Updated: 04/12/2021 by Computer Hope
Computer folder

A folder, also called a directory, is a space used to store files, other folders, and shortcuts on a computer. A good analogy is the manila folders seen in an office to store papers or reports.


A folder contained in another folder is called a subfolder.

Why are folders important?

Folders help you keep your files organized and separate. If you had no folders on your computer, your documents, programs, and operating system files would all be located in the same place. Folders also allow you to have more than one file with the same file name. For instance, you can have a file called Resume.doc in your My Documents folder, and another file called Resume.doc in a different folder called Resume templates. If all your files were in a single place, every file would need a unique file name.

What can be stored in a folder?

A folder can contain one or more files of any type (documents, pictures, videos, etc.) and can even store other folders. They may also contain shortcuts to programs.

Where are my folders?

Folders are most often found on your hard drive. To view the available folders on a computer, you'll want to use a file manager. Below are examples of file managers that can be used in each of the operating systems.

The file managers allow you to browse all of the files and folders on your computer. If you're still having trouble finding a folder, you'll want to search for the folder. For further help with finding folders on a computer, see: How to find a file on a computer.

How do I open a folder on my computer?

Once found, a folder can be opened by double-clicking the folder. If done successfully, a list of the folder's contents are shown on the screen. If you do not have permission to view the folder's contents or it is not accessible, you'll get an error.

Should I save my files into a folder?

Yes, for better file management, it's a good idea to save your files in a folder. For example, it's a good idea to keep your different files separated so that they are found easier. By default, Microsoft Windows creates starting areas like Documents to store your documents and text files and Pictures to store your pictures. However, if you have hundreds of the same type of file (e.g., pictures), it's a good idea to create subfolders in the main folder. For example, in your pictures folder, you can have a subfolder for different people, families, or events.

How are files added to a folder?

A file could be added to a folder in any of the following ways.

  • When saving a file, you choose the folder as the destination of where it should be saved.
  • A file is copied or cut (moved) from another location and pasted into the folder.
  • A program and its associated files are installed into the folder.
  • A program is set to save its files in the folder.
  • A program is set to use the folder to save its temporary files as they're being used.
  • Malware or virus has infected the computer and copied files into the folder.

How to use folders

For help with how to use folders, see the following links shown in our related folder pages.

How are files different than a folder?

A folder is an area on the computer containing other folders and files and helps keep the computer organized. Files can be contained within a folder and contain information used by the operating system or other programs on the computer. See our file page for further information on files.

How can I merge or combine folders?

To combine the contents of one folder into another folder, follow the following steps.

  1. Open one of the folder you want to combine.
  2. Select all files and folders contained in the folder.
  3. Cut all highlighted files and folders.
  4. Open the other folder you want to combine those files into and then paste everything into that folder.

When pasting the contents of another folder, you may get errors about the folder containing files or folders with the same file names. To prevent errors, skip the moving of these files or folders and then later compare the files or folders that were skipped. If they are not the same file or folder, one of them needs to be renamed before they can exist in the same folder.

Does a folder have an extension?

No. A folder does not have an extension like a file.

What contains a folder on a computer?

A folder on a computer can be contained on a drive, diskette, disc, and may also be contained in another folder.

What type of drives can store a folder?

As long as you have permission, any drive can contain a folder, including the hard drive, flash drive, and a mapped network drive.

What is a web folder?

A web folder is a folder or online location that stores files on the Internet or in the cloud.

Directory, Operating system terms