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How to See the Files on a Disk Drive in Windows 8

Like everything else in Windows 8, disk drives are represented by buttons, or icons. The File Explorer program also shows information stored in other areas, such as MP3 players, digital cameras, or scanners.

Opening an icon usually lets you access the device’s contents and move files back and forth, just as with any other folders in Windows 8.

When you double-click a hard drive icon in File Explorer, Windows 8 promptly opens the drive to show you the folders packed inside. But how should Windows react when you insert something new into your computer, such as a CD, DVD, or flash drive?

Earlier versions of Windows tried to second-guess you. When you inserted a music CD, for example, Windows automatically began playing the music. The more polite Windows 8, by contrast, asks how you prefer it to handle the situation. The same message appears whether you’re working within the desktop or Start screen.

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When that message appears, choose it with a click of the mouse; a second message appears, listing everything you can do with that item.

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Choose an option, and Windows 8 behaves the same way the next time you insert a similar item.

But what if you change your mind about how Windows 8 should treat a newly inserted item? Then you just need to change the Windows 8 reaction: In File Explorer, right-click the inserted item’s icon and choose Open AutoPlay. Once again, Windows 8 shows the message and asks you to plot the future course.

Adjusting the AutoPlay settings comes in particularly handy for USB thumbdrives. If your flash drive carries a few songs, Windows 8 may want to play them, slowing your access to your flash drive’s other files. To prevent that, select the AutoPlay option, Open Folder to View Files.

  • When in doubt as to what you can do with an icon in File Explorer, right-click it. Windows 8 presents a menu of all the things you can do to that object. (You can choose Open, for example, to see the files on a flash drive, making it simpler to copy them to your computer.)

  • If you double-click an icon for a CD, DVD or Blu-ray drive when no disk is in the drive, Windows 8 stops you, gently suggesting that you insert a disk before proceeding further.

  • Spot an icon under the heading Network Location? That’s a little doorway for peering into other computers linked to your computer — if there are any.

For more information about Windows 8 and its features, explore Windows 8 For Dummies, available online.

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