Files files everywhere but not a byte to eat
February 10, 2009 6:51 AM   Subscribe

How can I efficiently and quickly find the files I need? Both short term and long term solutions needed.

My data storage is currently a mess. I have the following:

A Windows XP machine (somewhat on the fritz). 1.5TB internal hard drive storage, and another 4.5TB of attached external drives. This is the only Windows machine on my network and it is there due to most of the external drives being formatted NTFS.

A Drobo with 4 1TB hard drives hooked up to an Airport router, presenting two network shares, one 2TB and one about 1 TB.

A Macbook Pro with a 360GB internal hard drive.

An iMac with a 360GB internal hard drive.

Files stored on these hard drives: all types. Applications. Documents. Images. MP3s. WAV files. A few TB of Audacity files from podcasts I've produced.

The problem: Through various hard drive crashes causing emergency "data copy backups" and the process of converting to a (mostly) all-Mac household, I have data scattered across all these drives. There is a LOT of redundant data, causing most of the above listed hard drives to be FULL. I think out of all the above I have about 1.5TB combined free space.

The immediate need: I need to continue working on projects which require files that are...somewhere. I spend literally hours looking through these systems, using Windows XP "Find" feature to scan each of these drives for files, and Mac's "search" feature to scan the Mac shares. But this only works for documents where I know a word or files where I'm lucky enough to remember all or part of a file name. Sometimes multiple searches are required for variations on file names.

So how can I more quickly use a search function to find the files I need when I need them?

The long term need: I want to rid myself of these externals and remove all redundant data from my drives (not including a backup). But the sheer amount of time to SORT all of this data is simply daunting. I've spent hours and hours trying to look through all the files, sort them into neat folders on the Drobo, and I have not really felt like I made a dent in it.

I wanted to move all files to the Drobo, scan for duplicates (I have found software that does that), and delete those, but I don't have the room to do that off the top.

Are there any "best practices" or more efficient ways that I can eventually sort all of this data so I know where to go when I want something vs needing such a search?

Thank you for any help you can offer...
posted by arniec to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have any kind of structure to your file hierarchies and file names? It doesn't really matter what you use, but you need something.

For whatever it's worth, my work files are structured
Work>Client code>Year>job code>job code.rtf (etc)

There will be one other file in the same job-code folder that has a more descriptive title.

My personal files are less organized, generally grouped by project. I've given up on filing images and let iPhoto store all of them, assigning useful metadata.

But you need to figure out what works for you and then stick to it. The tags approach (see also) might suit you better. In any case, having a system only works if you enforce it consistently.

For your current task, try using the coverflow view in the Finder. It might save you some time sorting through files.
posted by adamrice at 7:18 AM on February 10, 2009

Best answer: For Windows, Google Desktop Search is a godsend, once it's done indexing.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:41 AM on February 10, 2009

Be sure if you are using Google Desktop reinstall IF you do massive changes after the initial indexing. It does not do a complete re-index on my machine just of new material after the first indexing.
posted by jadepearl at 9:37 AM on February 10, 2009

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