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[ The PC Guide | System Optimization and Enhancement Guide | System Optimizations and Enhancements | File System Optimization and Freeing Disk Space ]

Organize Files for Easier Access

One thing I look at when I examine a PC is the structure of the file system, especially after the PC has been in active use for a few months, or a year or two. In most cases, I see that the hard disk has files all over the place, and that locating things on the hard disk is very difficult. The best way to avoid this problem is to organize your files, much as you would organize paper files. This is much easier to do as the PC is being set up, as opposed to trying to fix a mess later on.

Here are some specific ideas you may want to keep in mind:

  • Do Not Store Data Files In Program Directories: A common mistake that I see too often is people who store data files in program directories. For example, they store Excel spreadsheets in the directory where Excel is installed. Many software packages in fact encourage this because they default to the installation directory when you go to save new documents. I don't recommend it because it is confusing: it makes it very hard to do backups, to move data from one place to another, and to reinstall or move an application installation if you need to do this in the future (and you probably will). Use a dedicated data directory (or set of directories).
  • Group Programs and Data Together: If you have a lot of programs and data, organize them into meaningful group directory names. For example, instead of installing 20 different games and applications all to top-level directory names, create top-level directories such as "C:\GAMES", "C:\OFFICE" , "C:\DATA" and put subdirectories below these. This is especially helpful when you have large partition sizes.
  • Avoid the "Program Files" Directory in Windows 95: It seems that by default, all Windows 95 programs want to install themselves in the "Program Files" directory on your C: drive. I'd love to get my hands on the guy that came up with this: what's the point of putting everything except the Windows directory under "Program Files"? It keeps everything just as disorganized, and adds a long, silly extra directory name to the front of everything (which is a long file name with a space in it, to boot). Use your own, meaningful, top-level directories, you'll be much happier.
  • Do Not Use the Root Directory: In my opinion, the root directory of any hard disk should contain only subdirectories, and required system files. Do not get into the habit of using the root directory for user files. The root directory will fill up much faster than a regular directory, and it is impossible to tell what the files in it are or what applications they belong to.

Incidentally, I do not advocate the use of multiple partitions for organizing data, at least not to the extent that many others do. I discuss the reasons why here; in a nutshell, I think using meaningful top-level directory names is more sensible (and flexible) than trying to remember that games are on E: and web stuff is on F: (or was that the other way around?)...

Next: Move From the FAT to FAT32 File System Under Windows 95 OSR2

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