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How to Find a Picture on My Hard Drive?

-How to search jpeg files on your computer hard drive?

By Michael Chang. Copyright (c) Directron.com, All Rights Reserved.

You are encouraged to make links to this article from your website and tell your friends

The following article is based on years of experience. It is provided as a free service to our customers and visitors. However, Directron.com is not responsible for any damage as a result of following any of this advice.

Copying the contents for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited without Directron.com's written consent. However, you are welcome to distribute these computer support tips free to your friends and associates as long as it's not for commercial purposes and you acknowledge the source. You are permitted and encouraged to create links to this page from your own web site.

Digital picture is one of the greatest computer applications... well except when you can't find the picture you want from your crowded hard drive. We are all accumulating too many pictures on our computers too fast - through our own digital cameras, web downloads, and sending over by our friends and family. If your digital pictures are not categorized, labeled, and stored in a very organized way, sooner or later it's going to be like trying to find a needle through a haystack.

This article is an attempt to help you ease the pain.


Well, let's assume you already have your picture saved on your hard drive and your mission is to find the one you want but you don't remember where you saved it.

There are several ways to find your picture:

(1) Use Microsoft Windows file "Search" function. This function can be found on the "Start" menu on Windows 2000/ME/XP.

You can define the image file type by one of the extensions:

.jpg, gif, .bmp, .ico, .wmf

If the picture was from your digital camera, chances are that it has the .jpg extension. However, most digital cameras save pictures in a generic xxx0035.jpg format. xxx is a prefix that may be different for each brand of digital camera, such as IMG_0335.JPG for some Canon models, and CIMG0234.JPG for some Casio models. This means that you can't possibly remember the file name from so many pictures you have, which in turn means difficulty to search one picture by the file name.

However, if you remember roughly when you took the pictures, you can refine your search to certain dates or a range of dates.

The search result will show you a list of images. You can click on any of them to see the contents or view the thumbnails to pin down what you are looking for. This search tool is very useful because it allows you to search your hard drive in folders that you didn't know you had pictures. (Hoops, this tool will also help others to find pictures on your hard drive that you would rather die than letting others seeing them).

(2) Browse your file folders to find your picture.

In theory, all files are saved in folders. If you open "My Documents" from your windows Start menu and go to "My Pictures" folder, you can browse your pictures. You can actually view the pictures in thumb nails. Once you find the pictures you took or saved roughly at the same time as the one you are looking for, you can zoom in to find the one you really want.

If you save too many pictures into one folder, it will be too slow to browse all the thumb nails on most computers. To avoid this problem, you can first break the folder into many sub-folders according to the picture dates or contents.

Pictures transferred through instant messengers such as AIM, YIM, and MSN are often saved by default into special folders that are not inside "My Pictures." For example, Yahoo instant messenger (YIM) saves transferred files into a folder "My Received Files" under "My Documents." Some may not be even under "My Documents."

(3) Get professional help.

If the two methods above do not help you, you may want to go outside "Windows" functions to use some professional tools:

(a) Google desktop search and other desktop search tools

(b) Use a picture-finding utility, such as PicFinder, which is free to download.

(c) Use picture management software such as ACDSee. Such software will allow you to significantly increase your efficiency in organizing and finding pictures. There are many on the market. Actually, Microsoft has realized the need for such a tool and it has improved the picture management functions with Windows XP.


Before wasting your time and patience looking for that picture, get organized!

It's never too late to start organizing and re-organizing your pictures on your hard drive so that you don't have to go through the embarassing hassle of trying hard to find your own picture. Get the good habit of keeping your files on your hard drives marticulously organized.

(4) Save each batch of pictures from digital cameras into different folders

You take pictures with your digital camera at different dates and occasions. Don't save all the pictures into your "My Pictures" folder. That habit is like throwing all your books into your closet floor without organizing them onto a book shelf.

Create folders and sub-folders under "My Pictures." Use meaningful folder names that reflect the contents of the pictures. Put a date in the folder name. Here are some examples of good folder names:

Christmas 2004
Cancun Trip 2003
Michelle's Graduation May 2004
Pictures downloaded for anime class 2002

Such meaningful folders would be a big help when you need to do a search or browsing. You can use multiple layers of folders to keep the number of images in each folder at manageable levels.

(5) Rename pictures with unique, meaningful names

If you do (4) well, you probably don't need to do (5). However, for pictures that are really important and you know you'll need them later, you can actually give them a unique name to help you search for them later. Here are a few examples:

Sunny's baseball team fall 2004.JPG
tina's field trip summer 2004.JPG
Dad's birthday 2002.JPG

(6) Back-up your pictures often

If you keep all of your pictures on one hard drive, you are keeping all of your eggs in one basket. The basket will become too crowded, making it hard to search, too.

Back-up your pictures onto CDs, DVDs, and secondary hard drives often. If the picture files are relatively small, simply copy the files over instead of using "back up" utilities which will require "Restore" to retrieve later. Label the CDs and DVDs clearly. If your hard drive is running out space, move some of your pictures into such back-up devices. Backup files will also make the transportation/shipping and thus sharing of your pictures easier.

You can also back up your pictures through many online album services. Not only you are saving your pictures onto the cyber space, you can also easily share your pictures with the entire world.

(7) Use professional software to manage your pictures

If you really handle a large number of pictures on a routine basis - say at least once per week, you need to get a special software to manage the tasks instead of using the "freebies" that came with Windows. Yes, there are several professional picture management software out there. Such software allows you to change the names of a large number of pictures with a few clicks. For instance, the default picture names of your last vacation were IMG_xxxx.JPG, xxxx is the number sequence. You have taken 200 digital pictures from your cruise ship through the Caribeans. To change the names of these 200 pictures manually would take too long. With the picture management software, you can change all of the names to Cruise 2004_xxxx.JPG with a few seconds. Here is a list of the most popular photo management software titles:

  • ACDSee - Find, Edit, Share and Print Your Pictures Fast
  • ThumbsPlus - Highly customizable image database / thumbnails / graphics editor
  • Jasc Paint Shop Photo Album 5.0 - Now you can organize, fix, share, and protect photos with one easy-to-use tool
  • SlowView - Brennig's - tools like an advanced batch processor/converter, screen capture, lossless jpg transformation, batch printing, crop/cut/paste are available. - Free
  • IrfanView - One of the most popular viewers worldwide - Freeee

    Have fun with your pictures!

    If you find this article useful, please create a link to it from your website or tell a friend about it. If you have any comments or suggestions about this article, please email information@directron.us

    By Michael Chang, Copyright (c) Directron.com. All Rights Reserved.
    First published 1-17-2005.

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