How to Access Old Files on a Computer

By Mia Savchenko

Old files on a computer can still be accessed by a user at any time, provided they are not corrupted. It is common to archive old files on a computer or external storage device. Files that a user commonly archives include documents, spreadsheets, databases, audio, music, pictures and videos. Accessing these files on a computer requires only basic computer knowledge.

Turn on your computer. If the files to be accessed are stored on an external hard drive or storage device, then power them up and connect them to the computer if necessary.

Find the directory where the archived files are stored. From the "Startup Menu," select My Computer > [Computer Drive] > [Folder where the file is stored]. If you have more subdirectories, click the specific folders and subfolders until you find the file you are looking for.

Use your computer's search feature if you are not sure where to look. Select "Search" from the "Startup Menu" and input the search criteria in the appropriate fields. Narrow down your search by providing specific information about the file, such as the file extension, or parts of the file name that you can remember.

Click on the files that you want to open, one at a time. If the software used to open the file is installed on your computer, the file will have an icon next to it that you can click. If the software is not installed, the icon is blank, which means you cannot open it without installing the program first. Install the software if necessary. An alternative is to use the "Open With" feature. Right-click the file name and select the program. This allows you to find the appropriate program on the Internet or from a list of alternate programs on your computer. If the file you want to open is executable, then it can be opened directly, without additional software.

View, move, edit, delete, or copy the old files that you have just accessed. When done, close the files, proceed with other tasks, or turn off your computer.