how to navigate your computer.

Moving around your computer, jumping from folder to folder is called navigating.

You navigate around your PC.

Once you get the hang of it, it's really quite easy to do, but it can often seem daunting and confusing to newcomers.

In this guide, we're going to look at how to navigate your computer with ease.

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file explorer - navigate your PC.

Without a doubt, File Explorer is your best friend when it comes to finding the files and folders that you're looking for.

Using File Explorer, it's easy to navigate around your computer, to quickly jump from folder to folder and drive to drive.

So the first thing we'll do is to set it up.

Left-click File Explorer (it's the yellow folder icon on the Taskbar) to open it.

File Explorer can open in one of two views, THIS PC or QUICK ACCESS.

On a home computer, THIS PC is the best way to have File Explorer open.

file explorer on taskbar.

Sometimes File Explorer goes walkabout (it disappears) from the Taskbar.

If you're not seeing it on your computer, click File Explorer is missing

When File Explorer opens, if it looks something like this on your computer, then you're already using the THIS PC option.

That's great. just what we want.

This PC.

On your computer, you may have more drives, or you might not have a CD/DVD. It doesn't really matter.

What's important is the layout.

We want to have a bunch of folders at the top, then our drives below.

But if File Explorer opens something like this on your machine, then it's using the Quick Access setting.

I'm going to suggest you change it to This PC.

It's easy to do and only a couple of clicks.

quick access view.

Although the Quick Access setting has its uses, generally, on a home computer, I think it's easier to have File Explorer open in This PC.

changing file explorer's option.

If File Explorer is set to Quick Access, which it usually is by default, it makes navigating from drive to drive a little more confusing.

So set it to This PC.

In the top left-hand corner of the screen, right-click on QUICK ACCESS.

On the menu that opens, left-click OPTIONS.

right click quick access.

On the Folder Options window, make sure you're on the General tab.

You'll see the top box says QUICK ACCESS.

Left-click on the box once, and a drop-down menu will open.

There's only one other option, it says THIS PC.

click this PC.


Left-click THIS PC. It'll appear in the box instead of QUICK ACCESS.

When your done, left-click the OK button.

Open file explorer to this PC.

Close File Explorer, and then open it again.

When File Explorer re-opens, it'll look something like this, which is what we want.


So now when we're using File Explorer, we're all going to be seeing roughly the same page (window).

File Explorer's default setting of Quick Access doesn't really work well for home users.

Changing the setting to This PC is quite easy to do and well worth the effort.

how to change file explorer's settings.

Everyone's computer will be slightly different, it all depends on what you've got inside your machine and what's connected to it.

So this is a general overview of how to navigate your computer using File Explorer, bearing in mind that what your looking at on your own computer may differ slightly to mine.

At the top of the main window, we can see our main folders.

Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures and Video.

Below that, in the Devices and Drives section, you'll see your hard drives, and CD/DVD drives if you've got any.

folders & drives in main window.

You might have several drives showing on your computer.

USB sticks, Card Readers, External Drives etc, will all show up here.


Sometimes the Devices and Drives section will be closed.

If you can't see your drives, left-click once on the small arrowhead beside Devices and Drives.

opening the devices and drives section.

file explorer - drives & letters.

The first drive is your main hard drive.

It may be called hard disk or local disk or sometimes system disk.

Regardless of the actual name, you should see the letter C in brackets beside it.

Windows gives every drive (or disk) a letter, starting from the letter C and then moving along the alphabet.

c: drive

The letters are used as a numbering system. To differentiate between the drives.

When Windows was first released, they could easily have just used numbers to differentiate between drives, but for whatever reason, they didn't. They went with letters and it's been that way ever since.

On my machine, I also have a CD/DVD drive installed.

You can see that it's been given the letter D.

You might not have a CD/DVD drive, many modern machines aren't fitted with them.

And you may have more than 1 hard drive. You could easily have 2, 3 or more.

The important point is that they'll all get assigned a letter, starting from C.

c: and d: drives in file explorer.

If you plug in a USB drive, an external hard drive or external DC/DVD drive, or even if you attach your smartphone to your PC, this is where it'll appear.

It sometimes takes a few moments for it to show up, but it will appear.

a USB drive is plugged in.

Notice that immediately the USB drive appears, it's given a letter in brackets.

Every drive attached to your computer has to have a letter. A drive letter.

The left-hand panel is called the Navigation Panel.

Looking at the navigation panel, at the top are the Quick Access folders.

These are the folders that you're using most often. As such they can change over time, depending on your usage.

Folders will appear here and others will disappear.

So you won't be able to see all your folders in this section, only your most commonly used ones.

quick access folders in file explorer.


Below the Quick Access folders, you should see THIS PC.

Sometimes it's closed up, like in the picture.

To open it, left-click the tiny arrowhead beside it.

opening THIS PC.

With THIS PC open, you should be able to see all your main folders.

You'll also see the drives attached to your computer.

are the folders all the same?

I often get asked this, and it is a little confusing. The quick answer is yes, they're all the same folder.

Looking at my File Explorer, you can see that in the main window I have a folder called Documents.

In the Quick Access section, there's another folder called Documents, and below that, under This PC, yet another folder called Documents.

They are all the exact same folder. Clicking any or either entry for Documents will take me to the same Documents folder.

they are all the same folder.

There's one other thing to mention. Items in the main panel require a double left click to open them.

Anything in the navigation panel only requires a single left click. I don't really know why that is, it just is.

the address bar - navigating a PC.

The final thing I want to point out on this page is the Address Bar.

The Address Bar tells you exactly where you are.

It works a little like those "You are Here" maps that appear in large shopping malls.

Currently, it says This PC, because that's where we are right now.

the address bar.

The Address Bar is important because most of the windows look so similar it's easy to become "lost".

It's especially true when navigating between drives. I'll point it out later. For now, we know where the address bar is.

navigating a computer.

Now we've set File Explorer up and we know the major components, it's time to have a go at navigating around the computer.

To get a "feel" for how it works, how it all fits together.

Read through and then have a go on your own computer.

Double left-click on the Documents folder in the main window.

To navigate to the Documents folder in File Explorer, we can use either the folder in the main window or one of the entries for Documents in the navigation panel.

double left click documents.

It really wouldn't matter which we chose. If it says Documents, then they all go to the same folder, but we've got to start somewhere.


When the Documents folder opens, you'll see it's contents in the main window.

But take a look at the Address Bar at the top of the page.

This PC - Documents.

this PC - Documents.

It's following your movements within the computer.

And also note the highlight around Documents in the navigating panel on the left.

In my Documents folder, I've got another folder called Schoolwork.

When I open that folder, check out the Address Bar again.

This PC - Documents - Schoolwork

It's acting like a breadcrumb trail. Showing me where I am and how I got there.

this PC-documents-schoolwork.

There's something else about the Address Bar.

All the elements inside it are clickable. So if I wanted to go back to either Documents or This PC, I could just click on them in the Address Bar.

main window & navigation panel.

As I navigate through my folders, you'll see that the main window changes.

The main window shows what's inside each folder that I open.

But the left-hand panel, the navigation panel, remains constant. It doesn't change at all.

Currently, I'm in my Schoolwork folder, which in turn, is inside my Documents folder.

You can see that by checking the Address Bar.

If I now wanted to go to my Pictures folder, I can simply click Pictures in the left-hand panel.

navigating to the pictures folder.

If you click any of the folders or drives in the navigation panel, you'll immediately "jump" to that folder or drive.

Using the navigation panel, we can even change which drive we're using.

On my machine, I've got a USB stick plugged in.

You can see it in the left panel. To open it, all I have to do is to click it.

saving & opening files - navigation.

Whenever we create a new file, we'll have to save it somewhere. It has to be saved inside a folder somewhere on the computer. So we'll have to navigate to where the file should go.

Equally, whenever we want to open a file, we'll have to navigate through our folders to find the file.

And these two things, saving a file and opening a file, can at first look so complicated, so difficult to do, that many people simply give up.

The main reason is that the computer doesn't give you much help. It simply expects you to know what to do.

So we'll have a look at both saving and opening a file.

Here I've created a new file (my shopping list), and I've clicked SAVE.

Now the computer wants to know where should it save my new file. Which folder should it go into?

To help, it's opened what's called the SAVE AS window.

And at first glance, this does look complex.

it's file explorer.

But look closely at it. Does it look at all familiar? It's File Explorer.

We've got the Address Bar at the top of the window. That's telling us where we are at the moment.

Below the Address Bar is the main panel, which is showing the contents of the folder we're currently in.

And the navigation panel is on the left.

So if I wanted to save this file onto my Desktop, I'd just click Desktop in the navigation panel, give the file a name and click save. Job done.

We'll look more at saving files in a later guide.


The same is true when trying to open a file from within a program.

Here I'm trying to open the shopping list that I saved earlier.

I've clicked OPEN, and the computer needs to know which file should it open.

To help, it's opened the OPEN window. I now need to navigate to my shopping list.

And again, it's just File Explorer.

So to find my shopping list, I need to click Desktop in the left-hand panel.

That'll take me into the Desktop folder, from where I'll be able to find my file in the main window.

At this point, don't worry too much about opening and saving files. We'll get to that in the next few guides.

The important thing here is that you shouldn't be put off when these windows pop up in front of you.

When your opening or saving a file, what pops up is actually File Explorer. And it's job is to help you to navigate through your computers folder structure.

And at first glance, it does look complicated, there's a lot going on, a lot to take in, but once you start using it, File Explorer is actually quite tame.


tick blue

easy navigation.

Moving around your computer, from folder to folder, isn't as difficult as it first seems.

But you have to have a go. To get used to the File Explorer screen. It just shows up so often when we're using a PC, that we need to be comfortable with it.

Next up Folders.