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Finding files with Windows

(Using a Mac? Read this)

One of the most vexing problems I encounter are from people who have lost a file on their computer. Computers are really good at finding things, but are also really good at hiding things. First, let's look at some ways to find that lost file, then let's see what we can do to not loose files in the future.

The Start Menu in Windows 7 shows a list of recent applications and by hovering your mouse over one of those applications, you will see the recent files used by that application. Alternatively, you can to open the application and look for the “Recent files” list, usually found under the File menu.

But what if the file came from a website or as an attachment to an email? You can use the Windows Explorer to search your entire hard drive (which could take a while) or limit the search to the folders that are most likely to contain the file. And remember, when searching for a file with Windows Explorer, you can enter the name of the file, a portion of the name, or you can search on text found in the file, which is great when you can't remember the filename.

What to do so you don't loose files in the future. In most applications, files are saved to a default location. By viewing or changing this setting in the application's options, you'll now know where to find these files. Your web browser also has a default location for storing downloaded files. And you can do the same for your email client so that attachments get saved to the location of your choice.

In order to make searching for files very fast, all computers employ a system of indexing. An index, such as in a book, provides a quick reference to the content on your computer. Windows builds an index, but you'll want to check your indexing options to ensure that your files are automatically added to the index. To do so, click on the Start Menu and enter 'indexing options' to go to the Indexing Options in the Control Panel.

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