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The File: The Basic Unit of Storage
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Except for a few bytes here and there, all permanently stored information in a PC is in a file, an electronically accessible recording of information In plain language, it s just a long string of digitized information (1s and 0s) that is stored and retrieved as a unit, that unit being a file Files hold many different kinds of information a letter to the editor, the Beatles Hey Jude, the holiday mailing list, or a chess program When we create a word processing document, perhaps the minutes of a staff meeting, we give it a descriptive name and store it as a named file, for example, June staff meetingdoc If we wish to view or revise the document, we recall it from disk storage by its filename June staff meetingdoc In the Windows world, filenames have two parts, separated by a period To the left of the period is the user-assigned name for the file (June staff meeting) and to the right is an automatically assigned extension that identifies the type of file For exam-
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CHAPTER 2 Storing Information: Disks, Discs, and Flash
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ple, doc is the extension for Microsoft Word files Files with a jpg extension identify a particular type of image file For now, it s enough to know that all information is stored in files Recent versions of Windows do not show the extension unless you request it Files can be any size The smallest file on my PC is 1KB (kilobyte) and the largest is 412MB (megabytes) 6, Working with Files, is devoted to files and file management how you name, organize, store, retrieve, copy, move, and delete files
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Fixed and Removable Disk Storage
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At a minimum, every PC has a hard disk and a CD-ROM drive In casual conversations, the terms disk and disk drive are used interchangeably Technically, however, the disk drive refers to the storage device and the disk to the medium, the actual surface on which information is stored Disk drives are designed for either removable or fixed media You re probably familiar with the ubiquitous 35-inch disk the floppy It s called a floppy because its 5-inch predecessor was flexible and floppy The actual media is still flexible, but its enclosure is not Typically, floppies and other removable media are used to transport user files between systems and for backup The fixed disk drive is a permanently installed hard disk that contains the operating system, applications, programs, and your personal files The terms hard disk and fixed disk are used interchangeably It s also called the C: drive; disk drives are assigned letters Figure 2-1 shows Windows Explorer, an important file management tool that we talk about at length in 6 The PC in this example is somewhat typical in that it has four disks/discs, each indicated by a disk/disc drive icon and a letter:
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A: C: D: E:
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Floppy Hard disk DVD-RW disc (rewritable CD and DVD) DVD-ROM disc (read-only DVD-ROM and CD-ROM)
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The pictographs in Figure 2-1, called icons, indicate the type of drive and whether or not it is empty When a removable disk/disc drive is empty, the media is outside the icon (A: and D: in the example) The media, along with its name, is shown when loaded to the drive (in the example, PC Dem BU 1 in E:) Drive letters are written with a trailing colon
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Figure 2-1
Disk drives: icons and letters
There is no typical PC The example in Figure 2-1, however, includes the most popular storage devices But where is B: Chances are you ll never see a B: disk/ disc A: and B: were set up as floppy drives at the dawn of personal computing, but you don t need a second floppy now In fact, you don t need a floppy at all more on that later Today, the vast majority of PCs have only one hard disk and one optical storage drive, identified as C: and D:, respectively If you have two hard disks, the second would be D: and the optical storage device would be E:
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