Before you can organize the files on your hard drive into groups and subgroups, you need to understand the kinds of structures, or file arrangements, operating systems use to store information. For starters, compare the a command-line operating system such as DOS with a graphical user interface (GUI) such as Windows. To open a document using a command-line OS, you type a pathname, a command that specifies the documents location on a storage medium. For example, the pathname
shows the location on the C:\ drive of a document called "memobob." The document is located in a subdirectory called "letters," which is inside a subdirectory called "mydocs," which is inside a subdirectory called "word."
In a GUI, the path, or location, of a file remains the same as in a command-line interface, but that path is represented graphically rather than by a command. Instead of finding a file by using a pathname, the user sees on the screen graphic icons that stand for the drive, for folders (directories and subdirectories), and for documents within those folders.
The folders in a GUI can be nested, or placed inside one another, in a way that shows their hierarchical organization. GUIs allow nested folders to be viewed as folder icons or as an indented outline. Using a command-line system, one would have to issue a complicated command containing two pathnames in order to change the location of a file from one subdirectory to another. Using a GUI, the user can simply click on a file and drag it from one folder to another.
Without the ability to create hierarchical levels of organization on a storage device, everything on the device would appear at the same level. This would make finding documents quite time-consuming. Nested folders, however, make it easy for a user to organize a hard drive in a manner that simplifies finding files.
There is no one correct way to organize a hard drive, but organizing the drive in some way is essential. As hard drives get larger and larger (drives capable of storing several gigabytes are now common), organization becomes increasingly important. One way to organize a hard drive is to create partitions, or sections of the drive, using a kind of software known as a disk utility. One partition might contain system software and be named "My System," another partition might contain application programs and be named "Apps," and yet another might contain documents and be named "Docs." The advantage of partitioning a drive is that doing so improves hard drive access time because the drives read/write heads do not have to search the entire drive to find a particular program or file. Instead, the heads can search only the partition in which the file or program is located.
Users can also create folders that imitate partitions. For example, one might create separate folders for applications and for documents. Here are some other ways to organize files on a hard drive:
- Create separate folders for different projects.
- Create separate folders for personal and business documents.
- Create separate folders for each application program and store documents created by each program within that programs folder.
- Create separate folders for applications, work in progress, and archived (no longer current) files.