How to View the Contents of a Hard Drive

By Michael Dance

No matter what kind of bells and whistles your computer came with, everything is in service to the stuff that's actually on it--all the programs, games, documents and multimedia that make up your hard drive or hard drives. Luckily, viewing the contents of said hard drives is a straightforward experience, no matter what operating system you have.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer

Viewing the Contents of your Hard Drive in Windows

Step 1

Open the Start Menu (in the lower left-hand corner of your screen).

Step 2

Click "My Computer" (in XP or previous) or "Computer" (in Vista or beyond). A window should open that shows icons for your CD or DVD drives and any hard drives you have connected to your computer. The main hard drive built into your computer is called "Drive C:."

Step 3

Double-click on the hard drive you wish to view. The content will be arranged in a hierarchy of folders.

Viewing the Contents of your Hard Drive on a Mac

Step 1

Close all open programs until only the "Finder" appears on the top bar of your desktop.

Step 2

Click "File," then click "New Finder Window."

Step 3

Select the desired hard drive on the left panel of the window. By default it is often called "Macintosh HD" and should be under the Devices section. As with Windows, your hard drive will consist of a hierarchy of folders.

Tips & Warnings

  • In Windows, some files will be "hidden" by default. To view hidden files along with the rest of your files, once you've opened the hard drive window, click on the "Tools" menu, click "Folder Options," click the "View" tab and finally select "Show Hidden Files and Folders."Many programs exist that allow you to visualize your hard drive beyond just clicking through folder after folder. On Windows, try WinDirStat, and on a Mac, try Disk Inventory X (see Resources for links).