Organizing your hard drive?
January 11, 2006 1:03 AM   Subscribe

Hard drive cleanup and organization tips, techniques, and asset management for someone who still has files from 1992?

I realize there's a lot of crap I can just delete without looking, and I plan to do so. But I have a gigantic collection of assets--fonts, texture sources, models, reference photographs, and such that I'd like to organize better. At least 40 or 50GB. Not to mention another 40GB of my own work. Does anyone who stores metric asstons of reference and photo/texture assets have any organization tips? File naming conventions (for old files and newly created ones)? Directory structures? Preferred software (has to be free or disturbingly cheap)?

I have a budget of 0 dollars and I'm using Windows.
posted by xyzzy to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Just off the top of my head, one thing I think helps visually sorting out folders is a little app called iColorFolder. It lets you assign colors to certain folders in explorer so you can tell at a glance what you need.

I'm looking at over 500+ gigabytes of content spanned across 5 drives and 7 years. I have for the most part abandoned all organization and rely heavily on desktop search apps, programs like itunes and picasa, and just grouping general types of files onto different drives. For instance, I have a "Multimedia" drive that is grouped into folders for audio, video, images and so forth. I have another drive for "Documents" for anything I have created, a disk purely for scratch space, and some misc data scattered around.

And I make sure to make backups weekly. You never think you need anything til it's gone. And clear your temps with CrapCleaner!
posted by ilikebike at 1:29 AM on January 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Lots of freeware out there to find duplicate files and duplicate images. Not necessarily recommending these apps, just pointing out that they're easy to find.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:36 AM on January 11, 2006

SequoiaView provides a visualisation of a hard drive or folder which offers a quick way to pick out larger files that you may no longer need or can happily archive, such as high-res scans from older jobs, uncompressed audio/video, etc.

On organisation, a good rule of thumb is to adopt a simple, pre-existing taxonomy rather than trying to invent one of your own. Alphabetising is often more useful than categorising. And having a good way to search a disorganised bunch of files is often easier than trying to create a new structure.
posted by holgate at 2:47 AM on January 11, 2006

As others have said, there are two ways to find things -- search and browse. For most people and most applications, search is what they want. Then there are exceptions where browsing models are much better: photos, fonts, etc. This is why Windows tries to be smart and gives a different default interface to folders full of music or pictures versus those of documents.

But I'll agree with the above that having something like Google Desktop Search (I have mac so I use Spotlight, but I assume they're similar enough) is going to help you find what you're looking for. What you're really asking (I think) is for tools to help you *do* the organization... And on this, there's not much. SequoiaView might help you find big files that can safely be deleted, or find two directories that are identical (though it's much less good at this IMO). I organize my files by time window. It's pretty easy to know that something was in the fall of 2003 or, if you look in that folder and don't see it, you're probably close (i.e., it might be in Spring 2004). But, that said, I've been getting more and more reliant on searching for files than on browsing.
posted by zpousman at 5:33 AM on January 11, 2006

All of this makes sense--search over browse. Definitely. In fact, I have (and use) Google Desktop Search.

My main problem is that I have thousands of files with names like Untitled.jpg or 034093094-blue.gif. Which makes search less useful. (Someone should make a search widget that lets you search images by predominant color, too. ;))
posted by xyzzy at 5:38 AM on January 11, 2006

Will something like Picasa work? It will let you see every picture on you computer as a thumbnail. It's the easiest way I know to find an untitled picture on my computer.
posted by any major dude at 6:40 AM on January 11, 2006

xyzzy, now I understand your needs a bit better. You want an overview of images? PhotoMesa is exactly what you need. You can add tags / comments to images as you browse. It's actually from the same lab that developed SequoiaView (or more properly, the precursors to SequoiaView). I believe that Picasa has ripped off some of the interface ideas and functionality (zooming) for their tool. But I've never used Picassa.

Yay useful applications of Infoviz!
posted by zpousman at 8:05 AM on January 11, 2006

Indeed, search, but play with filters. You can easily ask to search for files that were not accessed often, or files that are VERY old, combined with certain file extensions or sizes... Even the old Windows search does that if I remember correctly. Not sure if specialized search tools such as Spotlight, Beagle and Google Desktop would be very important, but if Google Desktop does thumbnails, then it could help you. Here is a screenshot of the kind of searches I would run, but I sure don't have 40gb of archives (note: this is a screenshot under linux, but the window search should allow you to do that).

I didn't know of SequoiaView, I remember an old tiny proprietary app that did basically this, minus the graphics, TreeSize.

Also, if you are looking for a different way to organize your file tree, you might want to read this very interesting article. That guy, with that article alone, convinced me to rethink the way I dealt with my 90 000 files (I had 8 separate partitions before!). Yeah, this article is about Nautilus' "spatial paradigm", but you get to know how a way of organizing files pretty neatly along the way.

I hope I could be of some help.
posted by a007r at 10:10 AM on January 11, 2006

My piece of advice is to bend over backwards to save the file date/time. Knowing the age of a file can be incredibly useful.

BTW, I've used WinDirStat to do disk use visualization. The tree view looks like sequoia, but I really like the way they combine a hierarchical list view with the tree view.
posted by Good Brain at 7:05 PM on January 12, 2006

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