Difference Between Files & Folders

By Matt Fregoe

Files and folders are items found on most computer systems, both past and present. Files and Folders keep a computer system organized and running, and without them computer users would have a much harder time using their systems. While folders organize, files provide the substance to a computer including program code, images, video and more.

Files

A file on a computer system is any block of information being stored on the drive of that system. Files are used to hold all the information that makes a computer system function. Furthermore, most people have plenty of personal computer files with their own content within. For example, any text document you create and save on your computer is saved as a file. This also includes music, video and other application files that contain content for the user or functions for the computer itself.

Folders

Every computer system comes with a file system to keep all its files organized in groups. Folders serve to hold files inside them as well as other sub-folders and subsequent files. Folders help sort all the files on a system so the user (or the computer itself) can find and access files in an easier and more coherent fashion than just arranging all the files in one single directory. Many people have common folders on their computer such as a pictures folder and a music folder. Most folders can hold as much information as the computer can store on its drive and can hold any type of files. It would be possible to store photos in the music folder if the user so desired.

Differences

While files and folders are both stored on a computer drive, they are different items and each serves a specific purpose. While files store all the physical computer data within themselves, they are located somewhere within the directory located on the computer. These directories are also known as folders and contain all the files on the system. Files can communicate from file to file from folder to folder and produce the computer operating systems and user interface we see each day when using our desktops and laptops.

Types

Files are known to have many different types usually associated with their functions. Depending on the file type, programs can decipher the information stored within. For example, a photo file's data can be interpreted by a photo application so the user can see the picture on her screen. Folders usually only come in one type but can be re-named, moved, and added to other folders at any time. Also, folders can always be deleted and re-produced by the computer system as requested by the user without using a specific application to do so.

Basis

Folder and files were developed for computers to store data the same way as physical documents and information are stored in traditional form. Files can be thought of as documents in a file cabinet, pieces of paper containing data, except in this case the data is more complex than the traditional counterpart. The files are within the folders in the file cabinet which sort the files into the appropriate categories so that the right documents and data can be obtained easily and efficiently. A computer hard drive can be thought of as the file cabinet itself, storing all the folders and files within.