Basics of navigating in Windows Explorer

For many, knowing how to use Windows Explorer is probably the ultimate foundation of the basics. As a Windows user, you can't really get past it. No matter whether you just want to write a letter, sort through your vacation photos or surf the Internet. Above all, the first thing that comes first is Windows Explorer.

The following article contains a few tips and tricks for using Windows Explorer.

Orientation and path information

Windows Explorer is not a classic program that you have to start. It will start automatically as soon as the computer boots up. Once started, it allows you to navigate on the computer and in its file system. You can then move through the individual folder levels and thereby select, move and copy files.

The following tips should give you an initial overview of where you can find which files and how you can search for specific files.

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

The “Folders” group shows your user folders. So all files that are specifically linked to your Windows account and are normally only accessible from it.

The “Devices and Drives” group shows all drives connected to the computer – i.e. hard drives, USB sticks. Memory cards, etc. – on.

Network drives and mounted network folders are displayed in the “Network addresses” group. Normally nothing is preset here. Only after you have added network drives, for example, will they be displayed here. For example, how you can add network drives can be found in the article RaspberryPi – Share folders with SMB and integrate as a network drive under Windows described.

For further orientation, the drive “C” i.e. “Local Disk (C:)” is important. Where “Local Disk” is the name of the drive. You can change this quite easily and serves more as an easy-to-remember name for the data carrier. “C”, on the other hand, is more like a clearly defined address of the data medium and is also the standard name for the data medium on which the Windows files are installed.

If you haven't consciously set a different location, all data that is created while working on your computer will be stored here.

Now double-click on the “C” disk to go to the root directory (i.e. the first directory) of the “C” disk.

Here you will find a few more standard folders.

“User”: By default, contains all user data divided according to the respective users. This includes all files that you save in your “My Documents” folder or desktop.

“Programs”: Contains all program files by default. (As long as these are not 32-bit programs. See “Programs (x86)”.)

“Programs (x86)”: This folder only exists if your computer has a 64-bit architecture (which is now the case with all fairly modern computers). All programs that only support the 32-bit architecture are stored there.

“Windows”: Contains all files required for the operating system. You should not edit or delete any files in this folder without further ado.

Copy, cut and paste using the clipboard

Another practical function of Windows Explorer is that you can easily copy files back and forth between individual folders or drives. This is a function that is needed quite often. For example, you can use this function to copy your new vacation photos from the memory card to your hard drive.

To make this possible, the “clipboard” is integrated into Windows Explorer. The clipboard is a kind of universal storage space on which you can store elements for copying.

For example, if you want to copy a text file from one folder to another, you can do so 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 have to right-click on the desired file, which opens a context menu. Here you now click on “Copy”. This causes the file to be marked on the clipboard for copying. In principle, the clipboard remembers at this moment which file should be copied in the future without knowing where it should be copied to. This works with almost all files and even with individual elements such as text modules or images.
So we have now marked the text file for copying. Now we just have to define where it should be copied. So now switch to “Folder 2”, look for a free space on the white background and click on it again with the right mouse button. A context menu opens again. Now click on “Insert”. This click tells the clipboard that you have found a place where you want to copy the previously saved file.
The text file is very small, so it will probably be displayed directly in the “Folder 2” window. However, with larger or multiple files, this copying process may take longer. You will then see the progress of the copying process in an extra window

Moving a file:

Sometimes you don't just want to copy files but also move them directly. Moving means that the file is first copied from the origin to the destination and then deleted at the origin.

The procedure for moving a file is almost identical to the procedure for a copy process. To do this, first right-click on the text file again. This time, however, click on “Cut”.

Now switch back to “Folder 2” (this is the destination). Here you right-click again on a free white area and start the moving process by clicking on “Insert”.

The file is then copied as in the previous copy process and then immediately deleted at the original location.

So the file has been moved from the origin to the destination.

Make hidden files and folders visible

Windows Explorer also offers the option of hiding files. These files are then not deleted but are invisible to normal viewing in Windows Explorer. This is useful, for example, to prevent important system files from being mistakenly deleted by the user.

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

To do this, open another explorer window such as “This PC”. If, as in the picture, there is no menu bar visible in the upper area, it must be displayed first. To do this, click on the small arrow pointing downwards at the top left.
Once you have displayed the menu bar, you can now open the View tab. There you can open the options as shown.
To do this, click on “Change folder and search options”.
In the window that now appears, switch to the “View” tab.
Now scroll down to the “Hidden files and folders” category. Here you now select the option “Show hidden files, folders and drives” and confirm this by clicking “OK”.

With this setting, all previously hidden or hidden files and folders will now be displayed. You can see this very clearly in the “Windows” folder mentioned above. In this, many system files and folders are usually hidden. By changing the setting you can now see all files.

Show file extensions

In the same “Folder Options” menu you can also activate or deactivate another useful function. By default, no file types are displayed in the file names.

Actually, every file name is structured according to the pattern FILE NAME.FILE TYPE. A text file with the name FunnyText File is therefore called “FunnyText File.txt” including the file type. The “.txt” part marks the file in question as a text file.

In the default setting, the file type is hidden in the entire file name. This actually makes sense as it prevents the file type from being incorrectly removed.

You can see how you can still show the file type in the following image.

To do this, open the folder options again as in the step described previously. There you uncheck “Hide extensions for known file types” and confirm this by clicking “OK”.

If you have deactivated this option, you will see that each file now also shows the respective file type.

Have fun with the project

I hope everything worked as described for you. If not or you have questions or suggestions please let me know in the comments. I will then add this to the article if necessary.
Ideas for new projects are always welcome. 🙂

PS 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 think it's cool that I share the information with you, I would be happy about a small donation to the coffee fund. 🙂

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