©2019 Donald R. Snow
This page was last updated 2019-05-04.
Return to the  Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page  or  Don Snow's Class Listings Page .
ABSTRACT:  A big problem when using computers for family history, or anything else, is file maintenance. We all have lots of lost, duplicated, old versions, and ill-named files on our computers. Most of us never get around to correcting this and they just fill up our hard drives until we run out of space. This class will give you some ideas using freeware programs to find, relabel, organize, and eliminate duplicates of such files. The notes for this class and related articles, all with active links, are posted on .


  1. Instructor is Donald R. Snow ( of Provo and St. George, Utah.
  2. These notes and related articles, all with active Internet links, are posted on my website
  3. Tips:  (1)  To put an icon on your desktop for the URL for these notes, or any webpage, just drag the icon that is in front of the address in your browser to your desktop.  (2)  To open a link from here in another tab so you keep your place in these notes, hold down the Control key while clicking the link.
  4. The problem for today:  Finding and organizing files, lthose ost, duplicated, and to be eliminated, using helpful freeware programs.  

  6. Most of us have files scattered all over our computers, some duplicated, and others lost because of
    1. Not taking time to check things when first working with them
    2. Working on the same thing at different times   
    3. Same file saved with different names
    4. Same file with same name, but in different folders   
  7. The addage, "Handle it once.", is good advice for computers, as well as paper files, but no one does it all the time 
  8. Suggestion -- Decide on a file naming system that suits the way you think and start using it; go back as needed to rename older files
  9. Here we will discuss the method I have developed over several years so you can get ideas of what you want to do; then use parts of all of it, whatever you decide 
  10. Examples of my file naming system
    1. People files -- so they sort in timeline order for each person -- ManwaringDiane(Snow)(1934-2012)-2012-10-13-Obituary-SaltLakeDeseretNews-Ancestry-com--2014-04-10.pdf
    2. Photos -- so they sort in chronological order -- PHOTO-2004-01-20-10h23m16s--ManwaringDiane(Snow)(1934-2012)&SnowDonaldRay(1960-)InBarbadosArchives--P1200004.JPG
    3. Other types of files -- I use prefixes, e.g. LETTER- , ORDER- , etc.
    4. Tags -- include as many as you want; e.g. BIRTH, MARRIAGE, DEATH, SCHOOL, EDUCATION, MILITARY, LDS, etc.
    5. More details of my system are in other notes and articles on my website
  11. I use this system for new files and when I find old ones that I need -- I haven't tried to go back and redo all my files 

  13. First problem is finding the files, strays, lost, and duplicated files
  14. EVERYTHING -- free from -- is extremely helpful and is the best program I have found to find files anywhere on your computer with whatever search terms you look for   
  15. Downloading and setting up EVERYTHING-- has many options that you can set for your own preferences
  16. The search results can be sorted on any column, i.e. by name, path, size, date created or modified, etc., and each helps for some things
  17. EVERYTHING has a view option to show you what' in the file without having to open it, so you can rename it without having to open it 
  18. Examples of searching with EVERYTHING
  19. Files with same name, but in different folders, show up in the alphabetical search results, since it finds them regardless of folder; can check the date, size, etc., to be sure they are dups, and rename or delete them right in EVERYTHING
  20. If only a few files need work, do it right in EVERYTHING; if many files need work, make a note and do it later
  21. For many files to work on later I sometimes highlight them in EVERYTHING and move them to a working folder
  22. To move many files use the Windows property of clicking on the top file, then hold down the Shift key while clicking on the bottom file; this highlights everything in between so you can drag-and-drop the whole collection.
  23. When moving files to a new folder, if the new folder already contains a file with that name, it stops and asks whether to overwrite it or save both; by checking the file properties you can determine if it is the same and click to overwrite it; otherwise, tell it to save both and it adds a suffix number, e.g. _1 or _2 to the file name and and you can check for dups later 
  24. As you rename files, if you don't use any of the search terms, they disappear from the results list in EVERYTHING, but they are still on your computer
  25. Files you move, but don't rename, stay in the EVERYTHING results list, but their path location changes 
  26. By sorting on the path in EVERYTHING you see which files are not in the new folder and can highlight those to move them, if you want 

  28. Tehre are many free duplicate file finders; one I particularly like is DUPLICATE CLEANER FREE available from 
  29. Can be set to search through any part of your hard drive; I usually run it on just one large folder and subfolders
  30. Has settings to find duplicates of various kinds, e.g. same file content regardless of name, same size, etc. 
  31. When run, it gathers all the files and starts comparing for duplicates; works fairly fast and shows the duplicates in groups 
  32. Has options for you to mark which files to delete, e.g. mark them manually by putting check in box, or mark first in each group, or those with the latest date, those with shortest names, etc. 
  33. When done selecting, click button at top to see if you have inadvertently checked all files in some group; this is a safeguard so you don't delete all copies of a file, unless you want to
  34. With files marked to delete there are several delete methods, e.g. moving them to the Recycle bin or moving them to another different folder which is not the recycle bin, etc. 
  35. Program has some nice safeguards, so you don't delete things you didn't want to 
  36. Program could be run on your entire hard drive, but would take a long time and would find so many duplicates you would have a hard time working with them all; I just use it on particular folders or groups of folders and don't try to do everything at once 
  37. Will discuss finding and eliminating duplicate photos later   

  39. After eliminating duplicates in a folder you can rename the remaining files
  40. If only a few files need fixing, do it right in EVERTHING
  41. If many files need renaming, can use BULK RENAME UTILITY - free program from  
  42. Examples it will do -- add a prefix to every file in the folder, or change specific words in all titles, or add words at certain places in each file name; looks complicated, but isn't hard to begin using for simple renaming projects
  43. When you have your files named in a uniform way, if you decide to change systems later, it's easy to do; hard part is getting them all named in uniform way 
  44. Suggestions for naming
    1. To get numbers to sort correctly you may have to add leading zero's, e.g. the numbers 1, 2, 3, 12, 13, 14 may not sort  in order unless written as 01, 02, 03, 12, 13, 14, or 001, 002, 003, 012, 013, 014 -- number of leading zero's depends on how many digits the largest number contains 
    2. For particular collections you may want to add a prefix  LETTER- to the file name; I usually use a hyphen "-" at end of the tag so I can sort for the tag, e.g. LETTER-, and not get all occurrences of "letter" in any title  
    3. Writing dates in International Date format, YYYY-MM-DD, makes them sort chronologically.


  45. Finding and deleting duplicate photos deserves a class by itself, but a helpful free program is AWESOME DUPLICATE PHOTO FINDER available from
  46. With this program installed you select the folder to check and it finds all "similar" photos and shows you the list with percent similarity
  47. Sort the list by percent similarity with the 100% similar at top
  48. It shows you the photos side-by-side and you select which to delete or you can keep both
  49. Takes time to look at each pair, but you see all possible pairs and can decide which to delete 


  50. FILE EXPLORER used to be called WINDOWS EXPLORER in earlier versions of Windows
  51. Current versions have a helpful Preview Pane like EVERYTHING 
  52. Preview Pane allows you to see what's in a file and you can rename it without having to open it 
  53. Default of FILE EXPLORER has Preview Pane turned off; to turn it on click on the icon in the middle of the top
  54. When Preview Pane is on, as your cursor passes over the title, you see what's in the file; e.g. for doc's you see the text, for jpg's you see the picture; can even scroll down through all pages of a multi-page file this way without opening it
  55. Allows renaming files without having to open them and trying to remember what's in them; saves countless mouse clicks; works like EVERYTHING


  56. With the files named so they are findable they show up in EVERYTHING regardless of  their location, but you might want to move collections into separate folders for better organization
  57. Highlight the group in EVERYTHING, for example, and drag-and-dorp to the other folder
  58. With files named uniformly and in a single folder they sort in chronological order without using EVERYTHING
  59. With files named uniformly, you can easily change any words to any other words by using BULK RENAME UTILITY -- hard part is getting the names uniform in the first place


  61. Don't delete system files that your computer needs to work correctly.  To help prevent this set the option in EVERYTHING to NOT show system files.
  62. Some files, usually small ones, with the same name are needed in different locations, since certain programs need them there; if you are not sure of a file, don't delete it.  As a rule, if you named the file originally, you are probably safe in renaming, moving, or deleting it. 
  63. You may want to keep duplicate copies of some files, e.g. your journal or photos, even though they are exactly the same with the same names; I have two complete copies of my daily journal with exactly the same names, but on two different hard drives; can tell EVERYTHING not to index certain folders, so those files never show up in EVERYTHING

  65. File maintenance is a major task and takes time, but helps you get organized, saves time in the long run, and may make your computer run faster, if you hard drives aren't nearly full.
  66. I hope you got a few ideas from this that will help with your files.

  67. Return to the Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page or Don Snow's Class Listings Page .