clear out my cruft.
November 16, 2005 6:26 PM   Subscribe

What do you do with all your data cruft? What is the most efficient way to organize all the non-deletable stuff on your drive?

Over time, I've collected all sorts of files and documents on my computer related to my professional and personal life. I don't want to throw them out and I feel like backing them up on a dvd and deleting isn't really the answer either. I want to organize it all but I don't have the time to organize. What's your solution?
posted by about_time to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
As crazy as it sounds, I use the My Documents system. Pictures go in My Pictures, videos in My Videos, etc.

When things get cluttered and there are too many documents to sort through, I make a new year folder and drag that years documents into it within the My Documents folder.

You could the same thing for months or whatever time system works for you. I don't sort it more than that and rely on Google Desktop to look and index the entirety of the My Documents folder and find me what I'm looking for at the moment.

In theory, all I need to back up is that single folder and it's subfolders and I'm good to go. Email was an issue, but I switched to IMAP for all my email and now the emails are really up onthe server and not on a specific PC.

You might reconsider the need to organize at all with engines like Google Desktop and X1. They can find anything on your PC.
posted by Argyle at 6:44 PM on November 16, 2005

About every five or six years a hard drive will fail irretreivably and I will lose some personal files forever. It rarely takes more than a few weeks before I don't feel like I've lost anything important. You don't have to throw them out; time will do it for you. Even when the dumbfucks at a local computer store fucked up a backup-reformat-restore job and I lost ten years' worth of short stories and half-finished novels, it wasn't a big deal after a few weeks.

The really important stuff is backed up on multiple drives and various shiny discs. I only have a couple of gigs of stuff I don't ever want to lose (photos, stories, etc.) It's not a bother to back it up; personal stuff is only in a few big directories.
posted by solid-one-love at 6:49 PM on November 16, 2005

This is something I've been working on forever, being such a packrat. There is little in the way of available programs to do it for you. Even goodgle desktop has serious limitations (in my eyes). I repartitioned my drive (wish I had more) into three logical drives (50g/20g/10g) and use them like so: C-System and Programs D-Library/Mystuff and E-The scratch/downloads drive. The first C is, obviously, the largest followed by the library (Tons of ebooks!) and finally the easily erasable scratch disk. Nothing moves from the scratch disk unless I'm certain to keep it, to be safe I leave it there for some time before making the decision.

I do this because I've found so many great things out there that tend to disapear with no forwarding address. Backing up the D drive is painless and complete, saving a great deal of space over full backups while providing the redundancy that incrementals lack.
posted by IronLizard at 7:16 PM on November 16, 2005

[It might help to know what your profession is and what types of files these are; a digital photographer is going to accumulate more bytes than a poet. Unless you're, I dunno, Homer.]

I just went through a great digital purge; I applied the same spring cleaning, one-year rule to all my files: if it hasn't been touched in a year, it goes. Here's the system I settled on:

Digital images - including all photos, scans of Important Stuff, and Fark Photoshop Friday classics go into Picasa. I cull junk photos from my digital albums ruthlessly.

Audio - all goes into iTunes; I let iTunes manage the folders. Drag everything in and then use Consolidate Library.

Professional Stuff - I'm a programmer, so my professional cruft includes a mix of different asset types. Most code (despite my pride) doesn't have that long of a shelf life. My archived projects get sieved into two buckets: stuff I can reuse and stuff I want to showoff. Reusable code goes into a local Subversion repository. Show off stuff gets distilled down to case studies (mostly text) and screen shots. Images go into Picasa; text goes into XMLResume .

Money & Living - finances are handled by Quicken, taxes by Turbo Tax. Scans of important documents, online receipts, etc. go into Picasa.

Truly Sentimental Stuff - this is probably my only "junk drawer" Old emails, some rare classic games, and half started journals go in an aptly named "sentimental" folder.

My logic:

Find applications that manage the types of assets you have and use them (i.e. Picasa for all digital images) this at least fulfills the "a place for everything" even if everything isn't in its place.

Throw out stuff you know could be found again on the interweb (the Internet has a long memory)

Unless file has sentimental value, make sure what you keep has a purpose, i.e. part of your portfolio.
posted by Loser at 7:25 PM on November 16, 2005

I create a new folder - what it's called doesn't matter. Call it DUMP. In it are subfolders called DOC, TXT, HTM, PDF, and RTF. Files of those types are dumped into it when they are more than six months old. I keep a copy on a CD and another on a portable USB hard drive. Interestingly, I seldom use it, but my compulsive personality is more satisified by the fact that I keep it.

If I ever need to look for anything there, I use dtSearch to find what I'm looking for. I gave up on trying to organize files by anything other than strings of text in the content years ago.

Programs like askSam can be used to archive numerous files of various kinds into one large searchable data file.
posted by megatherium at 7:26 PM on November 16, 2005

buy a bigger hard drive
posted by nearlife at 7:44 PM on November 16, 2005

It really doesn't matter how -- that's of little importance in the long run, as long as you can find something. Do your files have good names? "Williams foreclosure letter" instead of Letter.doc? Divide them by gross categories -- work, clients, home, kids -- and don't worry too much about subdirectories unless there's something that needs them. Otherwise you'll just annoy yourself a year later when you can't remember whether something would be in "contracts" or "financial".

As for time, that's just a mental block. Spend 15 minutes a day on cleanup, maybe at the end of a work session, and gradually build an "archive" folder that you can burn in a couple of weeks. WHen you've got a CD full, burn, file, and forget. The idea is to move it out of your mental space.

Look at decluttering strategies, 43folders, etc.
posted by dhartung at 8:12 PM on November 16, 2005

This doesn't work for everyone, but it works for me:

1. Build yourself a server with a freakin' ton of hard drive space (Mine has 1.14TB in it).
2. Put said server in a room where it's networked and fed clean power, get it set up with the right permissions and THEN DON'T TOUCH IT.
3. Give yourself a fat directory on the server, and then map a network drive to it on your deskop. For some reason, I like mapping Q:.
4. Folders, folders, folders. The game is about organization, and you have to play it again every couple of months in order to stay sane. Or is that my OCD?
5. Backup to your server copiously. I mean, copy whole trees to it. When things start getting duplicated, or when you find that you're just backing up new versions of the same old files, delete the old stuff.
6. Slash and burn through your desktop hard drive (you did back up, right?) and clean that baby up. The whole point of the server was to get the cruft out of your face.
7. Put that pretty server to good use. Make it a media server with music and video collections, and share it out to your house.

As I said, works for me. But this can be hardish to do if you're not leaning geeky already.
posted by SlyBevel at 2:28 PM on November 17, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions.
posted by about_time at 3:37 AM on November 18, 2005

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