10 steps to organise your computer

Keeping your digital life organised is hard work. In the technology focused world we now live in, information, entertainment and documents primarily exist in digital format, meaning computers and various storage devices are being used in record high numbers. With all these files and downloads comes clutter – just like piles of stuff in your home, only on your computer’s desktop. Cleaning and organising files is less intimidating than it looks. You simply need a few materials and a few hours of spare time.

Here are the 10 steps necessary to organise your computer or laptop.

1. Set aside 2 to 4 hours of time

10 steps to organise your computer

The most important factor of organising your computer is having enough time to do so. Renaming files, dragging and dropping, creating folders, and assessing the big picture often takes longer than you think it will. Accordingly, set aside two to four hours of time so you do not run out when you are halfway through a project.

2. Grab a pen and paper

10 steps to organise your computer

A pen and paper pad come in handy when you are looking at the organisational big picture. The best method for staying focused but not getting overwhelmed is to write down every task as you complete it. If you just created a folder that was not there prior, write down its name and the larger area you saved it in (for example: “Family Reunion Photos – Documents”). You can always find this folder by going to the same location on your computer, but until your eyes and brain get in the habit of knowing where to look, it helps to have a physical paper list to assist you.

3. Buy an external hard drive

10 steps to organise your computer

If you do not already have one, an external drive is essential for computer organisation and file safety these days. Photo and video apps are being used more than ever before, and in order to preserve your memories and creations for years to come, using a backup drive is a bare bones necessity.

There are a few other reasons having multiple large files saved on an external drive helps. By saving your infrequently used files on an external drive, you free up your current laptop or computer to use maximum RAM and storage space. If your computer is constantly shifting between hundreds or thousands of files, this can slow down processing time and generally make your computer feel older than it is. Moving those files to a separate, secure location allows your computer to be maximally efficient.

4. Create one folder for each year of files

10 steps to organise your computer

Aside from external drives, the most convenient way to find what you are looking for is to create a folder for each year of files on your computer. This is particularly helpful if you are an entrepreneur, freelancer or do heavy work from your computer. There are few greater feelings of organisation than knowing exactly where to look for a document, picture or video you need.

5. Make a separate folder for taxes, legal documents, assets and miscellaneous purchases

10 steps to organise your computer

There will often be files you need to access periodically, such as large purchases, receipts, assets, and taxes. To make your life easier and maximise organisation, create a new folder for anything mentioned in this subtitle, as well as anything you see fit. There is no right or wrong list to establish here; create what you think will be needed often and add one folder per large category.

6. Create “theme” folders like Work, Family, Home, and Personal

10 steps to organise your computer

In addition to making new folders for taxes, assets and legal documents, a separate folder for common areas of life like work, family, finances, personal and home is a must. Now, when you open up your computer and go looking for anything related to basement remodeling, you know it will be in the Home folder (and assigned a year based on when it happened). When you go looking for extra pictures of your t-shirt collection, you know it will be under the Hobbies folder. This theme method is an effortless way to organise every major area of your life into convenient, easily memorised sections.

7. Sort everything into work-related versus casual

10 steps to organise your computer

As a final measure to categorise what is business versus casual, decide which category your folders fall under based on the content they hold, and apply a colour code accordingly. For example, you may be an artist who does work both for clients and your own enjoyment. Within your folder of work for the current year, have separate folders for personal work versus those for customers.

8. Move a copy of everything to your external drive

Once you have established folders, moved the respective files into them, given them a year and a colour code and moved any smaller projects in to a theme folder, copy every area of your computer (e.g. “Documents,” “Photos,” “Movies”) and move it to your external drive. Give the final folder in your external drive a name such as “Full File Backup” plus the date to finalise your duplication.

9. Keep miscellaneous links and files in a separate folder

10 steps to organise your computer

Every once in a while you will be browsing the internet or watching a video and come across multiple links you want to save. Create a text or Notepad file and save all your links here, then categorise them based on topic.

10. Download a trusted antivirus 

AVG Internet Secruity

Last but never least, having a trustworthy antivirus program provides extensive peace of mind for your computer. It’s strongly advised that anyone who uses their computer for the internet has antivirus installed, whether you have a PC or Apple Mac there is recommended software for both.

If you have a PC download AVG and for Mac users download Kaspersky. Regularly scanning your computer is advised so ensure that you set some time aside to do this on a frequent basis.


Computer cleaning apps are helpful in addition to antivirus programs. CleanMyMac 3 is advised for Mac users. The app scans your hard drive for broken and fragmented files, unneeded caches, startup programs, and files that have not been used in a long time. CleanMyMac will then allow you to review and select anything you do not want removed.

These steps require a time commitment and some persistence but executing them all leads to lasting organisation within your computer. With all major areas of your life categorised into neatly labeled folders, you will never again have to worry about quickly locating what you need. Whenever your computer or laptop gets disorganised, refer back to this article to get you reoriented.

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