Window 8 File Explorer File Cabinets - dummies

Window 8 File Explorer File Cabinets

By Andy Rathbone

To keep your programs and files neatly arranged, Windows 8 cleaned up the squeaky old file cabinet metaphor with whisper-quiet Windows icons. Inside File Explorer, the icons represent your computer’s storage areas, allowing you to copy, move, rename, or delete your files before the investigators arrive.

To see your computer’s file cabinets — called drives or disks in computer lingo — open the Start screen’s Desktop app. The Start screen vanishes, and the Windows desktop appears, showing the File Explorer tile to the right of the taskbar’s Internet Explorer icon.

Open the File Explorer tile with a double-click or finger tap, and you quickly see your files and folders listed in File Explorer. File Explorer can display its contents in many ways. To see your computer’s storage areas, click the word Computer from the pane along the left edge.

The File Explorer image looks slightly different from the one on your PC, but you’ll still see the same basic sections, each described in the upcoming list.


The File Explorer window comes with these main parts:

  • Navigation Pane: The handy Navigation Pane, that strip along the left edge, lists shortcuts to special folders called libraries that hold your most valuable computerized possessions: your Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos.

  • Hard Disk Drives: This area lists your PC’s hard drives — your biggest storage areas. Every computer has at least one hard drive. Double-clicking a hard drive icon displays its files and folders, but you’ll rarely find much useful information when probing that way. No, your most important files live in your Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos libraries, which live one click away on the Navigation Pane.

    Notice the hard drive bearing the little Windows icon? That means Windows 8 lives on that drive. And see the multicolored line next to each hard drives’ icon in the figure? The more colored space you see in the line, the more files you’ve stuffed onto your drive. When the line turns red, your drive is almost full, and you should think about upgrading to a larger drive.

  • Devices with Removable Storage: This area shows detachable storage gadgetry attached to your computer. Here are some of the more common ones:

    • CD, DVD, and Blu-ray drives: Windows 8 places a short description next to each drive’s icon. For example, CD-RW means the drive can write to CDs but not DVDs. DVD-RW means that it can both read and write to DVDs and CDs. A BD-ROM drive can read Blu-ray discs, but it can write only to CDs and DVDs. And the ever-so-versatile BD-RE and BD-R drives can read and write to Blu-ray discs, DVDs, and CDs.

      Writing information to a disc is called burning.

    • Memory card reader and flash drives: Memory card readers add a little slot to your PC for inserting memory cards from your camera, MP3 player, or similar gadget. Their icon looks like an empty slot — even after you insert the memory card. And oddly enough, the icon for some flash drive brands resembles a flash drive; other flash drives show a different icon.

      Windows 8 doesn’t display icons for your computer’s memory card readers until you’ve inserted a card into them. To see icons for your empty card readers, open File Explorer, choose the View tab, choose Options, choose Change Folder and Search Options, click the View tab, and then pause to catch your breath.

      Finally, click to remove the check mark next to the Hide Empty Drives in the Computer option and then click OK.

    • MP3 players: Although Windows 8 displays an icon for a few MP3 players, it coughs up a generic thumbdrive or hard drive icon for most iPods and cellphones. If you own an iPod, you need the Apple iTunes software; Windows 8 can’t copy songs to and from an iPod by itself.

    • Cameras: Digital cameras usually appear as camera icons in the File Explorer window. To ensure success, turn on your camera and set it to its View Photos mode rather than its Take Photos mode. Then, to grab the camera’s pictures, double-click the camera’s icon. After Windows 8 walks you through the process of extracting the images, it places the photos in your Pictures library.

  • Network Location: This icon seen only by people who’ve linked groups of PCs into a network, represents the Media Player library living on another PC. Click one of these icons to access the music, photos, and video stored on those other PCs.

If you plug a digital camcorder, cellphone, or other gadget into your PC, the File Explorer window will often sprout a new icon representing your gadget. If Windows neglects to ask what you’d like to do with your newly plugged-in gadget, right-click the icon; you see a list of everything you can do with that item. No icon? Then you need to install a driver for your gadget.

Tip for tablets: When you read the word click, substitute tap. Similarly, right-click means touch and hold. And the term drag and drop means slide your finger along the screen, as if your finger is the mouse pointer, and then lift the finger to drop the item.

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