Which File Contains my Data?

Many of the windows programs that you run store data in files on your computer. In some cases, such as with office software, the save function is under your control and you decide where the files will be stored. In other cases, such as with your internet favourites/bookmarks or emails, the system stores your data without asking you where to put it. In most cases you can go into your system and change the default location where these programs store your files. Assuming that you haven't changed these default locations, is there a simple way to find what these data files are so they can (for example) be included in data backups?

Yes there is and the facility to find these data files is of course the Find option on the start menu. The best time to locate the file where a particular item of data is stored is immediately after the data has been stored. This enables us to find the file containing that data based on when the file was last updated.

To perform this task after storing data in the file that you want to locate select the Files or Folders option from the file menu and on the Name & Location page of the find dialog make sure that the drive where the program that the data file belongs to is installed (as this is the most likely drive to hold the data file). If after searching this drive you don't locate the file you are looking for you can always try again with Local Hard Drives selected so as to search all of your drives.

The next step is to switch to the Date Modified page of the find dialog and then select Find all files created or modified: and during the previous 1 day(s).

To further refine the search go to the Advanced page of the find dialog and put something into the Containing text: field. For an email this can be part of the email text or for a bookmark use part of the address of the site. Whatever file you are trying to find you probably have some idea of some of the text that you expect the file to contain that you can enter here.

Selecting the Find Now button will result in a list of all of the files on the selected drive that were created in the last 24 hours that contain your specified text. Chances are that only the file that you are looking for will appear in the list. If more than one file appears you can probably work out which is which by the time that appears in the Modified column. If no files are found that meet the criteria you can try searching a different drive or change the text that you expect to find in the file.

You should manage to locate the file where your data is being stored fairly quickly using this method.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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