Difference Between File and Folder in a Computer

Difference Between File and Folder in a Computer

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Rashmi
Rashmi Karan
Manager - Content
Updated on Dec 27, 2023 16:48 IST

The main difference between a file and a folder in a computer is that a file is a digital entity that stores specific data or content, such as documents, images, or programs, while a folder, also known as a directory, is a digital container used to organize and manage files and other folders within a hierarchical structure. The article tries to clear the confusion around computer files and folders and explores the differences between files and folders.

2023_01_files-vs.-folders.jpg

The most crucial difference between file and folder is that files store data, be it text, music, or movie, while folders store files. Folders are usually larger as they contain many files and other folders.

What are Files?

A file on a computer system is any block of information stored on that system’s drive. The files are used to contain all the information that makes a function of the computer system. On the other hand, most people have a lot of personal computer files with their content inside. For example, any text document you create and save to your computer is saved as a file. 

A file can be anything from a Word file to a music, video, or photo file. 

  • Text files usually contain typed text and are called Word documents. Other examples of text files are PDF, RTF, and HTML
  • Image files are in different known formats like JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP, etc. Audio files are also available in various formats like MP3, WAV, WMV, AIF, etc. 
  • Many video file formats include MPEG, MP4, WMV, and MOV.

One can create, save, open, move and delete files. It is possible to move a file from one folder to another. You can also download files from other networks and the internet. The file type is usually recognized by its icon or by its extension.

Folders are also called “directories.” When the operating system and applications are installed, they are created on the hard drive (HD) or solid-state drive (SSD). Files are always stored in folders. Even the computer’s desktop is a folder that displays its contents on your computer screen.

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What is a Folder?

Every computer system has a file system to organize all your files in groups. Folders hold the files within them, as well as other subfolders and subsequent files. Folders help organize all the files on a system so that the user (or the computer itself) can find and access files more easily and consistently than just organizing them in a single directory. 

Many people have common folders on their computers, like picture and music folders. Most folders can store all the information that your computer can store on your drive, and it can store any file. It would be possible to store photos in the music folder if the user desires.

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Difference Between File and Folder

Below are some main differences between files and folders based on their types and tasks.

Types

Files have many types, usually associated with their functions. Depending on the file type, programs can decrypt the information stored inside it. For example, you can open a photo file through a photo application to see the image on your screen. 

Folders usually only come in one type but can be renamed, moved, and added to other folders anytime. Also, folders can be deleted and re-produced by the computer system as requested by the user without the need to use a specific application.

Tasks

Folders and files store data like physical documents, and information is traditionally stored. 

Files are documents in a filing cabinet and pieces of paper containing data, except in this case, the data is more complex than its traditional counterpart. 

The files are located within folders in the filing cabinet, which sorts the files into the proper categories so that the correct documents and data can be obtained easily and efficiently. A computer hard drive can be considered a filing cabinet, storing all the folders and files.

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Comparison Table – Files vs Folders

Here is a quick comparison of files and folders.

 

Files

Folders

Basic

Collecting data in the secondary storage device.

Organizing files in groups and storing them under a common heading.

Memory size

Has a certain size and memory consumption.

No size of its own. Its size depends on the stored files.

Attributes

  • Name
  • Extension
  • Date
  • Time
  • Length
  • Protection (Read-Only, hidden, etc.)
  • Name
  • Date
  • Time
  • Protection (Read-Only, hidden, etc.)

Organization

Serial, sequential, indexed sequential, and direct file organizations.

Single directory per user and multiple directories per user organization.

Sharing

Files cannot be shared on the network on their own.

Folders can be shared on a network.

Supported operations

  • Read 
  • Write 
  • Rename
  • Copy 
  • Sort 
  • Move 
  • Delete 
  • Modify
  • Create 
  • Duplicate 
  • Move  
  • Rename  
  • Remove  
  • Clear  

Extension 

A file name consists of an extension indicating the program it belongs to.

No extensions.

Types 

  • Transaction files
  • Master files
  • Output files
  • Report files
  • Backup files
  • Quick file folder
  • Main folder
  • Custom folder

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We hope this article helped to understand the basic differences between files and folders.

FAQs - Differences between files and folders

Can a file contain other files?

No, files cannot contain other files directly. Files are individual entities, while folders are used to contain and organize files.

What operations can I perform on files?

You can perform operations such as opening, editing, copying, moving, renaming, and deleting files.

What actions can be taken with folders?

You can create, rename, copy, move, and delete folders. These actions are typically applied to the folder as a whole and can affect all the files and subfolders.

Are there visual differences between files and folders on a computer's interface?

Yes, files are typically represented by icons or thumbnails reflecting their content type, while folders are usually represented by icons resembling a container or directory, often with a folded corner or other visual cues indicating that they are folders.

About the Author
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Rashmi Karan
Manager - Content

Rashmi is a postgraduate in Biotechnology with a flair for research-oriented work and has an experience of over 13 years in content creation and social media handling. She has a diversified writing portfolio and aim... Read Full Bio