Paste functionality to handle the move. This is done by right clicking the file, selecting "Cut", then navigating to the target destination folder, right clicking and hitting "Paste". The Copy option can also be utilized if you'd like a copy of the file in both the source and target destinations.

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