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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Managing Your Computer

In this section, you will learn how to create, move, copy, and organize computer files like an information technology (IT) professional.


Knowledge of computers is a prerequisite for so many jobs. But do you know how to use computers to better organize your workday? Knowledge of hardware, software, and related accessories can save you time when creating, saving, and retrieving work.

The most important element of hardware, for organizational purposes, is the central processing unit (CPU). It's the box that contains your hard drive, floppy drive, and CD-ROM drive. Decades ago, CPUs encompassed entire rooms. With the advances in microelectronics, however, they have shrunk to small boxes that neatly fit on or underneath your desk.

Hard Drive

The hard drive is like the filing cabinet for your computer: It holds all the software applications and documents that you use.

You should be aware of the size of the hard drive and how much free space remains at any point in time. Older computers, with older hard drives, consume free space quickly. If you have Windows operating system, you can check available space by going to Explorer, clicking on the C drive, then choosing File on the toolbar, and selecting Properties. The pink wedge of the pie indicates free disk space, and the blue wedge shows what is already taken by files and applications.

Hard Drive Folders

Every software application has a filename extension. Perhaps the most famous is .doc for Microsoft Word (myfile.doc).

File folders are also easily manipulated. Create a new file folder in your Word directory named My Documents. Call it My Project. Make note of the file path on your hard drive—the path is the drive, the directory (My Documents), and then the folder name (My Project). Then every time you want to save a document related to the project, you do so in the My Project file folder.

If you want, you can use a unique file extension to help segregate certain types of files for easy identification or organization on your hard drive. For example, say that John R. Smith wants to save certain Microsoft Word documents related to his project apart from others. When saving the document, he names it myproject.jrs. When looking for the file, he types in .jrs in the appropriate box, and only files with that extension will be listed on the screen.

Back up these files and folders on disks or a CD-ROM if they are important.


Today's hard drive sizes for power PCs can hold up to 20 or more gigabytes (GB).


Back it up! Computer crashes and viruses can destroy hard drives and data. Portable units or remote storage should be used for storing backups. Rotate weekly between two backup disks, and keep one copy offsite.

Portable Storage Units

These are equivalent to hard drives but can be toted around, stored away, and then brought back out to hook up and use with the computer system.

Portable storage units include the following:

  • Iomega (http://www.iomega.com) Zip and Jaz drives. Installed internally or externally, the disks hold 100MB to 250MB each. The units retail between $50 and $200.

  • Ecrix (http://www.ecrix.com/). This device has a 66GB storage capacity at a record rate of 6MB/second. A VXA drive retails for $900.

  • Hewlett-Packard (http://www.hp.com/) SureStore DAT40. This device stores data on digital audio tapes and retails for less than $1,200.


Portable storage units and drives, such as Iomega Zip drives, are great when you divide your time between different machines.

Floppy Drives and Disks

These previously were limited to 1.4MB of disk space, but drives have expanded to hold up to 110MB and 144MB of space. Expected to become the standards for future drives, these systems retail between $60 and $80. The LS-120 Monster Drive retails for between $60 and $80 respectively (http://www.tigerdirect.com). They are expected to become the standards for future floppy drives, with the 1.4MB floppy going the way of 8-track tapes.

E-mail file transfers and CD drives are rapidly eliminating the need for floppy disk storage.


CD-RWs cannot be universally read on all computers. CD-Rs can, but they can be written on only once.

The CD-ROM Drive

The CD drive is evolving into a data storage system. Newer computers allow the recording, copying, and re-recording of data to a CD. Two types of CDs exist in this capacity: the CD-R (recordable or write once) and the CD-RW (rewriteable). Typically, CD-RWs store 650MB and more of data.

Which type of disc you use depends on how you will be using the CD and whether you want to use the CD on other systems. CD-RWs, which you can write and rewrite on, are replacing more traditional data backup system. Hewlett-Packard, Creative Labs (http://www.creative.com), Iomega, Acer (http://www.acer.com), Samsung (http://www.samsung.com), and a host of other companies are hot into this product. Prices range from $120 to $350.

Remote Storage

A new alternative to local storage of data is remote Internet sites, where entire hard disks or company server data can be stored for ready access.

This is an extremely valuable resource to business travelers or offices with remote employees and teleworkers. Many services are free and allow you to upload important files right on to their servers. You simply sign up, pick a password, and create your own Internet office.

You can also provide staff members with passwords to selected areas so that they can view, add, or delete files. Try an Internet search for Internet storage, or go to About.com and search for Internet file space. This site also maintains a list of services and gives their pros and cons.

E-mail folders

E-mail folders are created for organization of e-mail and easy retrieval. Your software application dictates the manner in which that is done. It isn't hard to do in any e-mail application; if you do have a problem, just go to the Help menu for instructions.

Typically, your e-mail application will include default folders titled Inbox, Outbox, Sent Items, and Deleted Items. Use the same naming methods for your e-mail folders, such as Client Name, Product Type, Project, or Activity.

Plain English

Default A selection automatically used by a computer program if the user makes no specific choice.

For maximum efficiency, your organization might create a company filing system similar to your paper file system. Then office staff could be trained to follow the system. When office team members leave the company, their files should be easy to understand.


Some remote storage Web sites also collect e-mail from several accounts. Check out http://www.desktop.com and http://www.netledger.com


Compression software compresses and stores large data files. The compressed files can even be stored on disks and compact disks. For retrieval and expansion back into normal format, just access them through the same compression software.

These applications from several manufacturers are easily accessible through the Internet. They include Nico Mak's WinZip (http://www.winzip.com) and PKWare, Inc.'s PKUNZIP (http://www.pkunzip.com).

You can download free, 30-day evaluation copies of compression software. Purchase price is about $30.

System Tools

Just as with a car, your hard drive needs a periodic tune-up. Most operating systems have system tools to eliminate unnecessary data and organize the data and applications. Called defrag, scan-disk, and disk-cleanup, they tune your hard drive for fast retrieval and reduce software conflicts.


Use the "uninstall" feature on software applications to take them off your hard drive. It's cleaner and more efficient than using the Delete button.


Surge protectors reduce the likelihood of electrical surges from damaging the computer and peripherals.

Universal power supply (UPS) units save the work in progress in case of a power outage. A battery pack allows your computer to remain operational for an extended period so that you can save and store work before shutting down the system.

Back It Up

Regardless of the size of your hard drive, you should back up valuable data and store it by way of one of the previously mentioned peripheral units.

If your hard drive crashes because of a computer system failure, or if it is destroyed by power surges, all stored data and software applications will be lost.

Protect your files by backing them up. A backup is a copy of your computer files stored on either a disk, a tape, a CD, or a network server.

Backing up your computer files is simple and takes very little time. Your computer software will guide you through the steps; you can decide when, where, and how the computer backs up your files. Get your system in place and stick with it. For more details on backing up your computer files, see "Easy Organizing Basics" on page 156.

Remember that you can back up your files on the Internet. Some Web sites offer free space; others charge annual fees in the $100 range. Two top picks in 2000 by PC Magazine were http://www.connected.com and http://www.xdrive.com.

The use of computers to communicate and send important data transcends photocopying and regular mail. We need to learn how to use the operating systems and software applications for saving, storing, and backing up copies of documents we create.

The 30-Second Recap

  • Carefully choose computer hardware to match your storage needs.
  • Back up work on a daily and weekly basis.
  • Keep one backup copy offsite.
  • Create and maintain a filing system in your computer.
  • Use remote storage for excess data or when traveling.
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