How to find files you’ve downloaded to your computer

Question: After I download files from the internet, I have problems getting them into the right folder or file. I’m using WinZip, which seems to go okay, but they then become “lost” and I’m ignorant as to how to put them where I want them to make them usable. Please give me some direction or procedures follow. —Michael

Answer: Here are some secrets to ensuring that you can find a downloaded files. (If you have lost a file and want to locate it, read our article on How to locate a lost file using Windows XP.)

When you begin the download process through a web browser like Internet Explorer, you are prompted with a file download box that asks you to choose whether to “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 your hard drive, since this pulls a copy from the internet and puts it on your computer.

This is where you normally run into a problem.

When you’ve selected the “Save” option, you’ll be presented with a “Save As” box, which is asking you to decide what to name the file and where to put it.

The “Save As” box shows a list of the folders on your hard drive. To be guaranteed 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 marked “Desktop”. This represents your actual desktop. 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, select the Downloads folder, and save the file there. When the download is finished, I simply close my browser and open the Downloads 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 or perhaps a little yellow folder with a star on the upper corner (depending on which version of Windows you’re using). This icon means: “go up one folder level”.

Folders in Windows 95/98/NT/2000/ME/XP are arranged in a descending formation. I like to think of them as being like a series of steps going down into a basement, like so ..:

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 on your computer – your hard drive, your floppy drive, your CD drive, etc. Think of each one of these drives as a stairwell. When you descend a stairwell, there’s a series of doors into rooms (or folders). And these rooms have more doors with more stairwells down into deeper rooms (folders on those drives).

The reason you get lost is that sometimes, when that “Save As” box pops up, it’s referring to a folder deep in the caverns of your hard drive (probably the last place your computer saved something, whether or not that place has anything to do with what you’re saving now). 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 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. And be sure to check “Subfolders” so that that search looks in all the folders in all the folders.

You might want to use a download manager to control your downloaded files. I recommend Fresh Download from our TechnologyTips Software Library. You will also find many search tools when you visit the library.