How to ‘find’ downloaded files

Question: After I download files, sometimes I have problems getting them into the right folder. I’m using WinZip, which seems to go okay, but they then become “lost” and I can’t figure out how to put them where I want them to make them usable. Please give me some direction or procedures to follow. —Michael

Answer: Here are some secrets to ensuring that you can find a downloaded file. (View our article “If you have lost a file and want to locate it“.

When you begin the download process through a web browser, you are prompted with a file download box that asks you to either open the file or save it to disk. Netscape Navigator will likely jump to the save file process if it doesn’t know what to do with the file (like play it if it’s a movie or a sound file).

If the file extension (the three letters after the dot in the file name) is either ZIP or EXE, you’ll always want to save it to the hard drive, since this pulls a copy from the Internet and puts it onto your computer.

If you’re going to run into a problem, typically this is where.

Next you’ll be presented with a Save As box. It asks you to decide where to put the file.

The Save As box shows a list of the folders on your hard drive.

To be sure of being able to find the downloaded file later, select the down arrow next to the Save in pull down menu. It’s across the top of the Save As box. In it, you’ll see a list of all the folders and disk drives on your computer.

Scroll up to the very top of the list and you’ll see a folder named Desktop. This represents your actual desktop with all the icons you normally see there. All the folders listed will be the folders on your Desktop.

What I normally do is create a folder called Downloads and then navigate using this technique to the Desktop and select the Download folder and save the file there. When the download is finished, I simply close my browser and open the download folder on the Desktop.

Another way to get to the desktop is to locate the button next to the Save in box that looks like a yellow folder with an arrow pointing upwards and a tail trailing to the right. This icon means “go up one folder level”.

Folders in Windows 95/98 and NT are arranged in a descending formation. I like to think of them as more of a series of steps going deep into a basement. The door at the top of the basement is the desktop. Below that is a folder called My Computer. It contains references to all the disk drives. Think of each one of these drives as a stairwell. When you descend a stairwell, there are a series of doors into rooms (or folders). These rooms have more doors with more stairwells down into deeper rooms.

The reason you get lost is that sometimes that Save As box that pops up references a folder deep in the caverns of your hard drive (probably the last place your computer saved something). If you don’t know what folder you saved the file in, you can’t find it. A hint, though: Often this file defaults to your My Documents folder which is on your C: drive inside My Computer.

The other trick is to write down the name of the file as it saves and then search for it using the Find tool (may be called Search, depending on your version of Windows) to search Files and Folders on your Start menu. If you use this feature, be sure to select My Computer in the Look in: box, so that it searches your whole computer. If you wanted to limit the search to only a specific area, you can select the “C:” drive or Desktop to search in the folders in either one of those areas. Be sure to check Subfolders so that that search looks in all the folders in all the folders.

Here are a few programs that might be of interest to you if you’d like to know more: