The first thing to understand where your files are in Windows 2000:
- Save files where you want to, and not where the application in use
suggests to save them.
Secondly, to easily back-up your files, you might want to:
- Save files in your own folder structure, not in the "My documents"
To explain; different programs may suggest different paths. Some may
use their own application sub-folder. For a chat program saving files
someone sends you, this could be the following path:
Others, especially Microsoft programs like Word or Excel, will suggest
the "My Documents" folder, or a sub-folder thereof. Like:
C:\My Documents\My Pictures
This is a preferred folder defined by default settings, but those
default settings typically can be changed from within the program
options. Also, some programs will remember the last folder you saved
your files in while using the program.
Now let's say you create your own folder structure:
Here you could put sub-folders like "pictures", "texts", and "music"
to store your files.
Maybe you use Microsoft Word to write a family letter. You could now
save it in:
Now in order to find this "files" folder quickly, create a short-cut
to it on both the Desktop, as well as the "My Documents" folder.
Whenever a program suggest to you to save in "My Documents" you simply
click on the "files" short-cut and off you go to a zone you created
yourself, where you will always remember your files.
And now it has also become very easy to back-up your data; simply
drag-and-drop the "files"-folder to whatever place you want to save it
(like a second hard disk, a CD, or Zip medium).
As additional note, if you share your computer with others, you might
want to create a username sub-structure, like:
You also ask why the Desktop shows up in different places.
Well, the Desktop is actually storing its files in a "physical"
location which must be the hard-disk -- and in the actual hierarchy,
the hard-disk drive (like "C:\") is on the top, and not below the
Desktop. So the Desktop contains the "My Computer" icon, which
contains "C:\", which itself contains the "Desktop" folder! It might
be this path:
(Different users may have different Desktops, which is also the reason
why you may see a user-name showing up in the folder structure.)
If you want to see the location of this Desktop for yourself,
right-click the "My Computer" icon on your Desktop and select
"Explore...". This will open the application "Windows Explorer", which
is very useful to manage your files, and display the hierarchy of
folders and sub-folders. Click on folders of the overview to the left
and always compare with the address (folder path) shown on top.
You can now also see that "My Documents" is not really all over the
place but that it's linked to from other places. However all those
short-cuts will still lead to the same location. The Desktop folder --
despite its special icon, the fact that it cannot be deleted, and an
entry in the Windows Registry linking to it -- is still just a folder.
I hope this clarifies things, and good luck!
Request for Answer Clarification by
20 Feb 2003 07:34 PST
Coninued (I did not mean to POST the above since it wasn't finished.
My documents [DESKTOP LEVEL]
My Music [1 HAS CONTENTS]
Local Disk C:
Documents and Settings [DS]
My Music [2 EMPTY]
Data File I [HERE ?]
My Music 
Data File I
Above is a very simplified version of what I see, and what I can't
possibly understand. (I have been working on computers since 1981, and
have studied programming, and have never seen any crap as confusing as
this. The setup used to be much clearer, especially back in DOS before
they added the "helpful" Desktop, which now has been used to maximize
Some of what is above is my fault (I think?). I also realize that
letting you have identical sub-folder names is "a feature, not a bug,"
to use programmers' jargon.
My only hope is to use as little of the above as possible.
I gather that Desktop I = Desktop III (even though III is nested
deeply). That's confusing already. It means that Data File I occurs in
two places, for example. What I want to know is this: I want to have
all my data files in one place, where it won't screw up the system,
and where I can look for them in one place.
Above, I could logically place my documents in one of the following:
My Documents DESKTOP LEVEL (i.e., one level down from the "system"
My Computer > C: > Documents and settings
and then under
All users [I'm a user, right?] > documents
(and there's DESKTOP II here, just waiting?)
or, then under
Desktop III [hey, this is DESKTOP I too!]
My documents (hey, they should go HERE. They're documents,
And so on. I probably created SOME of the duplication above, but there
are also pplenty of "My Music" and "My document" files that are
created by default, too, and a lot of those are used by various
downloads, etc., and you do NOT always get a chance to select where
things get put.
Anyway, this is not your fault or mine, so tell me one thing, which I
stlil don't understand. Where, in that huge mess, should I put my
files? There are at least FIVE or more logical places. Microsoft in
its default structures uses "documents" so often by default that it
means nothing, of course. (Why put "documents and settings" in one
folder anyway? That's like a hamper labeled "Oranges and Extension
Can you help with this? I need to know a folder that will never
conflict with the system itself. I also find a lot of times Microsoft
has changed my folder icoons to a weird one, and that also means it's
put a *.INI file inside, and I don't--of course -- know what this
means either. "Ini" suggests a system file to me, and looks important.
What's it doing in the middle of my data, and what do I do if I want
to move those files and delete that folder, later. Just delete that
*.ini file? This is really a 2nd question, so you needn't supply th
eanswer (for the same 2-figure fee), but it's related so I'd
appreciate any help.
Whew. This was as short as I could make it, but whew.
Clarification of Answer by
21 Feb 2003 00:27 PST
I'm glad the answer and comments were helpful to you, and thanks for
Yes, I do think the best solution is to create your own "files root"
folder and simply ignore whatever Windows is trying to suggest to be
optimal. This way, you can simply apply similar methodology to other
Operating Systems (in case you use them), and you don't have to change
the way you work whenever a new Windows update comes along. Myself I
also find it important that my personal "files" folder is hidden to
the Registry; that is, other programs won't know about it and
consequently I can be sure they won't play around with it.
As for putting the "files root" folder onto the Desktop, here's a
small suggestion; only put a short-cut to the "files" folder on the
Desktop (and in other important folders, like "My Documents"), but
place the actual folder in a position like "C:\files". This will make
it easier to always find it from within any application (or to type
out the path in case of a DOS application or an INI file).