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What Is a Virtual Folder?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A virtual folder is a tool used in data storage and organization through an Operating System (OS) that allows for easier access to multiple drives or systems. Computer users can create this type of folder through an OS or other utility and then populate it with various files and pieces of data. None of this information actually exists within the virtual folder, however, but instead is located in a real folder or directory on a hard drive or other data storage device. This folder is simply used to organize the files so that they can be accessed quickly and easily from a single location, rather than finding each one individually.

The use of a virtual folder allows a computer user to create a directory or location where multiple files can be accessed even if they are in other locations. For example, someone may be using a computer that contains two hard drives and is connected to a network with files on other systems. Normally, that user would need to navigate through multiple folders and drives in order to find data contained on each of these locations. If this information is important and used often, then accessing all of these files could require a great deal of time and reduce productivity.

A virtual folder alleviates much of this hassle and allows information to be accessed much more easily. This "folder" is typically created as a search query that is saved and stored as a file that the computer's OS can use later. A computer user, for example, might run a search for every file that has been tagged with the label "work_project_November." This search would come back with each of the files that have been tagged appropriately.

When that computer user then accesses the virtual folder for that previous search, then the system would quickly bring up all of those results found earlier. The OS can be designed with a User Interface (UI) that makes the search result function as a folder, displaying files and data for the user. This is essentially a virtual folder that contains no real data, but serves as access to information.

If the computer user had files across multiple drives and devices that are all tagged appropriately, then the OS can find these and access them together in the virtual folder. By using this one file folder, the user can quickly access all of this data. New information can typically be added easily, and incorrect files can be removed or tagged differently for future access. All of the data remains in its original location, and the virtual folder simply acts as an organized method for finding it.

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