Understanding Tech: What are Files and How do They Work

Each and every one of us depends on our computer or mobile device in some way. As a world we have gone almost entirely digital, which means even if you are not a fan of technology, you are still required to have an understanding of it to be able to communicate, work, and generally stay connected.

Depending on your age, the majority of us have had to slowly learn about all of the features that our computers and the internet have to offer.  Even once we think we have figured our computers out, more and more features are added with every update, which means we have to continue to learn. Every now and again you will be using your computer and find yourself wondering, like what are torrents? How does the internet work? It’s all very complicated.

A feature of our technical devices that is rarely questioned is filed. For as long as there have been technical devices, there have been files. For this reason, files often fly under the radar and are easily forgotten, but if you really think about it, do you know what files really are, and do you know how they work?  We thought not. Don’t worry, we have you covered. Here are what files are and how they work.


What is a file?

To explain it plainly, a file is essentially a storage container that is kept within your computer. Though it is not technically known as a ‘storage container’, in order to help you visualize, we will describe files in this way.

This ‘storage container’ is used to store data and information and comes in many forms. This is because not all data that you save onto your computer is the same and therefore needs to be separated. You may be familiar with text files or image files. These files are stored within your computer’s operating system and depending on what you use, they can be kept on hard drives and other similar devices.

Files are essentially used to make sure all of the data on your computer is appropriately stored, without files you would just have loose data that would not only congest your computer, but it would be extremely difficult to find the exact data that you need.

How do you identify a file on a computer?

Past the login process of accessing a computer, the first thing you will encounter will be a file. A file has a name that identifies what it is and what its use is, along with this there is an extension that informs the operating system of what kind of file it may be.  Say you have a picture of a dog. You can expect to see this file named something like dog.jpeg. The jpeg element is what is referred to as the extension, and this identifies the type of file it is. The ‘dog’ element is known as the identity of the file, which is basically describing what the film depicts.


What are the different types of computer files?

The main types of files that can be found on your computer are known as program and system files. These are the files that are usually already on your computer when it is purchased, but program files can be continued to be added depending on your downloads. Program files are files that you can click on and open up to access programs, so if you click on a file labeled ‘Word’, then you will be taken to the Word program. System files cannot be opened or modified, as they are simply used to keep your computer running.

Aside from the two main file types, you can find on your computer, you can also find a long list of other file types. These include documents, pictures, audio, and database files.


File vs File folder

Some people out there believe that they know what a file is, but files are often confused with folders. Due to the fact that both files and folders have identifiable names, they are often believed to be the same thing.  Folders are what are used to store files, but they can be empty. If you were to click on a folder, you wouldn’t be taken to a program, you would be taken to a list of files.

Why do files come in differing sizes?

To explain it simply, files come in different sizes due to the fact that essentially every file is different. Files are used to store data, and each file has a different type and amount of data. Say you save a twenty-minute video in a file, that will be much bigger than a file that contains one Word document. Files can be compressed in order to save computer space, but it really depends on the kind of computer you have and how you choose to manage your files.

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