Thursday, 18 October 2007

Organise your downloads, Method #1

Get your downloaded programs organized

If you’re like most people, you store downloaded programs in a variety of locations-on the desktop, in the My Documents folder, or wherever the Save As dialog box happens to be pointing when you download a file. I recommend that you look for these downloaded program files on your hard disk and pull all of them together into one well-organized Downloads folder. You can then transfer the whole collection to your new PC by copying that folder, and when you’re ready to reinstall that software, you can do so quickly and efficiently by working through all the items stored there. Spending a few extra minutes getting organized now can save you hours later.

Start by looking at the list of programs you use most often. For each of those programs that you acquired by downloading, your goal is to find the original Setup files (compressed Zip files, executable programs, or Windows Installer files) and organize them in a common location. If you can’t find the files for a favorite program, or if your downloaded copy is more than a year old, find the software maker’s Web site and download a fresh copy. (A program’s Help menu often includes the software maker’s Web address; if not, use your favorite search engine to track it down.)

Finally, go through your old e-mail, printed receipts, and other sources to find serial numbers, product keys, and other important information you might need to reinstall the software. This information is especially important when you’ve downloaded a trial version of a program and then paid to upgrade it to the registered version. You’ll need to supply your proof of purchase to unlock the program’s full set of features when you install it on a new PC (or reinstall it after a disk crash or other disaster).

Here’s how you can mirror the system I use to keep downloads organized:

  1. In the My Documents folder, create a subfolder called Downloads.
  2. Within the Downloads folder, create a subfolder for each downloaded program you’ll want on your new PC. I’ve got subfolders for WinZip, Nero, Adobe Reader, and dozens of other downloaded programs.
  3. Download fresh copies of any programs on your list that you can’t find or that need updates. Now place the file or files for each downloaded program on your list into its related subfolder. Create a shortcut to the Web site from which you downloaded the program and place it in this subfolder as well, along with any notes about installing or registering the program. If a serial number or product key is required for installation, save that information in a text file along with the program files in the subfolder.

Every few months, I go through the Downloads folder and click the Web shortcut for each program I use regularly to see if a newer version is available. If I find an upgrade, I replace the existing file with the new one and upgrade the currently installed version. Then, I burn the contents of my Downloads folder to a CD or DVD, label it with the current date, and store it with the rest of my disks and documents.

Getting organized this way takes some extra time initially, but once your Downloads directory is created, it takes only a few extra seconds to create a new folder to store a new downloaded program. And you’ll save plenty of time if you ever need to reinstall a program.

This material has been adapted from Ed Bott’s Your New PC: Seven Easy Steps to Help You Get Started!, at

Published May 11, 2005 by Ed Bott, at

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