There are a number of things that can slow down a computer, the organization of your files is one that is often overlooked. But surely a messy desktop and poorly arrange file structures can’t actually cause your computer to run slower?
Unorganized files and overloaded desktop files can reduce the efficiency of your computing experience but in modern computers, they have little effect on the performance of the machine itself. Messy organization can be seen as a reduction in UX (user experience) efficiency and can be easily remedied to ensure your computer is running at its optimum.
Let’s take a look at the reasons behind this and what we can do about it.
How do unorganized files slow down a computer?
The truth is disorganized files don’t reduce the performance of the computer itself. This is because programs and operating systems don’t see the computer in the same way you or I do. Where we have to manually search for a file using our vision a computer program requires a path, it searches the destination described in that path to find the file it needs. These paths can be generated by us or by the program itself. For example, if you open paint now and draw a nice big smiley face and save it you have created a file and designated it a path. If you now move that file to the trash because you are no longer happy for some reason and delete it, when you open paint again and tell it to open the recent file called “Smiley.jpg” It will give you an error telling you that the file at the destination doesn’t exist or has been moved. It won’t search through your disordered documents to find it for you.
The same is true of the program files except these are written by the installation software. They will install everything the program needs to run in certain places and will inform the program exactly where these things are.
That doesn’t mean that the experience of using a computer can’t be slowed down by an unorganized file system. How often have you spent an age looking through a file with a thousand different file types and names and numbers in it only to give up? Of course, you could use the search function but only if you can remember the file name!
How can a messy desktop slow down my computer?
Depending on the capacity of your C: drive a messy and overloaded desktop could be using up valuable space on your startup disk. The Desktop is allocated to the C: drive. As a rule, you should always try to keep at least 20Gb free on your C: drive to ensure the operating system can run efficiently. Other than that the messy files will do little to affect the performance of your computer.
If you are running an OS from before the days of Windows Vista then it might be a problem. This is because Windows Vista introduced a new graphics module called WDDM also known as Aero. Aero was designed to increase performance by offloading the screen rendering and processing to your GPU. Before then the rendering of a thousand icons on your desktop was done by the CPU so every time it had to do it, the CPU had to use resources meaning that any programs running would become sluggish. Since then even more developments like chromes native hardware-accelerated graphics have even offloaded work onto the GPU optimizing the CPU further.
So really, if space isn’t an issue a messy desktop reduces the usability of your computer from a user experience point of view. If you have to scour the desktop to find a file that is nearly identical to another file then it will take you longer to do it.
How can I eailsy organise the files on my computer?
Every now and then it might be time for a spring clean of your file system. I find that when I am researching or working on a project I don’t spend too much time allocating files and folders to keep things organized as it breaks the flow too much. Instead, I tend to get to a point where I can barely face turning my computer on and I give it a spring clean.
To do this I will open up several instances of the file program on the screen with different destinations. Initially, I will open the desktop, the trash, my documents folder, and my synced documents folder. From there I will drag files from the desktop to a respective folder. I will do this to the root of my documents folder at this stage. Once the desktop is clear I will empty the trash.
After that, I will close the desktop instance and open the next instances of my file structure, like docs, photos, projects, etc… and move the folders from the root documents folder into relevant folders.
I will keep doing this until there are 8 or more instances, at that point, I will begin to move the rest of the individual files into appropriate folders. Otherwise, you end up with too many instances open.
It is worth doing this with documents, downloads and desktop as the initial roots as that is where the majority of clutter builds up in my experience.
This works well for me and I find it helpful to delete useless files and to make sure precious files are in places that make them readily available to me. Of course, getting into the habit of doing this during file creation would make things a lot easier but I have not created that habit yet!
If that sounds too much like hard work you can use third-party software to do it for you, like Easy File Organizer for example. This way things can be automated and you can create rules, filters, and structures for it to follow automating much of the process.
5 reasons an organized computer is better.
1. Clean computer clean mind.
Ever hear the concept of a clean room = clean mind? The same applies to your computer too, when everything is structured and in its place, it frees up your mind for the creative task at hand. Imagine walking into a library that had books all over the place, no structure, some on the floor, there was no librarian shhhhing people… it would not be a place you want to go to to do your work, would it? For me a computer is the same, when I look at a clean desktop I feel ready to create something rather than thinking I should tidy this before I create something. Maybe I just think I can’t wait to fill it again!
2. It will make you faster.
Optimizing UX (User Experience) is all about knowing where things are without having to know where things are… basically its about making things intuitive. The idea is that anyone could go on your computer, think up a file they need, and follow a logical path to retrieve it. Let’s say it is photos from a ski trip for example if they are scattered about an overcrowded documents folder they are going to be hard to find and depending on the file names it could be very hard to make sure you’ve found all of them, but if they are in a ski trip folder in the personal photos folder in the photos folder in the Documents folder then finding them will be a sinch.
3. Increased Creativity.
As I said before a clean desktop gives me the feeling that I am ready to get creative, but what does that mean? Like most people when I am being creative I am aiming for a flow state so that I can let the muses take over. The kryptonite to the flow state is distractions and an unorganized files system is just that, distracting. Keeping things organized and clean eradicates that potential distraction, I guess it doesn’t stop your cat from jumping on your keyboard but every little helps.
4. Makes life easier for collaborations.
This can be applied to any type of collaboration that requires multimedia, but for this example let’s look at video editing. I have been given edits to finish or to help with that I have looked at and thought “omg, no wonder this isn’t working” and have had to spend hours organizing before I could even begin. Well-structured files will mean that you can pass your edit on to the color grader or to another editor and they will be able to pick it up and run within without having to rearrange a single thing.
5. Good habits.
Getting into the habit of organizing and cleaning up your file system and structures will make all of the above benefits a whole lot easier to achieve. Like learning and improving at anything good habits will dramatically increase your improvements. Tidying your files is an easy habit to get into and will mean one less thing getting in the way of your potential.