How to Navigate Windows and Folders in Windows 7

  • 9/16/2009

Finding Your Way Around Your Computer

You view all the drives, folders, and files that are part of your computer’s storage system, as well as those on any computers you are connected to through a network, in Windows Explorer.

You can start Windows Explorer in several ways; for example, you can:

  • Click the Windows Explorer taskbar button to start Windows Explorer and display the Libraries folder.

  • Click any of the folder links in the right pane of the Start menu.

    • Click your user account name to display your personal folders.

    • Click Documents, Pictures, or Music to display the corresponding library.

    • Click Computer to display the hard disk drives and storage devices available to your computer.

  • Right-click a folder in the left pane of the Start menu, and then click Open or Explore to display the folder contents in the Content pane and the path to the folder expanded in the Navigation pane.

  • Double-click a folder on the desktop or in any window to display the foldercontents in the Content pane.

You can navigate through the folder hierarchy on each drive, displaying the contents of folders within folders until you find the file you want. This navigation process is called browsing. However, you don’t have to browse to find the programs, tools, and information you need in your daily work. You don’t even have to know precisely where things are stored, because Windows 7 provides a system of links that you can use to navigate directly to its settings and tools, to programs, and to certain classes of information. You have already seen evidence of this link system with the icons on the desktop and the links on the Start menu, but links are also used in other key components of Windows 7, which we will explore here and in other topics of this book.

To explore your computer’s storage system, you can use the Computer window as a convenient entry point. The devices represented in the Computer window are divided into groups. Internal hard disk drives (those physically installed in your computer) and external hard disk drives (those connected to your computer by a cable) are shown first, followed by internal removable storage drives (floppy disk, CD, and DVD drives) and external removable storage devices (such as USB flash drives), and then storage locations you access through a network connection. For each drive or device, the total storage space and available storage space are given, both as actual measurements and visually as a colored progress bar. The length of the progress bar indicates the portion of the total storage space that is in use. The default bar color is aqua; when less than 10 percent of the storage space on a disk or device remains available, the bar color changes to red.

In this exercise, you’ll explore the storage structure of your computer and learn diff erent ways of getting to the information stored on your computer.

  1. In the right pane of the Start menu, point to Computer.

    The Start menu icon changes from your user account picture to a representation of a computer system, and a ScreenTip displays a description of what you can do from the Computer window.


    You can open the Computer window to display information about your computer’s storage devices.

  2. On the Start menu, click Computer.

    The Computer window opens in Windows Explorer.


    In the Content pane of the Computer window, icons identify each drive or device type.

    From this window, you can navigate through the storage structure of your computer in four ways: by double-clicking locations in the Content pane, by expanding locations in the Navigation pane, by clicking locations in the Address bar, or by searching for files and folders from the Search box.

  3. If any groups in the Navigation pane are expanded to display their contents, collapse them by pointing to the pane and then clicking the black arrow that appears to the left of the group’s name.

  4. httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1412748.jpg If the drives and devices shown in the Content pane of your Computer window are represented by words or icons in a different way than shown in our graphic, click the Views arrow on the toolbar and then, in the Views list, click Tiles.

  5. In the Navigation pane, expand the Computer group.

    The group includes the storage disks and devices currently available to your computer, as well as any media drives that contain media.

  6. In the Navigation pane, expand Local Disk (C:), and then in the list of folders that appears, click Users.

    The Users folder window opens.


    The Users window displays folders for each active user account on the computer.

  7. In the Content pane, double-click the folder corresponding to your user account name.

    The Content pane displays your personal folders, other than the hidden AppData folder.

  8. In the Address bar, click the arrow to the right of Users.

    A list of user account folders appears.


    In the list of user account folders, bold text indicates the folder in the path to the current location.

  9. In the list of user account folders, click Public.

    The Content pane displays the folders available to all users of your computer, and to network users with permission to connect to your computer.

  10. Point to the Navigation pane, and click the black arrow to the left of Computer to collapse the group. Then click the white arrow to the left of Libraries to display the available libraries.

  11. In the Navigation pane, click the white arrow to the left of Documents.

    The Documents library expands.


    You can reach the Public Documents folder from the Libraries group in the Navigation pane, as well as by browsing to it through the computer’s folder structure.

  12. In the Navigation pane, under the Documents library, click My Documents.

    The Content pane displays the contents of the My Documents folder.


    Because you accessed your personal documents folder from the Libraries group, the Library pane appears above the Content pane, and the Address bar displays a library icon and a path beginning with Libraries.

    The highlighting is removed and the Address bar contents are now more visible.

  13. At the left end of the Address bar, click the library icon that precedes the folder path. Then press the End key or click an empty area of the Address bar.


    Clicking the folder icon displays the absolute path of the current location.

    Notice that the actual name of your personal documents folder is Documents, not My Documents. The name My Documents is used in the library to distinguish your Documents folder from the Public Documents folder.

  14. In the Navigation pane, click the Documents library.

    The contents of all the folders included in the Documents library, both personal and public, appear in the Content pane.

  15. In the Library pane, click the button to the right of Arrange by.

    The Arrange By menu appears.


    You can view library contents arranged in folders; grouped by author, date modified, tag, or type; or listed in alphanumeric order by file name.

  16. Try the different arrangements to see how each displays files and folders.