Microsoft Windows can get messy. It’s not (always) the operating system’s fault. You download tons of apps and files, and create new content stuff of your own, until your “Downloads” directory looks like a landfill for old content. Your desktop is so full of icons, you can’t see your pretty wallpaper. Your Start Menu looks like an app buffet. In short, your operating system is a mess, but it’s not unfixable.
We take spring cleaning very seriously at Lifehacker. Far be it from us to let an opportunity to refresh, reorganize, and declutter our homes lives pass us by. We’re also pretty psyched to hit the reset button on our tech usage, take a close look at our finances, and give the heave-ho to the day-to-day habits that have gotten a little musty. Welcome to Spring Cleaning Week, wherein we clear the cobwebs of winter and set the stage for sunny days ahead. Let’s clean things up, shall we?
There are a few free apps you can use to add some much-needed organization to your Windows world. Here are a few of our favorites:
We covered this app a long time ago, but it’s worth resurrecting. DropIt is a great utility that can help you stay organized if you’re the kind of person who dumps everything you download (or copy to your PC) into a single folder-one giant, sprawling hub that many files enter, but rarely leave.
DropIt allows you to set up a ton of different rules that fire off whenever you drag files onto the utility’s little icon. For example, you can set the app to always move image files into your primary photos folder, video files into your videos folder, and Word documents into-you guessed it-your documents folder.
That’s just the start. If you want to get more advanced, DropIt can automatically scan folders (like your Downloads folder) and apply more advanced filters to anything it finds, like automatically unzipping archives, renaming files based on your parameters, or compressing large batches of files that are otherwise taking up a bit more space than you want.
Automation is a great way to help you stay organized in Windows, and DropIt practically gives you a virtual helper at your fingertips.
If your sprawling photo library needs some serious organization but you don’t want to pay for something like Adobe Lightroom, the open-source app digiKam is a great alternative.
Use this app to sort your photos and create (or edit) metadata so you can find exactly what you’re looking for in one easy-to-access library. If you’re also a bit of a photo perfectionist, you can use digiKam to edit your regular and RAW shots to make them picture-perfect.
This app is a much better solution for organizing shots than just dumping them into arbitrary Windows folders. Your disorganized hard drive will thank you, and you’ll be much less likely to lose (or forget about) images going forward.
We’re not going to ask why you have a bunch of emulators installed on your system, and we’re going to assume that all the ROMs spread across that nightmare of a folder structure in the “Games” portion of your hard drive are completely legal. Right? Regardless, if you just spent the last day getting your nostalgia kick by downloading archives of thousands of different retro games to play on your modern-day PC, keeping these games under control is going to feel overwhelming.
We suggest grabbing LaunchBox, which is a great “game organizer” utility that allows you to quickly find and play titles in your giant library. You can tap into the app’s crowd-sourced database to pepper your titles with useful information, like release dates, genres, publishers, and images, and you can mark certain games as favorites to make theme easier to hunt down when you have a little time to kill.
LaunchBox also makes it (somewhat) easy to import games from your favorite distribution services, like Steam, Battle.net, and GoG (to name a few). If you’re the world’s biggest gamer who plays everything you can download and always grabs new titles to try from all the major services, LaunchBox is a great way to organize your games under one digital roof.
Everyone knows Windows’ Aero Snap shortcuts, right? Hit Windows Key + one of the arrow keys on your keyboard to send your active window flying all around your screen: minimizing, opening, shrinking to fill a quarter or half of your display, and bouncing off your primary display entirely (if you have a multi-monitor setup).