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For all (recent) versions of windows, this has confused me and I hoped windows 10 would simplify it, but to no avail.

Anyway, when one opens the windows (10) file explorer, they see This PC as pretty much the main grouping. Within that, we have documents, downloads, etc. and it seems pretty easy. However, the path of these folders is really C:/Users/name/Documents. This PC seems to not even exist as any kind of element of the file system.

Don't even get me started about public documents and other user's documents: it's all a mystery to me. Anyway, most of the time I'll save my files in these default folders (I should do that right?) but sometimes I save them in C:/Users/my-name directly. Obviously that was a mistake.

The last piece of the puzzle is the program files folders. These, one finds, are directly within C: and don't seem to be associated with any users for some reason. It would be so much easier if there were a programs folder right alongside downloads and pictures. So if I download a program like eclipse, I'm supposed to save it in program files right? My files are in several places right now and for example, the all apps on the start menu doesn't show several of my programs (like eclipse).

Can someone please just clarify the whole picture for me? This has been driving me crazy!

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    There are some great resources at your local bookstore on how Windows works I would pick one up. – Ramhound Jul 30 '15 at 22:12
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The entries in the left pane can be a bit confusing, particularly as they can appear to represent a fixed hierarchy, when they don't really do that. All they are is shortcuts. A list of arbitrary shortcuts with simple names, to take you to commonly used places.

Some replies to specific points which may help:

"This PC" seems to not even exist as any kind of element of the file system

It's not part of the file system. The file system is part of your PC. "This PC" is just a grouping that represents, well, your PC. If you had two disks installed, they would both show up here.

"This PC" as pretty much the main grouping. Within that, we have documents, downloads, etc. and it seems pretty easy. However, the path of these folders is really C://Users/name/Documents.

No problem; Documents, Downloads etc are simply Windows Shortcuts. That means you don't have to fit the entire text in the left pane, and it's easier to read.

sometimes I save them in C://Users/my-name directly. Obviously that was a mistake.

No, it's the same as using the shortcut. You can do whichever's easiest for you at the time.

The last piece of the puzzle is the program files folders [...] It would be so much easier if there were a "programs" folder right alongside downloads and pictures.

Not really; this is File Explorer. Technically savvy users certainly can use File Explorer to delve into the parts of the file system where programs are stored, but unless you're interested in doing so, there's no need. To access your programs, just use Start.

So if I download a program like eclipse, I'm supposed to save it in program files right?

No, you're supposed to run its setup program. Windows will take care of where the files live. You just run its setup to install it, then run it from Start.

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