©2016 Donald R. Snow
This page was last updated 2016-06-13.

These Freeware Corner notes are published in TAGGology, our Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group (UVTAGG) monthly newsletter. They are also posted on my Freeware Corner Notes page on  where you can just click on the links and where they may have corrections or updates after the printed version.
Most of us have files lost, duplicated, and scattered all around in our computers due to not taking time to check things when first working with them or working on the same thing at different times.  Sometimes we get the same file saved with a different name, or even several copies of the same file in different folders.  The addage, "Handle it once.", is good advice for computer work as well as paper files, but who does it all the time?  This Freeware Corner article will discuss my method of dealing with this problem on my computer when I come across it, which is quite often, unfortunately.  I notice that when I am preparing to teach a family history or other class and begin looking for files I have used in the past, that I find lots of related things in different folders.  The program that most often leads me to such files is EVERYTHING, a free program from .   It finds all files anywhere on the computer that have whatever search terms you put into the search box.  When I find such files in unexpected places, if there are only a few, I just rename them in EVERYTHING on the spot so they show up where they should when I am looking for them.  If there are many such files, I have to decide whether to take time right then to fix the problem or make a mental or written note to do it when I get time.  But the first problem is finding the files that need renaming or are duplicates, so I can deal with them later.

Once I have found problem files that need renaming or checking for dups, there are several procedures I use depending on how many there are, what I'm working on at the moment, and how important it seems to be to get them organized right then.  For just a few problem files, I rename them right in EVERYTHING, as mentioned above.  If there are lots of problem files and my time is short, I may move them into a single folder to work on later by using other programs.  By highlighting the result files in EVERYTHING, even though the files are in different folders, you can drag and drop them into a single folder on your desktop, for example and that helps immensely in getting organized.  EVERYTHING allows the search results to be sorted by name, path, size, date created or modified, etc., so there are various ways you can sort them.  The Windows property of clicking on the top file, then holding down the Shift key while clicking on the bottom file, highlights everything in between.  When files are moved, they are not deleted from EVERYTHING, unless you have renamed them so none of the search terms are there any more.   The moved files remain in EVERYTHING and just the paths have changed.  Now, by sorting by path, you see which files are not in the new folder.  As the files are being checked for moving, if a file or folder in the target folder already exists with the same name, the program stops and asks whether you want to overwrite it or save both.  For just a few files to be moved this way, I usually just look at the properties of the two files shown on the screen and decide whether they are the same file.  I already know the names are exactly the same, so I don't have to look at those.  If I am confident that it is a duplicate, I click to have it overwrite the already-in-place file and go on to the next one.  If there is any question, I click to have it save the incoming file with a new name as it adds (2), or (3), etc., to the end of the name so it doesn't overwrite the old one.  If there are lots of files to move in and many have the same names, I usually put a check in the box to have it move all the files in and rename the new ones with (2), (3), etc. , and when I have time, I run another program to check that folder for duplicates, as described below.

This is a free program available from .  There are many duplicate file finders, but this one has features I particularly like.  It can be set to search through any part of the hierarchical tree structure of your hard drive, so I usually use it on just one file folder and subfolders to look for possible duplicates.  You can set it to look in subfolders or only the main folder, and to check the files in various ways, such as what's in the file regardless of its name, or just its size, and several other ways.  When you click it to start, it gathers all the files and starts comparing for duplicates.  It works quite fast.  When it finishes you see groups of all files that are the same regardless of their names.  There are various ways to select which files to delete, e.g. those with
the latest date or earliest date or the shortest or longest name, or just select them manually.  There is a button to click to see if you have inadvertently checked all files in any group and, if you have, it tells you which groups, so you can uncheck at least one, if you want to keep at least one copy.  When you are ready, there are several possible delete methods, e.g. moving all the copies to a different folder or putting them into the Recycle bin directly.  The program has some nice safeguards so you don't delete things you didn't want to.  For example, it shows you the path where the file is located and you can click to sort on the paths and look to make sure you aren't deleting any file in a particular path, unless you want to.  You could run DUPLICATE CLEANER FREE on your entire hard drive, but it would probably take many hours and there would be so many duplicates that you would have a hard time working on them, so I just use it on particular folders or groups of folders and don't try to do everything all at once.

After eliminating the duplicates in a folder, BULK RENAME UTILITY, a free program from , can be used to rename entire collections.  For example, you can add a new prefix to every file in the folder or change specified words in all titles to other words.  It has so many ways to rename files that it looks quite complicated, but it isn't hard to begin using it for simple renaming projects.  As an example, if I found a collection of files that were letters I might add a prefix LTR- to every file name in the collection.  Then EVERYTHING will find all letters for me if I just search for LTR- .  Once you have files named in a uniform manner, you can change your system very easily since you can use BULK RENAME UTILITY to change all of one term to whatever else you want.  The key is getting things named uniformly in the first place.  In some cases to make numbers sort chronologically, you need to add leading zero's, e.g. the numbers 1, 2, 3, 12, 13, 14 may not sort chronologically without adding leading zero's so they are 01, 02, 03, 12, 13, 14.  Or 001, 002, 003, 012, 013, 014, if some contain 3 digits.  Writing dates in International Date format, YYYY-MM-DD, makes dates sort chronologically, as well. BULK RENAME UTILITY can be used to edit in these types of name corrections.

The file management program, WINDOWS EXPLORER in all versions of Windows, has a Preview Pane that defaults to be turned off, but helps you see what's in a file without opening it with some other program.  Note that this is NOT the browser INTERNET EXPLORER.  To open the Preview Pane in WINDOWS EXPLORER click on the icon in the upper right corner.  With this opened when you highlight a file, you see what's in the file in the Preview Pane, so if it's a doc file, you see the text; if it's a jpg, you see the picture, etc.  You can even scroll through all the pages in the file this way.  But the best part is that when you can see what's in the file, you can rename it right there without having to open it in some other program.  It would be nice if EVERYTHING had that feature, but I don't think it does.  The Preview Pane in WINDOWS EXPLORER has saved me many clicks in file renaming.  Especially, if I have moved related files into a single folder, this method helps greatly in renaming.  I recently learned that there is a known computer bug in WINDOWS EXPLORER and that the Preview Pane sometimes won't open.  By Googling terms like Preview Pane Windows Explorer I found that this is usually caused by installation of certain versions of Microsoft Word, so if your WINDOWS EXPLORER Preview Pane won't open, try Googling the problem to see what to do.

Once you get the file names so they will be findable when you search for them, you can move them to wherever seems reasonable to you.  Different people tend to organize things in their minds differently, so work out a system that works for you and use it.  Once the files are named uniformly, you can easily change any words to any other words in bulk, so you don't need to do them one at a time.  The hard part is getting the names uniform in the first place.  Since I didn't start using this sytem until a few years ago, my computer files are "all over the place", as yours probably are.  It's such a big task to systematize everything that I only do it when I have time or when I have a task that I need it done for.  Occasionally, I get started finding files and just get hooked on getting things straightened out and I have fun doing it.  But usually I only do it when I need to get things organized for a class or report, etc.

A couple of things to be careful of are the following.
1.  Don't inadvertently delete system files that your computer needs to work right.  To help prevent problems this way an option in EVERYTHING is to have it NOT show system files.
2.  Some files, usually small ones, with the same name are needed in different locations since certain programs are set to find them in those locations.  If you are unsure of a file, don't delete it.  As a rule of thumb, if you named the file originally or you know it's not needed for the system, you are probably safe in deleting it.
3.  You may want to keep duplicate copies of some files, e.g. your journal, in different locations, even though they are exactly the same with the same names.  One way to do this is to put copies in a particular backup folder and tell EVERYTHING not to index that folder.  Then you won't ever see those files in EVERYTHING, but you will see them in WINDOWS EXPLORER and other programs.

File maintenance is a major task in computing and I hope this has given you some ideas that will help with it.  We all have the problem, but we don't talk about it much.