The Digital Divide: Organizing Your PC Media Files

You have so many media files on your computer it makes your head spin. What do you do with them all? First things first. You need to organize all of your information. It seems like an impossible task, but it’s not. Here’s how to get started.

Don’t Bother Saving Everything

There are a lot of ways to organize and prioritize files you should keep. One rule you must implement immediately is the delete rule. If you don’t use a file, or organize it at least, within 30 days, delete it. It’s probably not all that important to you.

If you’ve shot a bunch of video of your younger brother’s birthday, for example, you may have some useful footage and a lot that can be edited out. Use something like iMovie to trim it up to capture the essence of the day, and use a program like YTD, found on this site to convert and compress the video. Then, delete the rest of the footage.

If you take 100 photographs in a day, sort through them and delete all of the blurry ones, the ones where your neighbor photobombed you, and get rid of the poorly framed shots. Only save the essential photos that will cull up memories years from now.

With documents, determine what you truly need, and what you can get rid of. Because documents take up so little space, the incentive is to just keep everything. But, this is a huge mistake, and it makes it nearly impossible to find what you’re looking for when you need something important. Periodically prune your documents to get rid of old digitized warranties for products you no longer own, papers you’ve already read and aren’t interested in anymore, and old resumes you may not need.

Don’t Go Crazy With A File System

It’s easy to get really detailed with your filing system, but resist the urge. Files do need to be organized, but many of the file systems people are putting together these days have files organized to the Nth degree. It’s just not necessary.

So, for example, you don’t need to break down all of your documents into specific categories like, “2009 taxes,” “2008 taxes,” “2007 taxes,” etc. A simple “taxes” folder will probably suffice.

At the same time, you probably don’t want to just throw every document into one folder – it’ll make it incredibly difficult to find unless you have an awesome search tool.

Use Shortcuts To Help You Find Commonly-Used Files and Folders

If you use a file regularly, like a budget spreadsheet or a particular video or music file, create a shortcut and place it on your desktop or in your dock (for Mac users). This gives you easy access to a file you use often, so you don’t have to hunt through folders for it every time you want to open it.

Some files don’t need to be within easy reach, however. Most of the time, the Windows or Mac search bar can help you find whatever you’re looking for. If you go overboard with this tactic, you’ll just end up with a bunch of shortcuts on the desktop that cutter up your computer and make it at least as difficult as it was before to find anything.

Sort Immediately

Don’t let files sit on your hard drive for weeks before you name and sort them. This is a bad habit that most people have cultivated – especially when it comes to downloaded files. The files sit in a “downloads” folder and practically have to be deleted before a user will actually do anything with them. For example, if you’ve downloaded programs from the Internet, install them. Don’t let them sit in your “downloads” diet.

Create Meaningful Files Names

You have a lot of different files on your computer. If they’re images, you know the pain and agony of the file naming scheme chosen by virtually all manufacturers. It’s a meaningless series of numbers or letters.

To rename everything seems like a monumental task. But, this will help you sort images and find them later on. Looking for that photo of you at the Renaissance faire? If you’ve named all of your photos “Renaissance faire,” or better yet “Renaissance faire 2013,” then you’ll have no problem finding them 5 years from now.

Ditto for documents. It does you no good to have a job resume if there are three different files named “resume1.docx,” “resume2.docx,” and “resume3.docx.” Instead, name them by date or some other meaningful descriptor.

Finally, don’t let video files, templates, and other documents go unnamed or allow them to be named poorly. Always choose a name that provides an essential description of what’s in the file.

Always remember to respect IP when using downloaded content.

David Hauer started rebuilding computers from scraps as a teen. After years of working with a variety of computer systems, he greatly enjoys blogging about security tips, useful software, file management systems, and great add-on gadgets.

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