Technology Source

a monthly report on technology

New Year's resolution: Clean up your desk, clean up your life, clean up your hard drive

Why should you clean up your hard drive? Because your report was lost in space and you never did find it. You wish you could say, "My dog ate it." At least you would know where it went. We have all been there and have probably resolved not to let it happen again. If your system is slow or you can't find your files; if you are warned that you are out of memory when you know you still have plenty; if you want to run the machine instead of letting the machine run you -- it's time to clean up your hard drive and organize your work.

A Windows directory can hold only 223 files at the root level. Trying to save number 224 will produce a warning that the machine is out of memory. It isn't really out of memory; it's a warning to organize your files with folders and sub-headings. A file drawer in your office with 223 paper reports in alphabetical order, but with no other form of organization, is still a messy situation.

If you have been saving files within each software application folder, and your application files become corrupted, you may not be able to access your data. Instead, save those files in a separate folder from the program. No matter what happens to the program, you still have your data.

Organizational systems

If you know how to move files around on your hard drive and how to set up storage pathways for future filing, you should be able to find every file you save. Your filing system (be it paper or electronic) is good if you can find a file in three minutes. It's excellent if you can find it in one minute.

* How to organize your files. Organizational choices include numeric, subject, alphabetical, chronological, project and function. Common examples are the telephone book (last names), doctors' files (names and birthdays), legal files (case number), regional sales files (geographical) and engineering project files (subject).

You can funnel all the files from every software application through the same file folder. Every document you produce is thus saved in one folder, which may have many sub-folders and sub-sub-folders. The main advantage to this system is easy backup.

Here's an example of the funnel folder system using a subject-sort form of organization. On my computers, I label a folder "stg," my initials. Within it I have major subject headings, e.g., Short Course Guide, Bills, Personnel, Forms. Within each of those folders are sub-folders, e.g., under Short Course Guide, I have Jan95, Apr95, Jun95, etc. When I back up to a server, I just copy stg, my "funnel folder." I don't back up the application files.

* Sort files and documents. Once you have settled on a system, it's time to move the files. Warning: move only the files you have created. Do not move software program files.

Macintosh: Double click on the hard drive icon. Make and name your new folders, then drag and drop your files to the new folders. Check application folders, i.e., Excel, Word, WordPerfect, etc., for files you created.

Windows 3.1: Open File Manager. Make and name your new folders. Drag and drop your files to the new folders.

*Set file-saving paths. Your existing files are now organized. In order to keep you organized, new applications allow you to set file saving paths. For example, in Microsoft Word 6.0 for Windows 3.1, set a path by taking these steps: Tools, Options, File locations, Documents, Modify. You then define the series of folders, sub-folders and sub-sub-folders needed for saving your documents.

Keep up the habit.

Humans like to set goals and collect and sort things. Use those natural instincts to maintain an organized hard drive.

Make your resolution for 1996: I will maintain a clean hard drive.

Susan Teller Goodman is a manager in the Instructional Group, Computer Resources Services, in the Information Technology Division (ITD). Contact the group for computing instruction through Short Courses, customized courses, tutoring and software demonstrations. For more information send e-mail to:, pick up a copy of the group's magazine, The Short Course Guide, or browse the World Wide Web pages: SHORT_COURSE/pd.html.