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Working with Files

Learning Goals:

  • Understand how a computer stores information
  • Learn about files and types of files
  • Create and organize folders
  • Move, delete and organize files

Storage and Memory

  • A computer stores information in long-term and short-term memory
    • Long-term storage - hard-disk, CD, USB Drive
    • Short-term storage - RAM (working memory)
  • A hard disk drive is like a filing cabinet, which has many drawers (folders).  These drawers contain file folders (subfolders) which can contain files or more folders.
  • Like keeping your house tidy, it is important to understand how a computer stores information and how you can help keep things organized.

Hard Drive Care

A hard drive (usually Drive C:) is one of the most cost-effective ways of conveniently storing information on a computer.  A hard drive is made up of several metallic disks, stacked on each other.  The computer can quickly store and retrieve information on a hard drive by changing the magnetism of a particular locaiton on the disk.  Here are some things you should know about this important part of your computer:
  • A hard disk is a mechanical device that will eventually wear down and fail.  Backup all of your important information to avoid loss.
  • You can check your hard disk size, free space, and access tools as follows:
    • Click Start
    • Click My Computer
    • Right-Mouse-Click Drive C: 
    • Click Properties - The screen will display drive size, used space and free space
  • If you are running out of space, your computer will slow down and eventually fail to operate.  Uninstall unnecessary programs and files.   Use the cleanup button if needed.  Unless absolutely necessary, do not use the compress older files option.
  • Click on the Tools tab for more options.
  • Sometimes, hard drives can develop "weak spots" or have a defective spot on the disk.  If you get an unusual error and have eliminated the possibility of a virus or other malware, it is possible you have a "weak spot".  Use the Check Now.. button in the Error Checking section to check your disk.  Often it is able to recover and mark the spot so the computer does not use it again.
  • As a hard drive is used, it will become more disorganized in how the information is stored.  Like trying to put a family in a crowded theatre, the computer may split up a file and put it into several smaller available locations.  When you ask for the file later, it takes longer for the computer to find and load all the parts of the file.  This is called fragmentation.  You can use the Defragment Now... tool to check how disorganized your hard drive is, and then to re-organize it properly.  This can help improve computer performance.


  • Information is kept in files inside a folder
  • There can be different types of files:  pictures, songs, letters, programs
  • Files are shown on the computer as icons
  • Some icons are short-cuts, a pathway to the file instead of the file itself
  • Files can be renamed, moved to different folders and deleted
  • Deleted files show up in the Recycle bin

File Explorer

  • File Explorer lets you see and work with the files on your computer
  • When you access information, it loads it from storage.
  • You can drag files with your mouse between folders
  • Holding down Shift while dragging copies instead of moves the file

Creating Folders and Files

  • Go to My Documents
  • Use File -> New Folder to create a new folder for your class work.
  • Rename the folder, by typing.  If you are not in rename mode, right mouse click on the folder and choose Rename.  Press Enter to save your new name.
  • Start Paint and create a work of art. Use the Help file to learn more about using Paint.
  • Use File -> Save to save this file into the new folder you created.  Choose My Documents, double-click the name of your new folder, and then give the file a name and then click the Save button.
  • Close Paint and then use File Explorer to check the file

Computer Storage Trivia

Similar to how all living things are composed of cells, all information on a computer is composed of small building blocks called bytes.

1,000 Bytes = 1 Kilobyte or 1 KB
1,000 KB = 1 Megabyte or 1 MB
1,000 MB = 1 Gigabyte or 1GB

How Much Data is That?

Moving Files

  • In Windows there are many ways to do the same thing. An easy way to move files is to drag them onto your desktop.
  • Open up the folder you created above.
  • Make sure you can see the desktop and the window at the same time. Use the Maximize button if your window is covering the entire screen. Drag the borders to size the window appropriately.
  • Practice dragging your file from the folder it is in on to the desktop.
  • Practice moving the file back from the desktop into your folder.
  • Create a second folder under My Documents and try moving the file from the first folder to the desktop and into the second folder.

The Importance of Names

It is important to give your files meaningful names so you can easily find and organize them later.  In addition to the name you give the file, it will also be given a last name.  The last name of a file tells Windows what kind of file it is and helps Windows figure out what program to use to open the file.

Often the last name of the file will not be easily visible.  This setting is used to make sure you don't accidentally change the last name of a file.   When you click on a file, you can see the last name (or file extension) by checking the Details on the bottom left side of File Explorer.  Here are some common file extensions or last names:
  • txt - Text file
  • avi - Movie
  • jpg - Photograph or picture
  • bmp - Picture
  • doc - Microsoft Word Document
  • xls - Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet
  • pdf - Document
  • exe - Program
  • dll - Progam

Deleting Files

Windows uses a two-step process when deleting files.  First the file is simply moved to the Recycle Bin.  This gives you a chance to recover it if you wish.  If you empty the Recycle Bin, your file will be completely deleted.  Use these steps to delete a file:
  • Click on a file or folder to select it.
  • Press the delete key to send it to the Recycle bin.
  • Windows will ask you to confirm.
  • You can always recover the file by going to the Recycle bin, right mouse click the file and choose Restore.

Additional Information

For further review, try these tutorials from Microsoft: