Managing Your Computer Mess

Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D.

The National Psychologist

September-October 2005


If you are like me, you have zillions of files hanging around your computer.  And, if you are like me, your computer is, well, not so well-organized.  Once a year, during the summer when I am not teaching, I spend a bit of time organizing my computer.

Cleaning Up Your Hard Drive

As you get closer to filling up your hard drive you will find that your computer gets slower.  I have used 33.3 GB of my hard drive’s 40 GB storage space.  To find your usage, go to the desktop, double click My Computer, then right click Local Disk (C:).  Click Properties.  Right click My Computer and click Properties. Now click Disk Cleanup. This should free up some space.  On the same screen, click the Tools tab at the top and click on Defragmentation. This should give you more space.

Tired of Misplacing Files?

Most people save their files in My Documents.  That’s fine.  But it is helpful if you do not just save all of them under that same folder, but rather create sub-folders.  To do this, open My Documents and Click Fileà Newà Folder. Now give this folder a name like “Recipes” or “Assessment Reports” or “Monthly Billing”.  Then take each file, highlight it, left click it and hold the mouse button and drag it to the folder until the folder “lights up.”  Let go of the mouse key. Do that for all files.  A hint, you can drag and drop multiple files by clicking one and then holding down the ctrl key and clicking others.  To select multiple files that are next to each other, click the first one, hold down the shift key, and then click the last one. Then drag and drop all of them.

            I have about 20 sub-folders.  Since they are arranged alphabetically (if not click ViewàDetails and then click Name at the top of the list), I put an @ sign in front of the name. Really important ones get two or more @’s so they show up at the top.

            Hint: to open a recent file, go to StartàMy Recent Documents. This saves a lot of searching!

Messy Favorites

            When I am web surfing I bookmark or favorite a lot of websites.  However, this means that my Favorites list can be huge making it difficult to find anything.  Clean these up by clicking FavoritesàOrganize Favorites. You can create new folders, move a favorite to a folder or change the order of your favorites.  The latter is a bit tricky. Find a favorite you want to move, click and hold the left mouse button and then move the mouse until it is where you want it and then let go of the left mouse button.  Folders are nice because they expand when you move your mouse over them in the Favorites menu.

E-Mail: Communication Overload

            My goal is to never have more messages in my inbox than I can see on one computer screen.  To do this I make folders to store messages.  Folders are arranged alphabetically but you can use the @ sign trick to move important ones to the top.

I Can’t See My Desktop

            I have two sets of icons on my desktop, those I use all the time and those that I don’t.  For any program that I use I create a shortcut and put it on the desktop.  Click StartàAll Programs and find the program.  Make sure it is the program, not a folder that houses the program.  Then right click and click Send toà Desktop (as a shortcut).  Now, you can rename this icon by right-clicking and clicking rename.  Move icons around by left clicking, holding and moving. If they snap back, right click on the desktop, click Arrange by and unclick Auto Arrange. You can also create folders that hold desktop icons, too.  Right click on an open space and click NewàFolder.

Taskbar Tips

            The taskbar contains the Start button and other icons including open files in the center. On the left should be small icons that you use often. Three will show and the rest will be in a popup menu denoted by >>.  You can put a new icon here by dragging its shortcut from the desktop.  The right side is the system tray which shows you the active background programs like the clock, printers, etc. You can also move the taskbar. Right click on an empty taskbar area and click Properties. Unclick Lock the Taskbar and then hold the mouse button and move the taskbar to either side or the top. Different strokes for different folks.

Weeding Out the Junk

            Hard drives get clogged by files that we never plan to use.  Delete them. Don’t spend time deleting tiny files.  Go to a sub-folder and click ViewàDetails and then click size twice to get files ordered from largest to smallest. If you don’t need a large file, delete it. After you are done, empty the recycle bin so they are really gone and really free up space. 

            The biggest space gobblers are pictures, music and movies.  If you are dealing with an overloaded hard drive consider moving them to another storage unit like a rewritable CD or DVD, an external hard drive or a memory stick.  Photos are huge if they are not in a compressed format like GIF or JPEG.  TIFF and BMP are not.  I use VicMan’s Photo Editor (free at www.vicman.net) to change large file photos into smaller ones.  Other options include housing your photos on a website, either yours or a free online site (e.g., MyPhotoAlbum, PhotoWorks).  Check out http://www.ehow.com/how_12080_create-online-photo.html to find out how to do this.  By the way, eHow.com is a very cool site.

Cool Websites of the Month

            Got a song lyric stuck in your head but can’t remember the name of the song? Try lyrics.com.  Want an inexpensive fax machine? Try www.send2fax.com.  They have several plans where you get your own fax number and faxes go directly into your computer.  You send faxes from your computer by sending an email. You can attach pretty much any file.  Have a file you need to get into your computer? I use an HP psc 1210 (printer, scanner, copier) that I got online for under $100. It’s so easy to use I bought one for my mom and dad.


Copyright, 2005, The National Psychologist. Reprinted with permission. The National Psychologist is a privately-owned bimonthly newspaper which may be purchased for $30 a year. Write or call: TNP, 6100 Channingway Blvd., Suite 303, Columbus, OH 43232; telephone: 614.861.1999 or fax with Visa or MC to 614.861.1996.