Libraries are new in Windows 7. Here are answers to some common questions about libraries.

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What is a library?

Libraries are where you go to manage your documents, music, pictures, and other files. You can browse your files the same way you would in a folder, or you can view your files arranged by properties like date, type, and author.

In some ways, a library is similar to a folder. For example, when you open a library, you'll see one or more files. However, unlike a folder, a library gathers files that are stored in several locations. This is a subtle, but important, difference. Libraries don't actually store your items. They monitor folders that contain your items, and let you access and arrange the items in different ways. For instance, if you have music files in folders on your hard disk and on an external drive, you can access all of your music files at once using the Music library.

How do I create or change a library?

Windows has four default libraries: Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos. You can also create new libraries. For more information, see Create a new library.

Here are some ways you can modify an existing library:

  • Include or remove a folder. Libraries gather content from included folders, or library locations. You can include up to 50 folders in one library. For more information, see Include folders in a library.

  • Change the default save location. The default save location determines where an item is stored when it's copied, moved, or saved to the library. For more information, see Customize a library.

  • Change the type of file a library is optimized for. Each library can be optimized for a certain file type (such as music or pictures). Optimizing a library for a certain file type changes the available options for arranging your files. For more information, see Customize a library.

What happens if I delete a library or the items in a library?

If you delete a library, the library itself is moved to the Recycle Bin. The files and folders that were accessible in the library are stored elsewhere and therefore aren't deleted. If you accidentally delete one of the four default libraries (Documents, Music, Pictures, or Videos), you can restore it to its original state in the navigation pane by right-clicking Libraries and then clicking Restore default libraries.

If you delete files or folders from within a library, they're also deleted from their original locations. If you want to remove an item from a library but not delete it from the location it's stored in, you should remove the folder containing the item. When you remove a folder from a library, all the items in the folder will be removed (but not deleted). For more information, see Include folders in a library.

Similarly, if you include a folder in a library and then delete the folder from its original location, the folder is no longer accessible in the library.

Why can't I search or arrange files from a folder that I recently included in a library?

If a folder from a non-indexed location (such as an external hard drive or a network) was recently included in a library and it contains a large number of files, it might take some time for the library to add those files to the index. During the indexing process, searches and file arrangements might appear incomplete. For more information about indexing, see Improve Windows searches using the index: frequently asked questions.

What types of locations are supported in libraries?

You can include folders in a library from many different locations, such as your computer's C drive, an external hard drive, or a network.

Where is the folder stored?
Can it be included in a library?

On your C drive

Yes.

On an external hard drive

Yes, but the content won't be available if the drive is disconnected.

On an additional hard disk inside your computer

Yes.

On a USB flash drive

Only if the device appears in the navigation pane, under Computer, in the Hard Disk Drives section. This is set by the device manufacturer, and in some cases, it can be changed. Contact your manufacturer for more information.

The content won't be available if the drive is disconnected.

On removable media (such as a CD or DVD)

No.

On a network

Yes, as long as the network location is indexed, or the folder has been made available offline. (See the question below.)

On a different computer in your homegroup

Yes. For more information, search Windows Help and Support for "Add computers to a homegroup."

Note

  • Only folders can be included in libraries. Other items on your computer (such as saved searches and search connectors) can't be included.

Why did I get a message saying that a location can't be included because it's not indexed?

It means that the folder is stored on a network location that hasn't been indexed. A network folder can only be included in a library if the content of the folder has been added to the search index. If the folder is already indexed on the device where it's stored, you should be able to include it directly in the library.

If the network folder is not indexed, an easy way to index it is to make the folder available offline. This will create offline versions of the files in the folder and add these files to the search index on your computer. After you make a folder available offline, you can include it in a library.

When you make a network folder available offline, copies of all the files in that folder will be stored on your computer's hard disk. Take this into consideration if the network folder contains a large number of files.

To make a folder available offline

  1. While connected to the network, locate the network folder that you want to make available offline.

  2. Right-click the folder, and then click Always available offline.

    Picture of the Always available offline command
    The Always available offline command

Notes

  • If you don't see the Always available offline command in the right-click menu for a network folder, you might be using an edition of Windows 7 that doesn't support offline files.

  • If the network folder you're trying to include is stored on a computer that's running an older version of Windows, you might be able to make it compatible with Windows 7 libraries by installing Windows Search 4.0 on the computer, and then indexing it. For more information about Windows Search 4.0, see the Windows Search website.