- Geeks Computer Tech

Often when people get a computer for the first time, the sheer amount of "stuff" they need to know can put them off.

One of the very basic things is how can I see the content of my computer?

Computers store stuff as files on the disk drive. The stuff includes the programs such as Windows itself, the software - the programs you can use to do things, and the things that you have done, for example a letter or list that you may have created using a word processor.

A file typically has a name and an extension - the last part of the name following a dot or full stop in the filename. e.g. eggs benedict recipe.doc

These files are arranged and stored in folders - a bit like files in a filing cabinet.

You can see the folders and the files using a piece of software (a program!) called Explorer.

You may have these two icons on your desktop. That's the name for the screen that appears when your computer is switched on and has finished all its preparation tasks (also known as "booting up").

Your own user name would appear instead of my name of course! Or if your computer is an older one it may have an icon with the label "My Documents"

Double-clicking (clicking the mouse button twice in quick succession - the left button by default) either of these icons opens a piece of software (a program) called Explorer but each one has a particular opening point or view.

Opening (double-clicking) Computer opens with a view of the disk drives, any CD or DVD drives and other storage devices. On my computer it looks like this, but don't worry if it looks slightly different or even a lot different on yours!

In the left hand column there should be a shaded entry which shows which of the listed items is being shown in the right hand column - the greater part of the window or screen.

In other words, the contents of the shaded item on the left are shown in the right hand side of the window. You can see the contents of any of the other items in the left hand list by moving the mouse pointer over them and clicking the button once.

You will probably be able to see an icon in the left hand column labelled either with your name or My Documents.

Double-clicking that would change the right hand part of the screen to show the same view as if you had opened that icon on your desktop instead of the Computer icon. So it doesn't matter which one you open as you can get to the other view anyway!

The My Documents or your name icon shows the folders and files that either Windows has created for you by default or that you (and possibly other users if you share the PC) have created. If you and other users have to login (enter a name and perhaps a password) before the computer will boot up then you will only see your own files, not anyone else's. Likewise anyone else will not be able to see yours.

Here are the folders as shown when I open the icon with my name.

In Windows Vista they are called Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos etc. In older version of Windows the My Documents folder contains the equivalent of some of the others: My Music, My Pictures, My Videos.

Double-clicking one of those in turn opens the folder so you can view the contents of it. When you see a file rather than a folder (folders don't normally have an extension to the filename and files normally have a 3 or 4-character extension following a dot), double-clicking a file causes that file to open using whatever program it needs automatically.

Whenever you create a new file by saving your work from a program, Windows opens a similar view of your files and folders so you can move into the correct folder to save similar files together.

Don't worry if you don't see anything with a dot and extension because by default Windows hides these from you so you only see the name part of the full filename. The icon or small picture normally gives you a clue. Folders have a picture that looks like an old-fashioned paper folder from a filing cabinet.

Explorer is a very useful program. It lets you create new folders, copy, rename and delete files and folders. We'll look at some of these features in a later entry.
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