Basics of navigation in Windows Explorer

For many, using Windows Explorer is probably the ultimate foundation. You can't really get past him as a Windows user. No matter if you just write a letter, sort the holiday photos or surf the internet. Above all, Windows Explorer is always first.

Therefore, in the following article are a few tips and tricks for dealing with the Windows Explorer.

Hints for our lovely english readers: Basically, many of the articles on are translations from the original german articles. Therefore, it may happen here and there that some illustrations are not available in english and that some translations are weird/strange/full of mistakes or generally totaly wrong. So if you find some obvious (or also not obvious) mistakes don't hesitate to leave us a hint about that in the comment section. 
Also please don't get confused, that instead of a "dot" often a "comma" is used as decimal separator. 🙂

Orientation and path information

The windows explorer is not a classic program that you need to start. It will start automatically when the computer starts up. Once started, it allows you to navigate the computer and its file system. You can then move through the individual folder levels and thereby select, move and copy files.

A first overview where you can find which files and how you can search for specific files should give you the following tips.

The best way to do this starts in the window "This PC" this can be opened by double-clicking on the desktop on the "This PC" icon. This will open a window where you can see all drives connected to the computer. These are even divided into groups for a better overview.

The group "Folder" (in screenshot "Folder") displays your user folders. So all files that are specifically linked to your Windows account and usually only accessible from this.

The "Devices and Drives" group shows all the drives connected to the computer - ie hard disks, USB sticks. Memory cards, etc. – on.

The Network Addresses group displays network drives and mounted network folders. Normally nothing is preset here. Only after you have If you have added network resources, they will be displayed here. For example, how to add your network drives is described in the article RaspberryPi – Share Folder with SMB and in Include Windows as Network Drive.

For further orientation is now only the drive "C" so "local disk (C :)" important. Where "local volume" is the name of the drive. You can easily change this and serve as a slightly noticeable label of the data carrier. On the other hand, "C" is more like a clearly defined address of the volume and also the default label for the volume on which the Windows files are installed.

If you have not consciously set a different location here, all data stored while working on your computer will be saved.

Now change to the root directory (ie the first directory) of the data carrier "C" by double-clicking on the data carrier "C".

Here are a few more standard folders.

"User" (In Screenshot "User"): Contains by default all user data divided according to the respective users. So it contains all the files that you store in your "My Documents" folder or desktop.

"Programs" (In screenshot "Programs"): Contains all program files by default. (As long as they are not a 32-bit program, see "Programs (x86)".)

"Programs (x86)" (In screenshot "Programs (x86)"): This folder only exists if your computer has a 64-bit architecture (which is the case with all reasonably modern computers nowadays). It stores all programs that only support the 32-bit architecture.

"Windows" (In Screenshot "Windows"): Contains all files needed for the operating system. You should not edit or delete any files in this folder.

Copy, cut and paste with the clipboard

Another handy feature of Windows Explorer is that it makes it easy to copy files between individual folders or drives. This is a feature you need quite often. For example, you can use this feature to copy your new vacation photos from the memory card to your hard drive.

To make this possible, the "clipboard" is integrated in Windows Explorer. The clipboard is a kind of universal storage space where you can place elements for copying.

For example, if you want to copy a text file from one folder to another, this is done as described below.

In this example, we want to copy the text file "TextDocument to copy.txt" from "Folder 1" on the left to "Folder 2" on the right. To do this, you must click on the desired file with a right-click, which opens a context menu. Here you click on "Copy". This causes the file in the clipboard to be marked for copying. In principle, the clipboard remembers which file should be copied in the future without knowing where to copy it. This works with almost all files and even with individual elements like text blocks or pictures.
So we have now marked the text file for copying. Now we just have to define where it should be copied to. So switch to "Folder 2", find a vacancy on the white background and click on it again with the right mouse button. Again, a context menu opens. Now click on "Paste". This click now tells the clipboard that you have found a place where you want to copy the previously marked file.
The text file is very small, so it is probably displayed directly in the window of "Folder 2". For larger or multiple files, it may also happen that this copy takes longer. You will then see the progress of the copy process in an extra window

Move a file:

Sometimes you do not just want to copy files, you can move them directly. Move means that the file is first copied from the place of origin to the destination and then deleted at the point of origin.

The procedure for moving a file is almost identical to the procedure for copying. To do this, right-click on the text file again with the right mouse button. This time, however, you click on "Cut".

Now switch back to "Folder 2" (this is the destination). Here you click again with the right mouse button on a free white area and start the shift process by clicking on "Paste".

The file will then be copied as in the previous copy operation and then immediately deleted at the point of origin.

The file has been moved from the place of origin to the destination.

Make hidden files and folders visible

The Windows Explorer also offers the possibility to hide files. These files will not be deleted but invisible to the normal view in Windows Explorer. This is useful, for example, to prevent important system files from being erroneously deleted by the user.

Sometimes you have to access these hidden files. To do this you first have to make them visible, which is explained below.

Open another Explorer window like "This PC". If - as in the picture - no menu bar is visible in the upper area, it must first be displayed. To do this, click on the small, downward pointing arrow in the top left corner.
If you have the menu bar displayed you can now open the tab view. There you can - as shown - open the options.
Click on "Change folder and search options".
In the now appearing window change to the tab "View".
Now scroll to the category "Hidden files and folders". Here you choose the option "Show Hidden Files, Folders and Drives" and confirm this by clicking on "OK".

This setting now enables that all previously hidden or hidden files and folders will be visible. Very good you can see this in the above-mentioned folder "Windows". In this, many system files and folders are usually hidden. By changing the setting you can now see all the files.

Show file extensions

In the same menu of the "folder options" you can also activate or deactivate another useful function. By default, the filenames do not display any file types.

Actually, each filename is structured according to the pattern FILENAME.FILETYPE. A text file with the name FunnyTextFile is thus called including file type "FunnyTextFile.txt". The part ".txt" marks the respective file as a text file.

By default, the file type in the complete file name is hidden. This also makes sense because it prevents the file type from being incorrectly removed.

How you can still show the file type, you can see in the following picture.

Open the folder options again as in the previous step. There, you remove the check mark "Hide extensions for known file types" and confirm this by clicking on "OK".

If you have disabled this option, you will see that each file now displays the respective file type.

Have fun with the project

I hope everything worked as described. If not or you have any other questions or suggestions, please let me know in the comments. Also, ideas for new projects are always welcome. 🙂

P.S. Many of these projects - especially the hardware projects - cost a lot of time and money. Of course I do this because I enjoy it, but if you appreciate that I share this information with you, I would be happy about a small donation to the coffee box. 🙂

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