Optimizing File and Folder Organization in Windows

Posted June 18, 2006 by ibe98765 in Windows

This tutorial describes one method for organizing your Windows installation. With it, you can find your files, folders, and applications more easily and also make back ups and re-installs simpler tasks.

For far too many people, “organization” and “Windows” are mutually exclusive terms. Most average users stick with a single C: physical and logical drive. Folders and content are poorly categorized and files are commonly lost.

One of the first things I recommend is to partition that huge, single hard drive into more manageable logical drives. For instance, with a single 200MB hard drive, you might make a C: drive of 10-15MB for Windows system files. Then, you could create a D: Drive of 20 MB for data and personal settings and an E: drive of 50MB for installed programs (Freeware, shareware, commercial, etc.). Finally, you could have an F: drive with the remaining MB’s for media storage (videos and music). I always move my C:\Documents and Settings\Username folder structure from the C: drive to my D: Drive.

If you have two hard drives, then you can add more granularity (more logical drives) and also gain some performance benefits by moving your paging/swap file and temp file to their own partitions on the second hard drive.

Yes, a scheme like this takes some time and effort to set up, but organizing this way makes my life a whole lot easier. Finding files is easier this way, and I have the option of backing up each of the individual logical drives separately (which I do to other hard drives using Acronis True Image software).

However, this is just very high-level organization.

I have added another level for folder organization. For any software that I install, I first determine where on my four hard drives it is going to be installed. At that point, I allocate a new folder (the master), and name it for the software to be installed.

Next, I drag (from the browser) or create a URL shortcut link in the master folder pointing to the web location where I downloaded the software. I always name this link HOMEPAGE.

Under the master folder, I create a new folder that is always called ZIP. This folder contains the original software download. Unfortunately, many software authors do not append a version number to their downloads. If they do not, I do it when I am downloading the program.

The ZIP folder serves two purposes. If I have to re-install the software, I can march through each folder and re-install each program one by one since I have the original software right at hand. I do not need to have a working net connection, nor do I have to search for each piece of software. Also, if the author has disappeared but the software is still useful, I do not risk being unable to find it again. Finally, with the version number added onto the original download, it is also easy to check for updates and download the update if there has been one.

I then install the software from the ZIP sub-folder into the master folder.

Windows allocates all folders with the same ugly and boring yellow folder icon. Therefore, after the install is complete, I right-click the install folder to go to Properties-Customize-Change Icon. You will then get a window which will provide a variety of icons to choose for the folder (typically from Shell32.DLL). However, I do not want the icon from Shell32.DLL. Thus, I erase that name, and click Browse to select the folder in which I installed the program. From the install folder, I can get the actual icon for the .EXE program. I think you will agree that this looks a lot cooler than the Windows default yellow folder! This also makes it easier to find individual programs, particularly when you have hundreds of programs installed like I do.

I have put this methodology together over many years of PC ownership. It has worked well for me, and I am sure it can also work for you if you are willing to give it a try.

Here is a screenshot that illustrates the above:

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