*File organisation in Windows

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E Wilcock
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File organisation in Windows

Postby E Wilcock » 01 Apr 2019 16:24

I would appreciate any advice from other Window users on how to organise files. And to correct a problem that seems to have arisen with duplicate file locations.

While updating my website with File zilla , File zilla was suddenly unable to find the folder on my local computer where the website HTML trees are saved. Or rather it found what I assumed to be the correct folder, but the Gedsite file I had just copied was not there.
I eventually discovered, by searching for the lost file, that there were two folders with the same name My Webs to which the paths were different.
I use windows 7 and it seems that unknown to users, Windows has introduced different users and different paths to files which did not exist when I started using computers.

Under my user name (there is only the one user name by the way and no password) is a folder called My Documents.
In My Documents there are the folders I originally created to hold files arranged by the file type, e.g. Adobe docs, Word Docs, and of course Family Historian Projects.

But also in this list are folders created (it seems) by Windows, name My this that and the other. One of these is My Webs, so it made sense to have a folder inside it called Genealogy Website. That folder pretty much replicates my site which has been uploaded. This is the place from which I expect to upload. C:\Users\EandC\Documents\My Webs
This same address appears to exist also under Libraries C:\Users\EandC\Documents\My Webs

I notice that the address above does not say My Documents although I can see My Documents in the side list on screen. But the address for the website does include the word My. This doesnt seem logical?

However, after my site file went missing, I discovered to my astonishment that there is another folder My Webs, also containing a folder Genealogy Site. The path to this one is
C:\Users\EandC\My Webs\Genealogy website.
The contents are not identical. So I mis-navigated.

This situation may have arisen after I had to take the computer back to factory settings a couple of times, then restore my data. Trying to sort out the muddle I also found a folder called Documents inside My documents. I would like to do some housekeeping and get rid of duplicate folders, without of course losing any valuable data in them.

And it would be brilliant to know what one is supposed to do.

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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby tatewise » 01 Apr 2019 17:41

Yes, it can get a bit confusing, and Windows filing systems are very complex.
There are at least three types of folder location mechanisms at work here.
Which ones are visible in Windows Explorer may depend on whether the Hidden items option is ticked or not.

  1. Physical disk folders such as C:\Users\EandC\Documents and C:\Users\EandC\Music
    These are what actually exist as folders on the disk.
  2. Logical folders (know as junctions) such as My Documents and My Music
    These names exist for backward compatibility with programs written for older versions of Windows.
    They are simply pointers to the physical disk folders with the same name without the My prefix.
  3. Libraries typically have similar names such as Documents and Music
    These are logical structures that combine physical folders into one composite group.
Windows creates the default folders Documents, Music, Pictures & Videos with matching My logical folders, plus folders such as Downloads and Desktop, etc.
I don't believe it creates a folder such as My Webs.

To discover who owns a folder and therefore who created it use the following:
Right-click the folder and choose Properties.
On the Security tab click the Advanced button.
Near the top it identifies the Owner.
That will typically be Administrators for Windows created folders or your username EandC for those you created.
Do NOT change anything ~ just click Cancel and Cancel again.

A Google search for Difference between Documents and My Documents gives lots of answers.
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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby E Wilcock » 02 Apr 2019 09:26

Thank you so much Mike.

I did some google searches. And listened to a You tube tutorial before asking here. But it wasnt clear and I know you have a gift for explaining computers to people like me.
I understood your answer, thank you.

What you say makes sense in view of our having had a new computer every 8 years, with successive versions of Windows.

Googling with the term you suggested which I have now done. makes me think this is a Windows 7 problem, and what I was actually considering was a future computer running Windows 10.

The My Webs folder.
I would never have named a folder My anything and am glad to hear from you that MS have discontinued that.

I did as you instructed and the folder My Webs looks to have been created by me as user - but I have another theory. Years ago my husband bought me a MS program called Front Page for creating websites. I was writing simple HTM (links etc) in a text editor - but struggling with images. I bet Front Page created that folder for its data. Much of my original Artillery Brigade website was written in Front page and is in that folder. Before aol sites closed and Google sites came along.

At some point when the computer was set back to factory settings after a virus, I must have restored the files from two different back ups and the very oldest ones including My Webs must have been duplicated. Otherwise My Webs would not find itself on two different paths.

But what you taught me is that the file arrangement on my main computer is all to do with the history - Whereas I was considering file organisation on my lap top with Windows 10 which has no history at all. I was working out how best to order my files on it or any future new Windows 10 computer.
I wondered whether, with better searches, users still need a file structure at all?

But what you have explained is that one cant actually make a new start. It looks like a muddle but MS are trying to make it easier to find things? One still wants to locate the files one created years and years ago. My husband has already said he want me to leave everything as it is now, even on a new computer.

I appreciate your taking the time to explain the Windows filing system which I had not understood. I owe you so much. Thank you.

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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby jbtapscott » 02 Apr 2019 09:35

I also used Front Page (and still do you for one of my old private web sites) - it defaulted setup to "My Web Sites", so I think you are pretty much correct there Evelyn.

If you do move to a new Windows 10 machine (as I did recently to replace one of my older machines), it will create a number of base folders for Documents, Pictures, etc., in the Users\UserName folder. That said, there are a number of utilities (including one that Microsoft offers) which will migrate your existing "Documents" folder and sub-folders across to the new machine, so you pretty much have the choice of automated migration or manually "DIY"!.
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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby tatewise » 02 Apr 2019 10:31

Yes, installed programs will often create folders on your behalf, that they need to store their files.
e.g. FH creates Family Historian Projects and lots more...

Windows 10 has similar physical Documents folder, logical My Documents, and Documents library.
The reason is the same, to provide backwards compatibility for programs designed for earlier versions of Windows, but still run in Windows 10, and thus avoid the programmers from rewriting their programs (both private and commercial).

One method of migration is to use cloud storage such as OneDrive or Dropbox.
But USB memory sticks or external backup disks work just as well.
However, they will all tend to mirror exactly what you have in your Windows 7 PC.

So you will need a comprehensive reorganisation plan if you want to simplify your folder structure.
But remember that most programs you have installed (such as FH) will demand their own folder structure.
Some (like FH) may allow you to create their folder structure within any other folder on disk.

Obviously, redundant folders such as one of your My Webs folders can be deleted.
They will still exist in your backups if deletion turns out to be a mistake.

Some data associated with some programs may be dependant on specific file paths, so rearranging folders carries some risk.
e.g. FH Media absolute file paths do NOT usually migrate from PC to PC, whereas relative paths work OK.
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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby victor » 03 Apr 2019 09:39

This is what I have done for my family files.
Under Family Historian Projects folder I have a sub folder called Family Information
Under this sub folder I have separate folders with the surnames of those on my family tree, not only their surnames but also certificates with sub folders for Births, Baptism, Marriage and Deaths
I also have a subfolder under Family information listing census images with subfolders for each census years
Outside the family historian I name folders according to subjects Holidays, and whatever your hobby is
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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby tatewise » 03 Apr 2019 09:53

Sorry Victor, but I'm not sure what that has to do with the foregoing discussion that is all about default Windows folders?
Have you posted in the intended topic?
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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby victor » 03 Apr 2019 11:33

Maybe I misunderstood the topic.
One asked how they organise files and I was simply stating how I organie files and made special pointes when it came to FH Project.
When it comes to surnames I have one file for each surname so I know where the details are. Thatis details of the person I have added to FHG tree

Any other files not related to family search will have their own folder outside FH Projects#

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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby tatewise » 03 Apr 2019 12:54

Victor, I think you may have misunderstood the topic, as nobody asked about organising family history files.
It is all about the default Windows organisation of folders Documents, Music, Pictures, and the like, which is why it is in the General Forum and not the FH General Usage Forum.
Perhaps you have mistaken it for the Organisation of media folders (16743) topic that does ask about organising family history files?
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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby victor » 03 Apr 2019 14:56

Forget what I said about FH files. I only mention that under that as particular subject.
FH is just one folder. I have a whole list of other bolders under different subjects and these are divided into sub folders, similar to what i have done in my FH folder. By doing this I know where things are and just open the subject folder

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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby tatewise » 03 Apr 2019 19:45

Sorry, but I still don't see what that has to do with the default Windows organisation of folders Documents, Music, Pictures, and the like. This thread is nothing to do with organising user folders. It is just about the folders created by the Windows operating system.
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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby E Wilcock » 04 Apr 2019 08:23

I have learned quite a bit from this thread. Thank you. And thanks Victor too.

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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby Gowermick » 04 Apr 2019 11:54

My advice is to ignore Windows default file structure completely! As Victor says, work out a filing system structure that suits you and ignore Microsofts attempts at imposing their structure on you. Remember, they designed it so that many people can use the same PC, but how many of us have more than one person using the PC? (where PC stands for Personal Computer)
To insist that my documents be stored by default in a folder called c:\users\mick\my documents\ is a nonsense, what’s wrong with c:\docs .
1. I know they’re mine, so why stick my in front of every folder name?
2. I’m the only one who uses my PC, so why hide my documents down somewhere deep within in the filing system?

You’ll guess from my comments that I hate Microsoft, especially their dumbing down of everything! What’s wrong with people deciding for themselves how to organise their files!

Personally, I suggest a separate D: drive to store all your personal files (they are cheap enough nowadays) I tend to steer clear of C: drive whenever possible, which makes backing up simpler (i.e. Backup D: and ignore C:). What is more important, if PC crashes, you can simply unplug the D: drive and put it into the replacement PC, without worrying.
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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby tatewise » 04 Apr 2019 13:04

Sorry Mick, but although I sympathise with a few of your points, I disagree on many.
Computing conventions, just like in most other walks of life, have their benefits.
If it were not for the conventions we would not be able to communicate nor obtain software packages that work on most PC.
We would not be here discussing their pros and cons with respect to a common product such as FH.

If Microsoft did not design Windows PC to allow multiple user accounts, then they would not sell many.
Every Windows PC that I have ever had always has multiple user accounts.
They have at least one Administrator account, plus User accounts for me, my wife, and our grandchildren.
On every Windows PC there is also a hidden super-user Administrator account.
There is widely held advice that you have an Administrator account, plus a User account for day to day tasks, otherwise, if you only use an Administrator account, any security breaches are much riskier.

The default Windows disk folders do NOT have a My prefix and have not done so for many, many years.
Most products need a default folder structure, and that includes many genealogy products such as FH and AS.
When FH is installed it creates its folder structures in conventional Windows folders.
i.e.
C:\users\mick\Documents\Family Historian Projects\... holds the FH Project structures.
C:\ProgramData\Calico Pie\Family Historian\... holds the FH customisation folder structure and files.
If it were not for the Windows default folders Documents and ProgramData where would they go?
Personally, I would NOT want them planted in the root of the C: drive.

Yes, there are merits in separating user data onto a separate D: drive.
But then you have to break with convention and rearrange folders such as the FH ones above.
Unless that is, you use another Windows convention called Libraries.
With them, both the Windows default Documents folder, and your D: drive folder can coexist.
Also, the D: drive folder can be set as the default for creating new files & folders.
Then, if FH supported Libraries, it would automatically create its Family Historian Projects folder on your D: drive, but I have a recollection that unfortunately FH does not support Libraries.
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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby mjashby » 04 Apr 2019 13:56

"what’s wrong with c:\docs"

That directory/folder sits completely outside of any private user area on the PC no matter how many/few users there are, i.e. it is fully accessible to anyone who can switch on the PC without any need for a login or passworded access, so I do hope you don't keep any sensitive data in that location, unless you securely encrypt the entire folder or every sensitive file, which of course can also have a downside if there is any problem with the encryption process, which can occur.

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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby ColeValleyGirl » 04 Apr 2019 14:08

Mike, I think we're stepping into a minefield here -- there are as many ways of using PCs and organising files as there are PC users, and nobody is wrong as long as they are working in a way that suits them, and ensures they can find what they need when they need it and back it up effectively. What you advise might be suitable for one group of users but you cannot assume it will suit everyone.

Many of us (in fact, I suggest the majority of users) don't share our PCs, and have the minimum of necessary user accounts accordingly. I don't even separate my main user account from my main admin account but wouldn't advise that for any inexperienced user -- certainly not to anybody who is in the habit of installing programmes atc. from the Internet without vetting them very carefully. (I also have another local admin account in case my main profile get corrupted). I don't use the Documents folder under my account except for those programmes that refuse to put their settings, logs etc.anywhere else (a very small minority). There is none of my data in there.

All my data resides either in Dropbox (which has its own folder alongside Documents) or OneDrive (because Microsoft insist that OneNote uses OneDrive). Music, videos, and reference documents etc are all on networked storage.I leave Microsoft and programme developers to decide how to manage ProgramData etc. Nothing is accessible unless you log on to the PC.

This works for me (it's simple, easily backed up, easy enough to set up and maintain, and my data is accessible via the Internet from any PC I can access) but I wouldn't dream of saying it's the way everyone should work.

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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby Gowermick » 04 Apr 2019 14:15

Miketate,
You are obviously not as old as me then, as early Windows never had multi-user capabilities. Whilst I agree it can be useful for letting Grandkids use your PC, most I suggest, will have their own hardware (usually better) and don’t need to use yours :D
Also, with their increased knowledge of things PC, it would’t take much for them to wander where they shouldn’t.
My wife was astonished when our daughter in NZ thanked her for the picture she had sent. It turned out my grandson had used my wife’s iPhone to take a photo and send it to his aunt!! He was only 10 at the time! My wife still doesn’t know how to do that :D
Your comment about files on the root of C:, doesn’t stack up, when you consider ALL files are stored in the nearest available free space on the drive, wherever it is. The root is only a concept, it doesn’t really exist, except in the filing system index!
My point about using my was just to illustrate how Microsoft thinks. They soon learnt the error of their ways and removed it. :D
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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby Gowermick » 04 Apr 2019 14:21

Mervyn,
I take your point about security, but do you really think that ne’erdo wells won’t know how to access any file on your hard drive?
My advice is If you have sensitive data, don’t put it on a PC. :D
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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby AdrianBruce » 04 Apr 2019 14:43

Sorry Mervyn but in the context of Mick's comment "how many of us have more than one person using the PC?", which clearly implies it's not a public PC, if somebody is switching on my PC who I don't know about, then I'm in a heck of a lot more trouble than worrying about my financial data, because I've got a burglar. Though even a burglar wouldn't be able to "switch on the PC without any need for a login or passworded access".

A laptop being used outside the home is a different matter, but again, there is no access (to mine) without a login - or rather, there is if I walk away without locking, but if I walk away without locking, then people have access to my user data no matter where it is!

Work PCs and even home PCs with genuine multiple users are quite different beasts from the single (human) user PC. For most of us, the security threat through malicious sites and mails is far, far, far greater than any threat that can be mitigated against by dividing the physical hard drive up.

I've certainly followed Microsoft's C:\users\... structure and, in the context of a single human user with an Admin-level Windows user and a non-Admin-level day-to-day user (which is something I always set up), I inevitably find issues with actually using the C:\users\... structure - usually I've synched something but it's in the "wrong" user hierarchy, or I end up with a full iTunes library in both users' structure and wondering where my disk-space went. So I end up with C:\data for most things...

If anyone does want a security rant at Windows programmers, then feel free to join in my rant at those who insist that I have to be logged into my Admin-level user to install and update their software - Run As ... from my day-to-day non-Admin user just doesn't work.
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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby Russell » 04 Apr 2019 16:17

AdrianBruce - you mention that your PC is protected by a login.

So is mine - but I don't have any illusions that it will defeat a determined data thief. All the login password does is stop a casual user getting access to a computer - a little like a personalised on switch.

If an unauthorised person really wants to get at our secrets, all he or she needs to do is remove the hard drive from the computer casing and connect it to another machine as an external drive. The drive is not encrypted (generally, although this can be done with some downside as anything needs to be decrypted when needed), or locked in any way with the password.

Law enforcement do this all the time, though for evidential reasons they first clone the drive and then work on the copy.

I also have drives from previous PCs that I have owned - despite having used a login password from day one, and having changed it from time to time, I'm never bothered with any prompts. I've even got the drive from an old Windows 3 machine that I have kept for sentimental reasons.

What one person can design in the field of security, another can defeat. As Gowermick said earlier "...If you have sensitive data, don’t put it on a PC."

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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby AdrianBruce » 04 Apr 2019 19:06

Russell wrote:... If an unauthorised person really wants to get at our secrets, all he or she needs to do is remove the hard drive from the computer casing and connect it to another machine as an external drive. ...

Well, exactly. But that's not really the context of the conversation. The context was the security implications of using C:\DATA against C:\USERNAMES... and my contention that some of the failure modes described (e.g. "someone" logging onto my PC in my house) implied bigger problems than computer data confidentiality!
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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby DavidNewton » 05 Apr 2019 12:59

There are a number of mentions here of not storing your data on the same drive as the Windows operating system. As far as I can tell, and I could easily be wrong, no one has mentioned that the standard user folders can be stored anywhere you like (including C:\DATA) and Microsoft provides an official means to do it using the Location tab in the context menu of a user folder and this maintains the same level of security as the original location. I am fortunate in having two drives in my laptop and all my user folders are stored away from the operating system in the second drive. Unfortunately the Location tab hasn't made its way to Program Data yet.

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Re: File organisation in Windows

Postby tatewise » 05 Apr 2019 13:19

You are absolutely correct David.
That option exists in the right-click Properties dialogue of those standard Documents, Music, etc, folders.
That mechanism is used automatically if you invoke OneDrive > Settings > Auto-save > Protect your important folders to move those folders within the OneDrive folder.
Fundamentally the path to such standard folders is held in the Windows Registry per folder per user.
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