This question is now deprecated, this is now to be resolved by: Please help reopen "What was scientifically shown to support productivity when structural organizing/accessing file and folders?"

My other meta question bases of my own asked question (which is constructive) but has been closed as off-topic, my own question would help a lot of future users that ask similar questions. Hence is why I don't interest myself any more in the case in this meta question, but rather in the more general case which looks for valuable backed up advice instead of semantical suggestions...


Please help reopen What should I consider when deciding on how to manage huge personal data?

This post has been changed around to be around advice rather than specific suggestions.

This is what the Q&A is hard! Let's go shopping... also tells us:

The former question provides the path of least resistance: a laundry list of products I can buy without thinking about it too much. But that answer will only be valid for a year at best. The latter question may take some thinking, but its answer will be valid forever … or at least until camera technology somehow shifts beyond lenses and sensors as we know them today. Thus, when it comes to shopping questions, don’t ask us what you should buy — ask us what you need to learn to tell what you should buy.

Take a careful look at my answer, it puts "Look at the subjects / characteristics of your personal data" at first which is useful advice, then it expands on that with examples and a more general approach at the bottom. I'm not suggesting any directory structure here, that's what the OP has to do using our advice.

The other answer(s) also do the same, outlining that directory structures are hierarchical and explaining something similar to what I did. Again, this is all advice and it's not a suggestion...

This is what I would consider a directory structure suggestion:

Music in /Music, put older music in /Music/Old

Documents should go in /Documents, study material should go in /Documents/Unvirsity

... some more very specific things, and then the full file tree ...

However, this is not how the current answers are formed.

So, I don't see how the close reason applies to this question and hence would like to see this useful Q&A to be reopened as choosnig the right directory structure is a valid problem that often reoccurs to many people that tend to organize their data to be more productive, this question also passes the good subjective, bad subjective guidelines (if you don't agree, perhaps you can improve it further?).

If you decide to keep it closed, expect me to ask it again in a similar form.

Or well, maybe part of the Super User community has just became close-minded:

When evaluating a question, you shouldn’t be looking to push it off on some other site; instead, ask if it could be appropriate and on-topic for you, the experts who the author decided to ask.

We want to help our new users and make their contributions more valuable where they are salvageable, not bury their contributions without even trying. We're here to learn and make the internet a better place.

2 Answers 2


well, maybe part of the Super User community has just became close-minded:

Really? Close minded? We aren't trying to push this off elsewhere. This is a not constructive, period.

The other answer(s) also do the same

No, you just changed other answer to what you think works for you

Take a careful look at my answer, it puts "Look at the subjects / characteristics of your personal data"

Right, which is the obvious bit & what the OP has done. Rest and the comments are some random rambles about you think is right and ducks and what not.

Like slhck and Daniel Andersen says, there's no way a constructive answer can be based on that. At the end it's just opinion. A 600GB data store maybe "big" for some, not for others.


  • 1
    Read my last paragraph.
    – Sathyajith Bhat Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 10:33
  • @TomWijsman There's no advice in the question. The only advice we can provide is "Try to make a useful hierarchy of your data", and that's what the user apparently already did, and failed at: I tried many times to sort this but mess up and couldn't find the way.. There's no one true solution to this: Structuring arbitrary files is a highly specialized problem, what works for my data won't work for yours, and what works for you might not work for me (or my workflow). I don't see any value (beyond just stating the obvious) in the question.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 10:47
  • @TomWijsman I could answer the question in a subjective way, but that doesn't mean that I don't consider it not answerable in its current form, which is what the close reason says. And I consider all questions valuable that adhere to the rules, me stating "I don't see value" just means it fails one of the tests and should be closed. I'm looking forward to answers to your new question though, since you set the bar pretty high — everything not citing research will be not an answer...
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 11:16
  • @DanielBeck: Paper that answers this question in an objective way? Here you go... ;) Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 11:16
  • @DanielBeck: I just want an advice question on this and useful answers on this, also note that the tags mention "how to organize data" but there doesn't seem to be a question that actually solves the problem that some/most of us are experiencing. Perhaps the old one is indeed not salvageable, but made the bar as high as possible on the new one so it really involves scientific papers and/or books in the business. The link from my previous comment is something I have just found but I haven't read through it yet, perhaps it does answer my question, perhaps not. Might self answer if it does... Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 11:20
  • @TomWijsman It's rather useful in that it provides empirical evidence for obvious measures, like that having folders with lots of items makes it difficult to find one specific file. But they have somewhat solid recommendations of ideal folder size (unsurprisingly: up to 20 items). Unfortunately, it fails to incorporate rather recent tech, like efficient desktop full text search, which would also be relevant here. I just scanned it so far, so the details might be interesting too.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 11:26
  • @DanielBeck: True, but for Search to work you would still need a simple organization of the files and folders, organization makes it easier to find relevant things as they are very near in the file tree. Seems that end of page 4 and start of page 5 mentions that there are preferences for navigation, and page 4 seems to mention search (not full-text though). Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 11:32
  • @TomWijsman Another thing that's missing is capabilities of file management software or file systems, like using textual metadata (or colors, as in HFS+) to annotate files (I use colors extensively on OS X), or other capabilities, like thumbnail previews/file type icons, different sorting and grouping features, and e.g. Finder's ability (which I absolutely love) to disclose subfolder contents in the hierarchical list view. For a start, regarding the very basics of the issue, the paper's somewhat useful though.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 11:37
  • @TomWijsman Regarding search, Win+F / menu bar Spotlight don't have a starting point AFAICT. They just search everything not excluded by default.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 11:39
  • Wait? You can color a file in Mac OS X? Wonder if that can be done on Windows too. But indeed, other / newer papers might help. Haven't seen in which year the paper was written or what search engines he specifically means, but still reading through it to get an idea of what he is onto. Won't answer my question in the first days to see if I can get a different approach on it (perhaps even put a bounty on it)... Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 11:47
  • @TomWijsman Eight colors, including "none". See a screenshot of partial list view here. You can sort by color, and even give them other labels than just color names. Incredibly useful, just like opening subfolders in list view, both of which I really miss on Windows.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 12:56

I think my issue with this is, there's no one right answer, and a canonical answer to this, in effect would be something thesis length. It would also be very significantly dependant on the content and metadata of your files.

Let me give you an example - I have 80 gb of music files. I can retrieve them directly via the metadata (or even lyrics presumably), but that would depend on prior organisation.

I could use the tag functionality in windows and search to speed things up - but search is explicitly disallowed. I could alternately use an alternate instant search thing like everything for VERY fast filename search.

Right now i tend to seperate by media type (music/video and so on), grouping by things like filetype (for music) or TV Show / Movies and so on. This works for me. Someone else may prefer a purely filename based method.

Something else may be efficient for someone else.

Its just too darn subjective

If we went on a purely scientific basis - like that MS survey on the start menu, we'd go into something thesis length. From the FAQ "Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.". Scope's a little wide there.

  • Everything is the only thing needed, sorts through my insanely large Downloads folder like fire, It works on NTFS only though.
    – HackToHell
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 13:41
  • It also only does filenames - so we lose out on content and metadata aware searching. In some cases, metadata is a better way to go about doing things.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 13:43
  • Someone would as such, need to look up or identify such statistics. Someone doing an answer would then need to research these reports, at least enough to know that they fit the question. They would very likely in addition need to write a small introduction. They'd need to talk about the reports in question. And not all academic papers are open access. You're going to need a mini research report, and thats rather wide in scope
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 13:53

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