Here are answers to some common questions about using folders in Windows.

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What is a folder?

A folder is a container that helps you to organize your files. Every file on your computer is stored in a folder, and folders can also hold other folders.

Where should I save my files?

Different kinds of files call for different kinds of folders. For example, we recommend that you save such files as text files, spreadsheets, and presentations in Documents. There are a number of other special folders, such as Pictures and Music, each of which is intended for the type of file its name suggests. Not only are these folders convenient places to find and organize these types of files, but these folders are optimized for faster searching and organizing.

Is there a way to see all of my files in one place instead of opening different folders to see different kinds of files?

Yes. The Search folder provides fast access to all of your most common files, such as documents, pictures, music, and e‑mail, in a single view.

What is the Search box and how do I use it?

You'll find a Search box at the top of every folder. As you type in the Search box, the contents of the folder are immediately filtered to show only those files that match what you typed. The Search box does not automatically search your entire computer, however. It only searches the current folder and any of its subfolders. If the folder view is already filtered (for example, if it is only showing files by a certain author), then the Search box will only search within that limited view.

Picture of the Search box
The Search box

What is the Address bar and what kind of information does it display?

The Address bar is next to the Search box at the top of every folder and displays your current location. By clicking different locations in the Address bar, you can navigate directly to them.

Picture of the Address bar
The Address bar

What is the purpose of the Navigation pane?

You can click folders and saved searches in the Navigation pane to change what is displayed in the current folder. The Navigation pane provides access to common folders such as Documents, Pictures, and Searches. You can access additional folders by clicking Folders at the bottom of the Navigation pane. This displays the Folders list, where you can click any folder to navigate directly to it.

Picture of the Navigation pane
The Navigation pane

Why does a folder's content change when I click within the Navigation pane? Shouldn't the folder only have one set of files?

The folders in Windows are designed so that you can navigate from folder to folder without having to open a new folder window for each folder. Using the Navigation pane, you can quickly navigate to any folder on your computer. When you click a location in the Navigation pane, the folder contents change to display the contents of whatever location you clicked. You can also open a saved search, which will display files that meet the criteria of that search, even if they are located in different folders throughout your computer.

Where are the menus that used to appear at the top of folders in previous versions of Windows?

Menus are hidden by default because the most frequently used menu commands now appear on the new toolbar. Though you might no longer need to use the menus, you can still choose to display them in addition to the new toolbar. For more information, see Show the menus in folders.

Where did the folder tree go?

Windows Explorer had a folder tree that you could use to navigate to any location on your computer. It's now called the Folders list, and is available in the Navigation pane of every folder. To open the Folders list, click Folders at the bottom of the Navigation pane, and then click the folder you want. To close the Folders list, click Folders again.

Picture of the Folders list in the Navigation pane
The Folders list in the Navigation pane

Where did the task pane go?

The task pane—which appeared on the side of the folder in previous versions of Windows—has been replaced by the new toolbar at the top of the folder. Many of the tasks that used to appear in the task pane now appear on the toolbar.