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Computer Tutorials

computer tutorials

computer tutorials free

Computer Tutorials


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Tired of your computer disks being scattered all over the place?


Understanding files


This tutorial is probably the most important you will ever read. It teaches you how your computer is organized. We explain terms such as files, folders & directories. Then we teach you how to find them. More importantly we teach you how to organize your files. An hour from now, you will feel like a computer guru and we made it easy.  This tutorial will make computer life easy.

***Before reading this tutorial we suggest you go to our website and read our Computer Basics Tutorial


Computers are fairly simple to understand if you get rid of all the big words. All a computer does is store information and then move it around. This is very similar to a library & a librarian...

The library stores information. Just like a computer.

The librarian finds information and moves it around. Just like your computer processor chip. When explained in terms of a library, a computer becomes very easy to understand.
So we will be using a library to teach you this simple tutorial.

OK, we said a library stores information like a computer & a librarian moves the info around like your processor chip. So what do you call the information on a computer and at the library?

At the library information is stored in books. In your computer information is stored in files. (Gee, this really is easy) A computer stores information, a processor moves it around, and the information is kept in files (that are like books).

Can it get much simpler? Yes...


Now, let's walk into the public library and see how they store the books (information files). We see that there are several rooms. A BIG room and several smaller rooms. Most of the information (books) are kept in the big room and smaller amounts of information are stored in smaller, less often used rooms.

Your computer is set up the same way. It has big storage areas and small storage areas. On most computers the big (main) storage area is called your hard drive.
BIG = Hard Drive. Simple. Think of this as room "C" in the library. The big room in the library is "C" and the Big storage area on the computer (hard drive) is referred to as the C Drive. In fancy geek terms the C Drive is written as C:\

Wow starting to feel like a computer nerd yet?

OK, a library has many rooms. One big one and a couple of smaller ones. Well, your computer has "small" rooms to. These rooms are generally named A and B. They are written as A:\ and B:\ These little drives are normally a floppy disk and a small 3 1/4 inch disk. Which one is A:\ and which is B:\ varies by computer manufacturer. It sure would be nice if they could have all agreed on this simple little detail, lol.

Wow, I hope that wasn't too hard. I figured that if you could read that you knew your
A, B, C's. If not, why go to the library? lol

Let's Review:
A:\ = A small 5 1/2 inch floppy drive
B:\ = A small 3 1/4 inch drive
C:\ = Hard Drive - The big Room

I hope you wrote that down, there will be a pop quiz.

OK, back to the library (I love field trip day).

When you walk into the library you see that all the information is in rooms. In each room the information (books) are stored on shelves. Duh.... Where else would they put them? And each shelf has a name or number & each book has a name.

Imagine if you went to the library and the shelves were not numbered & the books had no names. You could spend months looking for one book. But fortunately they have numbers & names. To find a book, you have to know the number of the shelf & the name of the book, and of course which room it is in.

On a computer, it is the same. If you want to find a piece of information, you have to know which disk drive it is on (A:\ , B:\ or C:\), which shelf it is on (these are called directories or folders depending on which version of windows you use) and the name of the file (book).

If you saw the following at the library you could find the book
Room C,Shelf 14, Book "Teddy"

On a computer you would write it like this

C:\ means disk drive C
Shelf 14 is the name of a folder
Teddy is the name of a file

OK, now lets say I was looking for a book in Room C at the library, the book was in a section called Program Files, and the books name was "America Online 8.0"

Room - C, Shelf - Program Files, Book - America Online 8.0

in computer speak

C:\ProgramFiles\America Online 8.0


Now what happens if the shelf is divided into little sections (subfolders/subdirectories)? Simple we just add a word to make it easier to explain.

For example. In Room C. I want you to go to the shelf named
Program Files , look in the section called America Online 8.0 and find " Downloads ," you would write my directions like this:

Room C , Shelf ProgramFiles, section America Online 8.0 book Download

Computer speak

If you understand half of what you have just read, you are now officially either a librarian or a computer geek!

Oh, and by the way, you now know where AOL downloads your files too.


There are currently several types of operating systems (software) out there for IBM machines. Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, etc etc etc. Each of these uses a program to help you find your files. Gee, isn't that nice. I bet they charge extra for that. Lol...

The programs used vary in name but most of the names are something slo (Windows Explorer) are very similar. If you know how to use one, you know how to use the other. So to make things simple, I will only use the instructions for Windows 95 and the Windows Explorer Program for this tutorial. If you have the other programs instead, you will still be able to do most all of what I am talking about here.

OK, lets look at our filing system (It's like a card catalog at the library).

Click the word
START in the bottom left hand corner of the screen (a menu pops up).

Click the Word

Click the words

A screen pops up. It has a line down the middle.

Disk Drives and Big Folders on shown on the left - Subfolders & files on the right

You can use the scroll arrows to go up and down to see the entire list of folders.

At the top you may see "Desktop," "My computer" disk drive A, drive B (if you have one), Drive C, and sometimes a few other drives and your CD ROM.

Desk Top
|___ My computer
        |___ Disk Drive A:
        |___ Disk Drive B:
        |___ Disk Drive C:

Right now our only concern is Drive C:\

Under drive C you will see yellow folders. They are the primary folders under Disk drive C (your hard drive).

The following is a sample of what you might see (Just the basics) on the left side of the Windows Explorer screen if you are using
America Online 8.0

|----MY Computer <--- (programs to change computer settings)
      |------A:\ <----Disk Drive A
C:\ <----Disk Drive C (Main Drive)
      |          | DOS <----DOS is the basic functions of your computer
      |          | PROGRAM FILES  ---|

      |          |                                        |  America Online 8.0

      |          |

      |          | WINDOWS <---This is where all your windows files are run from

Looking at this you could write the America Online directory like this

C:\ ProgramFiles\America Online 8.0 <---look at the diagram above & at this & you will see how they relate.

Now one last magic trick. You can click on the folders on the left side of the screen and they will open.

Only one folder can be open at a time. So to look in another file, click on it, the new folder opens, the first folder closes, and now you can see the contents of the new file on the right. When they open you can see all the files that are inside them on the right hand side of the screen. Cool huh?

A word of caution - Never delete a file unless you know exactly what it is or your computer may not work properly.


Lets say you someone sends you an email with a file attached that you want to download (copy from their computer to yours) and save for later.

The first thing you want to do is make sure that this is someone you TRUST (friends, family, etc.). Never download a file from a stranger, because they could be sending you a virus or password stealer.

Open the email
Write down the directory name for future reference
SAVE (That's it, the file is saved for later use).

If you don't select a destination file AOL will automatically download the file to:


(Using AOL)

Often we are reading an email, writing a letter or looking at a file and we decide we want to save it, onto our computers, so that we can use it again later. You may choose to save a file to a directory on your disk drive C:\ (hard drive) or to your Disk Drive A:\ (floppy disks)

Open up what you want to save (Email, letter, etc.)
SAVE (A box appears showing directories)
Write down the name of the directory at the top of the box (says "save-in")
OK (may say Open) (file is now saved)


Opening a file is like opening a book. You have to do it to read what is inside. There are several programs that can open a file. This tutorial shows how to use AOL and Windows Explorer to open a file. Some programs will not work in AOL (EXE's, AVI's, Some pictures, etc., but will open in Windows Explorer.

Other programs will work in AOL (Email, text files, etc.), but will not open in Windows Explorer. So the simplest thing to do is try opening a program with AOL, and if it doesn't work, open it with Windows Explorer.

OPENING A FILE IN AOL (Use AOL to open email, text files, GIFs and JPGs)
Start up
AOL (You do not have to be online to open or save files)
OPEN (A list of directories appears, at the top a box called "Look In" appears)
Use the arrows to the right of "Look In" to find the directory where you saved your file.
Click on
THE FILE YOU WANT TO OPEN (This highlights the file).
OPEN (File opens)

START (Bottom left of screen)
Windows Explorer (A Split Screen Appears)
Find your file by looking for the directory (You may have to click on Disk Drives or Folders on the left, so that you can see their contents (files) on the right.
Place the cursor on the file you want to open
Double Click your left mouse button (File opens)

(In Explorer)

WINDOWS EXPLORER A split screen appears
(Disk Drives and Main folders on the left - files on the right).
Click on the disk drive/folders on the left side of screen to show file you want to move on the right side of the screen).
Put your mouse
on the file (that you want to move ).
Click the
left mouse button (keep holding it down).
Drag the file to the folder where you want to move it too.
Let go of the mouse button and the file moves to the new folder.


Imagine going to a library where the librarian had one too many beers. She started just sticking the books anywhere she wanted. She has now been fired for drinking on the job. You get hired as her replacement. Twenty people walk in. They all want you to tell them where to find certain books. Now you would be wishing and praying that the books had been put away in an organized manner.

Now, lets try the same thing on your computer. When it comes from the factory, the files are organized. If you called the factory they could tell you where to find anything you needed to know. Quickly and easily. Believe me, this is a good thing.

Times goes by...

You have been downloading files, but not keeping track of where they are. You have downloaded updated versions of your Internet Service Provider Software (such as America Online's aol30) several times. You download letters, pictures, WAV files (sound), & all kinds of other files while not really caring where you put them.

Now you have a new job, the pay is great. Your new boss had only one requirement. That you take some of your work home & place it on your own personal computer. The boss isn't being mean. She just wants to be able to occasionally ask your opinion on certain items (in emergencies). You agree.

You take files home, download them, and never look at them again for 6 months.

You are now leaving on vacation. The whole family is in the car. Everyone is excited. You are flying to Hawaii. It is the only flight available this week. If you miss it, no vacation. The boss calls, there is an emergency at work. Their system crashed. She needs to ask you just a few questions about the files stored on your computer. You say no problem, then realize, YOU CANT FIND THE FILES!

Is organizing important? Yes, You need to be able to find files later. But there are several more other important things to consider. If you run out of space and your files are unorganized you have to go through your computer one file at a time to delete only the ones you don't need any more. But if your files were organized in directories, you could simply delete all the files in directories you no longer use. One file at a time or fifty files at a time. Which one do you think is easier?

Finally, organizing your files, in the manner I am about to show you, will help prevent you from losing files. Save you tons of work. Probably the most common problem we see online is people having to update their ISP's (Internet Service Provider's) such as AOL (America Online).

The current setup that comes with these programs such as America Online is that your files either get directly downloaded to their download directory
(On AOL that means files go directly to America Online 8.0 Download, written as c:\ProgramFiles\America Online 8.0 \Download)

OK, so here is what happens. You want to download a file while you are online. When it goes to download it shows you a list of folders, and normally the choice they have selected for you is called download. This makes it easy. All your files go to the same place. But later this file has tons of files, becomes a mess, and if you ever update your ISP (AOL, etc.) to a newer version you lose the files. Once you find them you have to move them one at a time to a new directory. Talk about a pain.........

There is an easier way!


I am a strong believer in taking ten minutes to set things up once, & never having to deal with all these problems ever again. If you follow the instructions below. You will never lose a file. You will never have to move a file. And updating your ISP & deleting the older version will have no effect (except for WAV files and address books on AOL).

Most important. You can find any file in ten seconds.

Here is a current look at how some peoples computers look when viewed through Windows Explorer

|-------MY Computer (programs to change computer settings)
|------A:\ <----Disk Drive A
C:\ <---Disk Drive C
|          |
|          |         
|          | DOS                                <---DOS is the basic functions of your computer

|          |
|          | PROGRAM FILES       <---When you install a new program it is stored here
|          | WINDOWS                    <-----This is where all your windows files are run from

On files are downloaded to c:\ProgramFiles\AmericaOnline8.0\download

What I am suggesting is that we create a new folder called "O1" on our computer to keep all of our personal files. The reason for calling it "01" is that your computer stores files alphabetically and "01" will be the first file. It will be at the top like this

           | 01 <---New directory where you will keep personal files


You can now see that if you deleted one of your directories such as America Online that your personal files would still be safely inside 01. Isn't it much easier having all your files in one place where you can quickly find them?

To Create: C:\01 <----Gee does that look easy to remember
Click on
START (bottom left of your screen)
Click on
Click on
WINDOWS EXPLORER (a split screen appears)
Click on
Drive C:\ (C:\ should be highlighted
Click on
FILE (from the explorer menu)
Click on
Click on
FOLDER (a NEW FOLDER appears on right side of screen backspace over the words " New Folder "
Click on
Drive C:\ You have a new folder called "01"

If you share your computer with friend or family, follow the above steps and create "
02 ", " 03 " etc., each of them have their own number directory to keep their files separate. Now you could D/L all your files here & you would know where they are. But I want to make it even easier. Lets make some subfolders.

To make a subfolder of "C:\01", follow the exact same steps you just followed above, except start by highlighting "01" instead of "C:"

Click on
01           <---it should be highlighted
Click on
FILE (from the explorer menu)
Click on
Click on

On the right hand side of the screen a
NEW FOLDER appears, backspace over the words New Folder and type the names of folders you want to create. Repeat this process over and over with each folder name that you wish to create.

One point here, "01" is like you put everything in your desk drawer, you know where your drawer is and eventually you can find things, but if your name the folders in your drawer you can find things much faster.

These is a sample of files that we use on our computers

| 01------------ This is your personal directory
|          |                   | bmp's <---make a file for BMPs (if you want)
|          |                   | exe's
|          |                   | friends <---make a file to save mail from friends (if you want)
|          |                   | jokes
|          |                   | personal
|          |                   | pictures
|          |                   | software <---make a file to download software to (backup's)
|          |                   | stories
|          |                   | work
|          |                   |
TEST <---Make a directory for testing programs
|          | 02-----> Make this directory for a second computer user
|          | 03-----> Make this directory for a third computer user
|          | aol30
|          | aol30a
|          |           |______Download

As you can see it is very easy to find your files this was. If you are using AOL, or any type of program, you will be amazed how easy it will be to find all of your files. I promise, it will be very easy. The TEST folder would be a good place to place programs that you might want to test and decide if you want to keep first. Make a folder called SOFTWARE to keep backups for all your programs (In case you need to replace them later).

Finally, as you download files from disks or the Internet, you will want to put them directly into these files. It's easy. Just look for Disk C, and folder "O1" will be the first folder you will see. And all the folders you just created will be there.

You see, the librarian just sobered up, and started putting books back on shelves where you can find them. And that will make your new job much easier.



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