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Someone on a non-technical forum recently told me that storing files nested in too many subfolders can slow down a computer. Is this at all true? It kinda makes sense, since the computer would have a larger file system index or whatever it's called to sort though, but I can't find any info about this online. I haven't actually noticed much of a difference on my computer from creating lots of folders, and I've never heard this before (and I read a lot about tech), so I'm a little skeptical. Could someone be nice enough to point me to some relevant information?

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Maybe you want to have a look at this – Gene Aug 19 '13 at 6:47
up vote 6 down vote accepted

As what I know, then it's better to have many folders with a small number of files, than having one or a few folders with a large number of files.

Each folder stores index information for every file/folder (links). So if you have lets say 1.000.000 files in that folder, then it will have 1.000.000 entries stored and that will be slow to load.
But if you have 10 folders with 100.000 files in each, then it will only have 10 entries stored and 100.000 in each of the sub-folders.
That is just a simple example, but I hope you get the point.

I guess if you have millions of folders with files/folders, then it will be a problem.

Also read: Are there any issues with having huge folders?

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Thank you very much! – user246590 Aug 20 '13 at 4:11

Generally not, but there are a great many variables in filesystem behaviour so there are some circumstances where it may make a difference.

For day-to-day running, it only matters for the directories you (or applications on your behalf) are accessing. With a lot of files and sub-directories (several thousand or more) in one directory you can experience performance issues with FAT based filesystems as the directories listings there are stored in a relatively unstructured manner, but for NTFS this is not the case as the listings are stored in an indexed structure that is more efficient to search and modify (if you are using Linux too, there is a similar difference between the ext2 and ext3/ext4/newer filesystems). There are absolute limits to the number of objects in any given directory but it is rare you will hit them (they are of the order of 32,000 for FAT32 and 4,000,000,000 for NTFS).

If your directory structure is deep (such as c:\this\is\a\directory\structure\with\many\many\many\many\levels\my\god\look\how\deep\it\goes) and/or has some long names within it then you will hit the old 260 character path limit. IIRC the Windows API and built-in libraries & tools (including Explorer) can cope with much longer paths as of recent releases, but you will find a great many 3rd party utilities still assume and enforce the limit (or fall over if they experience a path longer than that limit). Also some 3rd party tools will behave inefficiently when looking at a single directory with a great many files/sub-directories within.

If you have lots of objects in a filesystem (files, directories or both) then any filesystem wide operation such as a consistency check via chckdsk will of course take longer.

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Thanks for the information! – user246590 Aug 20 '13 at 4:15

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