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Cleaning House

There's something you gotta do every so often, and that's clean your room. In this case, your digital room.
First questions first: you know what a file and a folder is, right? If not see my previous article on basic computer terminology. Now, lets say you've collected too much junk. Say there's a bunch of stuff on the desktop of your computer (you know what a 'desktop' is in the context of a computer, right? See that previous article) and it's disorganised and it's out of hand, and you can't make head nor tail of it. Well, luckily basic human instinct is at hand. We humans tend to organise stuff into categories, we get rid of the stuff we don't want, and we make copies the stuff we want to keep long-term.

So organising stuff first; the basic 'file' and 'folder' metaphor of all modern computers is analogous to a filing cabinet with folders and files. To organise your files, start with putting stuff into your computer's basic user folders - Downloads, Documents, Music, Videos, Pictures (sometimes others as well). These are what we would call the 'root' folders, within which you can start organising your files. Put your pictures in your Pictures folder, etc. You *can* create folders on your desktop as well, but this tends toward organisational chaos from what I've seen - better to put stuff where it belongs.

Within these folders you can create sub-folders to further organise your data. How you do this depends on your operating system (eg. Windows or OSX or iOS) but it all comes down to the same simple steps - create a folder, give it a name, move stuff into it. You can create as many sub-folders and sub-sub-folders and sub-sub-sub-folders as you like - there don't tend to be any majors limits for this on a modern computer system. Once you have your stuff categorised, it's always a good idea to prune things a bit and get rid of files that you don't need anymore. When you delete files/folders on a modern computer, they generally go into an interim storage area like Trash (Macs) or Recycle Bin (Windows). The advantage of this is it prevents the scenario where you accidentally get rid of something then can't get it back, which was the case for most early operating systems like MSDOS. The downside is that people often forget to empty their Recycle Bin or Trash, and end up with a lot of wasted space on their computer. Still, it's better than the alternative.

Lastly anything that's important should be stored in two places at all times - but not two places in the same computer! Because every storage device you have will die eventually (see previous articles on backing up data). External backup options include cloud storage (Dropbox etc), external hard drives or flash drives, or disc media like DVDr's. Since DVDr's don't hold very much compared to an external hard drive, they're not used much any more - in fact, many new computers don't even have DVD drives.

The advantage of doing all this is that (a) you get a computer that doesn't feel like chaos to use (b) it's easier to find things you need and (c) you create better security for the things you keep. Good luck with your clean-up!

- Matt Bentley, computer expert at Bentley Home PC Support.
Email info@homepcsupport.co.nz or phone 0211348576.

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