Explorer: Understanding the Structure
Before delving deeper into navigation using the Windows GUI interface, it is important to understand the structure behind the visual display.
In any modern computer, at least two drives are present: the floppy drive and a hard drive. The term drive covers any device attached to the computer that is capable of storing data, including flash memory cards, USB sticks and DVD rewritable devices. The original DOS architecture defined that each drive is designated a letter of the alphabet, running from A to Z. Convention states that the floppy drive is designated the A: drive and the first hard drive containing the operating system is designated the C: drive the B: drive is typically no longer used, a carry-over from the days of floppy disk only computers. Each additional hard drive added to the computer is assigned the next free letter of the alphabet, D:, E: and so forth. Under DOS this assignment used to happen automatically, however all NT based versions of Windows allow the user to assign their own letters to drives in any order. Older DOS based systems allow you to specify a CD ROM drive letter with the MSCDEX.EXE /L: switch, but fixed disks (hard drives) are assigned a drive letter in the order discovered.
Accessing the data on these drives is achieved through addressing the drive letter required, known as the root or the topmost directory. Inside this root directory further directories can be created, which in turn can have directories create inside them and so forth.
An analogy that may help you visualize what is going on would be that of a tree that is upside down. Like a tree trunk, the root is the base. Unlike a tree, leaving the root going to the branch system is referred to as going down (a tree trunk goes up to the branches).
Each branch is known as a sub directory, because it is stored physically below the parent directory. When Windows and its graphical interface became popular, the sub directory started to be known as a folder, because the icon to display the structure looks like a file folder hopefully providing an easy-to-remember way for users to think of where they have stored their data. The terms directory and folder are interchangeable (in the context of Windows only), however folder is usually used when referring to the GUI interface and directory is used when referring to DOS or the CDI.
Like a tree, branches can have branches, and there can be more then one 1st level branch from the root. How this structure is created is up to the user.
As a mnemonic, when working with directory structures simply remember the unusual Upside down tree, which has its roots at the top of the tree and its branches at the bottom!
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