By Matt Bentley
It surprises me how people with very tidy homes can often have quite disorganised computers.
One would think that the same principle would apply to both situations, but some people are, I think, less experienced at organising their digital lives than their real ones.
However organisation inside a computer has the same benefits as organisation in a home or business:
1. You know where old things are
2. You know where to put new things
3. You know how to get things back if something goes wrong
Backing up your data is one essential part of computer organisation. Think of it like house keys. You keep a spare key somewhere in case something goes wrong or you lose the original key. Correct?
Humans are fallible (so I’ve been told). By that small action, you save yourself an enormous amount of time/energy in the inevitable likelihood of human error. Likewise by keeping a backup of your data, you save yourself huge amounts of time and money if your hard drive fails, you get burgled or a lightning strike wipes out your computer (another good reason not to leave your backup drive plugged in at all times, by the way).
Another part of computer organisation is having a system that works for you in terms of organising your files. Generally I advise people to group related documents into named folders, because creating and using folders is basic computer knowledge and easy to do. Other options exist such as tagging documents (on Mac you can do this by default, on PC you can do it via the freeware app “filemarker.net”), however these approaches can be harder to manage once you’ve got a large amount of files.
The last integral part of computer organisation is cutting down on the number of documents/pictures/etc you have. Do you have 50GB of photos sitting on your hard drive? That’s fine, but how are you going to find that one photo you want if you’ve got 40GB of photos you don’t want? Consider going through your new files when you get them off your phone and removing the ones you don’t want, or doing a ‘spring clean’ on your computer each year to cull the herd. That’ll make it easier to find what you want at a later point.
Some programs exist for automatically sorting and organising certain types of files. For pictures, there’s Picasa, which, though now officially unsupported by Google, still works well as a way to automatically sort your photos based on age, and it can even automatically spot the faces of friends and family for you. For music there are various free programs like Mediamonkey which can sort your tunes based on various factors like album title, genre or artist. Kodi is a program that does much the same for video.
Ultimately there is no substitute for doing your own organisation, having a system for where to to put things and thereby knowing where they are. From what I’ve seen when left to their own devices people tend to end up with multiple backup drives, files for different businesses strewn across multiple folders and computers. In other words, a mess! A tidy home is a tidy mind, or so they say, but the same applies to computers. Don’t make your mind messy.
*Computer writer Matt Bentley is director of Bentley Home PC Support. Email Matt on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 021-134-8576