It's a good thing that the search tools on my computer are so good because I never remember where I put anything. Is it in Documents? A subfolder in Documents? Did I save it to the desktop and then drag-and-drop it to one of my many catchall folders when I needed to clear up some clutter? Is it in the Downloads folder maybe, or one of the default folders for a particular program I'm looking for? Did I save it to the cloud and, if so, is it in DropBox, Google Drive or Windows Skydrive?
Music is particularly tough to organize as a lot of programs — e.g. iTunes — feel the need to make copies of all your existing music files in your system rather than just creating links to those files, or reading file names differently. Some music clients are good at finding your music, while others require you to link to whatever folder they're being kept — which in my case is one of seven different folders that I know of.
Given the need to backup the important things, as well as the occasional migration to a new computer, keeping your files organized is incredibly important. And, thanks to a few programs, it's a lot easier than it sounds.
The first step is to deal with the duplication issue. Hopefully you're at least organized enough to give all of your files unique names so you don't have 37 different "notes.doc" files floating around, but even if you do that then you can still benefit from a duplicate finder.
The top reviewed solution for this is a free program called Auslogics Duplicate File Finder (www.auslogics.com), although the open source Sourceforge option, DuplicatesFiles Finder — the one with the 's' at the end — at doubles.sourceforge.net is also quite good. Auslogics' advantage is that it lets you refine your search by name, date or file size, while Sourceforge's solution can identify duplicate files that have different names.
Once you've downloaded a duplicate software program the next step is to create a single folder under your user account where you will store everything, even your music, videos and photographs. Don't feel you have to use the Libraries feature, just keep in mind that placing everything in a single folder, with subfolders that make sense, will make it a lot easier to back up and transfer all your data in the future.
The next step, once you've eliminated duplicates and created a new master folder structure and hierarchy, is to sweep up your digital mess.
Another Sourceforge program called DropIt (sourceforge.net/projects/dropit/) offers 15 different ways to organize your files, and will even redirect your downloads into the appropriate folder based on the file type (e.g. .pdf, .doc, .jpg). It will find files and move them to the folder of your choice, and can do tasks like renaming and compressing files in bulk. True to its name, DropIt also boasts a drag and drop function where any file or folder you drop onto the program will be automatically refiled to the location you've selected, which is awesome when you're going through files and folders and purging the things you no longer need. It's one of the most singularly useful programs you will ever download, and it's a must if you're planning to migrate to a new PC and make a fresh start.
Mac users can also benefit from a little organization. The closest equivalent to a drag and drop organizer is a desktop app called Factura, while a program called Hazel (www.noodlesoft.com/hazel.php) is $25 and has been highly recommended for a long time for sorting through your existing files. It will automate file sorting as well, but a little work and computer savvy is required on the front end so be sure to read the guide and watch a few videos and walkthroughs on YouTube.
CISPA is bad legislation
While I increasingly find myself siding with artists, companies and copyright holders in the battle over torrenting, P2Ps, illegal file sharing and other infringing activities, the American CISPA — Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act — is bad legislation, opposed by President Obama and various civil liberty groups. Basically the act, if approved, grants legal immunity to companies for sharing information with other companies and the U.S. government, essentially placing their own legal interests above the larger privacy concerns of citizens.
I understand why this law exists exists. If the FBI or another agency are investigating a crime and want an ISP or company to turn over a suspect's internet history or emails then companies that comply want to be protected from legal action. As well, the law lets ISPs and others be lazy; if they get a warrant requesting emails or posts from a government then the ISP can simply send everything they have, whether the personal information was requested or not.
I'd be surprised if this law survives the Senate and president's desk, but less surprised if a similar Canadian version is on the way.