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Chapter 3. Managing Files > Opening My Computer

Opening My Computer

Windows XP includes many tools for file management, and the most commonly used tool is My Computer. My Computer is an icon that represents all the drives on your system. After you open this window, you can then open any of your drives to see the folders and files contained on those drives.


If you have added the shortcut icon for My Computer to your desktop, you can double-click this icon to open My Computer. See Chapter 13, “Customizing Windows XP,” for information on adding this icon to your desktop.

Follow these steps to open My Computer:

Click Start and My Computer. You'll see icons for each of the drives on your computer as well as system folders (see Figure 3.1).

Figure 3.1. When you want to work with the folders or files on your computer, you can start with My Computer.

To help you keep your documents organized, Windows sets up several special folders in addition to My Computer. These include My Documents, My Pictures, and My Music. You can view the contents of any of these folders by clicking Start and then clicking the folder you want to open.

Opening Drives and Folders

In addition to your hard drive (drive C:), you may have a floppy drive (drive A:). Your computer may also have additional drives including other hard drives or additional media drives (such as CD or DVD drives). If you have more than one drive, they are named D:, E:, and so on. If you have a CD drive or a DVD drive, it also is named with a letter.

By default, Windows XP groups the drives by type, as shown in Figure 3.1. Opening a drive is easy: Double-click the icon representing the drive you want to open (see Figure 3.2).

Figure 3.2. The contents of the hard drive D:. Note the different icons for folders and files.

Each page icon represents a document (file). Each folder icon represents a folder on your hard drive. You can nest folders within folders to organize the contents of your hard drive. To open a folder, double-click its icon. You can continue opening folders until you see the file or folder you want to work with. To close a window, click the Close button.

Navigating Folders


You can search for a file, sort the contents, change what is displayed, group icons, and more in the folder window. For information on these tasks, see Chapter 16, “Viewing and Finding Files.”

Each folder window includes a toolbar that you can use to navigate from folder to folder. You can go back and forth among previously viewed content windows. You can also move up one level in the folder structure to the containing folder. For instance, you might move up to the desktop level and then open drives and folders to move to another branch of the folder structure. Table 3.1 identifies each toolbar button and its purpose.

Table 3.1. Folder Window Toolbar Buttons
ButtonClick to…
Go back to a previously viewed folder.
Return to a previously viewed folder. You can go forward only if you have clicked Back to go back a step.
Display the next level up in the folder structure.
Display the Search bar to search for a folder or file.
Display a hierarchical folder list (similar to Windows Explorer in previous versions of Windows). See the next section “Using the Folders Bar.”
Change how the contents of the folder are displayed.

Using the Folders Bar

If you want to see a hierarchical listing of all the folders on your system, you can display the Folders bar. You might prefer this view when working with folders and files because it allows you to see the contents of the selected folder as well as all the other drives and folders on your computer. The Folders bar makes it easier to move and copy by dragging, for instance. Click the Folders button to display the Folders bar (see Figure 3.3).

Figure 3.3. Displaying the Folders bar lets you view all the drives and folders on your computer.

The top level is the desktop. Beneath that, you see the drives and folders on the desktop. You can expand or collapse any of the folders and drives in the list by clicking the plus or minus sign next to the drive or folder. For instance, click the plus sign next to My Computer. When you click a plus sign to expand the folder or drive, the icon changes to a minus sign. Likewise, you can click the minus sign to hide the contents of that item. For instance, you might hide content that isn't relevant to the task you are performing.

To close the Folders bar, click the Folders button again or click the Close button for the bar.

Using the Task Pane

Windows XP also displays a task pane with common tasks as well as Other Places and Details areas. When you click an icon, you can see information about the icon in the Details area. For instance, in Figure 3.4, you can see information about the selected file. You also see commands related to working with the selected item. This chapter covers using these commands for common tasks.

Figure 3.4. Check the Task pane for common tasks as well as information about the selected item.

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