Exploring My Computer

Exploring My Computer
by Bill O’Kane

You may have noticed in the previous article, I asked you to click the right or left mouse button. Let’s take a look at basic mouse functions.

If you move the mouse around in a circle you will notice your pointer will follow, mimicking the mouse’s movements. Now move the mouse over an icon on the desktop, click once on the left mouse button, the colour of the object changes, this is highlighting an object and making it active.

To open or execute an object requires a double left mouse click, which is two clicks in rapid succession, this can take a bit of getting use to for new users but in a while it becomes as natural as talking.

The important thing to remember when double clicking is to keep the mouse steady, as this is how the system differentiates between two single clicks and a double click, it checks to see if the mouse has moved between clicks. If the mouse moves position, it interprets it as two single clicks.

Hovering the mouse pointer over some objects, will cause a small dialog box to appear giving you more information about the object.

On the computer desktop you see an icon that looks like a small computer terminal with the title “My Computer.” If you double left click this icon a new window opens up containing more icons representing the drives in your computer and an icon that resembles a file folder named “Control Panel.”

Notice the drive icons, there is one for the floppy drive (A:), one for the hard drive (C:), and one for the CD drive (D:). Your system may have more than one hard drive, in which case the extra drives would be named D: E: etc, and the CD drive would have the next available letter.

The first hard drive is always the C: drive in Windows. Before you ask, the B: is reserved for a second floppy drive.

The C: drive is important, as it is the “root” of the directory tree in MS Windows. Not all systems use C: as their root. UNIX and UNIX relatives do not give letters to their drives and refer to “/” as the root of the file system.

There are technically two “roots” on a Windows computer, the one you just learned about and the “system root.” The system root refers to the folder where the OS files reside. In earlier versions of Windows that is the folder C:\windows, and in later versions C:\winnt. In these folders you will find thousands of files and folders required by the operating system.

These files and folders do not display by default, so if you look in these system roots you will see nothing. The reason for this is that the average user has no need to access these files during normal operation and moving or deleting a file can seriously damage your system and leave it unbootable.

Now that you know what they are, leave them alone!

So why is this root so important? If you double left click on the icon representing your C: drive you will be presented with more files and folders. These will change depending on the system you are using and what is installed.

Double left click on the folder named “Program Files”; this folder represents the programs installed on your system. If you double left click on any folder you find here, you will find more files and possibly more folders. This string of files and folder, is the “directory tree” and it all grows out of the root of the file system, C:

This is important because it represents the “path” to any given file or folder. Paths, fortunately for the modern user, do not concern us as they did in the earlier days of computing but understanding paths may help you understand how the directory tree is laid out.

For example: if you had a file named “my file” and it was in a folder named “my folder” and that folder was in a folder named “my work” and that folder resided in the root of the file system “C:”, the path could be expressed as “C:\my work\my folder\my file” the “\” representing the beginning of a new branch or object on the branch.

Close the window you are using by left clicking the small “x” in the topmost right corner of the window. You should now be back at your desktop.

Next time we will be taking a closer look at “My Computer”, and the “Control Panel”, to see what trouble we can get into there.

Contact Bill O’Kane at: Alternative Business Systems
36 Bradd Street
Miramichi, New Brunswick
E1N 2A9
Phone: 506-622-7469
Fax: 506-622-6705
Email: absys@nbnet.nb.ca
Web: http://www.alternative-business-systems.ca
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