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Windows 10 Tip: Manage Files and Folders with File Explorer

When using your Windows 10 system to create information. Over time, we accumulate a lot of files that are stored on our hard disk. A critical part of how Windows 10 (and Windows in general) does this is by using a File System that manages how files are stored and accessed on your computer. The part you and I see, when we interact with the files we create on our computers, such as documents, audio files, pictures, and videos is the File Manager. In the case of Windows it’s File Explorer. Over the years, this essential part of the Windows experience has evolved from its roots as File Manager in early releases, then Windows Explorer, and now called File Explorer which was first introduced in Windows 8.

Since a lot of you are coming from Windows 7 and skipped Windows 8.x completely, we thought you’d like to take a look at using File Explorer in Windows 10.

Using File Explorer in Windows 10

To see whats stored on your computer click the File Explorer icon located on your Taskbar or click Start > File Explorer.

Launch File Explorer

When you launch File Explorer in Windows 10, you are presented within the Quick access window. Formally called Favorites in previous versions of Windows; here you will see your most frequently accessed folders and files you created.

Quick Access View

File Explorer is used for a variety of tasks, in addition to management and organization of files and folders, it’s also used to view and manage the resources of your computer such as internal, attached storage, and optical drives.

Quick Access Toolbar Here you can pin your most frequently accessed commands. Quick Access also automatically pins your most frequently accessed folders.
Ribbon Toolbar If you are familiar with Microsoft Office or apps such as Paint and WordPad, the Ribbon toolbar command is used to manage your files and reveals often hidden commands quickly. When you select a file or folder, this will display a contextual tab with additional options. You can copy, move, delete, rename and host of other task using the Ribbon.
Navigation and Address Bar You can use these to easily navigate through a folder hirarchy or back and forward between folders. The Address bar also has a bread crumb menu that makes it easy to navigate to different folder path.
Quick Access Here you can find your most frequently accessed folders and you the ones you pin which is a new feature in Windows 10.
OneDrive synced folders If you have a Microsoft Account setup with your Windows 10 PC, you can have your files stored in the online storage service and have them synced to your computer.
This PC In previous versions of Windows, this was called Computer Explorer. Here you can view and manage your internal storage and attached storage devices including optical media.
Search Use the search command to find files stored with the current folder.
Status bar Displays information about the contents stored in the window, such the amount of files, size, file selection and quick access to folder layout.
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Explorer Documents Description

If you would rather see your computer environment now called This PC, click it in the left pane, or you can change it to the default from the Folder Options dialogue. To do so, click the View tab on the Ribbon and click Options under Show/Hide group.

Folder Option 1

Click in the Open File Explorer to: list box and select This PC then click Apply and OK.

If you don’t like to see your most frequently access folders and recently access files, you can adjust those settings from the same dialog. Under Privacy, uncheck the following:

  • Show recently used files in Quick access.
  • Show frequently used folders folders in Quick access

Or you can choose to clear all traces by clicking the Clear button.

Folder Options

User Folder

In Windows 7 and earlier versions, you had a User folder directory which was used to store and organize your files in folders by content, such as Documents, Audio files, Pictures, Videos and other types of data. Some of these folders can still be accessed from This PC. Other folders that might be part of your User Folder created by third-party applications can be accessed from within your user directory from the Bread Crumb menu.

To do that, click the arrow within the address bar (see above) and click you user folder represented by your account name. Or, press Windows key + R, then type: %userprofile% and hit Enter.

User folder

Change how Files are Displayed in Windows 10 File Explorer

You can change how your files look by using the View tab. When you activate this tab, you will see various groups for changing the layout of the window, files, current view or hide certain things you see on screen. Within the Layout group, click one of the available options to change how your files are displayed on screen. You can also preview the layout before confirming by hovering one of the available options.

File Layout

File Explorer provides different ways to view your files

Go Back to a Previous Folder
If you would like to navigate to a previous folder, you can do this a couple ways efficiently using either Recent Locations button or the Bread Crumb menu.

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When you click the Recent Locations menu, you can go back to a previously working directory quickly without going through multiple directories along the way.

The Bread Crumb menu introduced in Windows Vista provides similar capabilities, for instance, you can easily navigate to a folder with a folder path. So, if there are sub folders within a folder, you can quickly jump to any folder within that path.

Tip: You can also use the Backspace key to also go back one step too.

Back and Bread Crumb

Organizing Files and Folders

If you have a lot of files on your Windows 10 system computer, you’ll want to organize them. So if you need to see recent files created or older files or you need to archive certain files elsewhere, you can easily do so. The View tab provides options for sorting how files are displayed. Here, I have chosen to sort my files by type. When I select this view, I can see all my Microsoft Word documents and Excel workbooks.

Updated File Sort type

Copy, Pasting a File or Folder

One of the most common operations for users is copying which creates a replica of an original file. To copy a file, select the file you want to copy and click Copy under the Home tab.

You can just as easily copy or move a file without leaving your current location. Under the Home tab within the Organize group, click Copy to or Move to button and choose the location if its listed or click the Choose Location button and select the location.

Copy and Move Files

Customizing Windows 10 File Explorer

If there are folders you commonly access, you can have them pinned to the Quick Access pane. Right-click the folder you want pinned and select Pin to Quick Access or select the folder and and then Pin to Quick access under the Home tab.

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Quick Access Windows 10

If you don’t want to always see the Ribbon in Windows 10, you can minimize it by clicking the Minimize button or press Control + F1 on your keyboard.

minimize ribbon

As you can see, File Explorer in Windows 10 contains a wealth of tools you can use to manage your files. The ribbon which will be new to many offers many organization tools that quickly accessible and makes it easier to discover and find your information.

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21 Responses to Windows 10 Tip: Manage Files and Folders with File Explorer

  1. Rodger Warren September 12, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

    Hi Andre
    Since updating to Windows 10 I find that when I have two versions of File Explorer open and want to have them side by side the Taskbar option “Show Windows Side by Side” does not work correctly.
    The two versions become Stacked not Side by side.
    Press Win Key+E twice (to open two versions of File Explorer)
    Right Click in the Task Bar and select Show Windows Side by Side.

    This is an annoying bug and Microsoft should be notified by it but How do you notify them?

  2. Bob Matthews September 15, 2015 at 7:45 am #

    How can I duplicate the folder structure [only partial in most cases, e.g. the structure for the lowest level or two on part of a drive] in Windows 10 while not copying all the files over? Thanks.

  3. MSFT Guru November 29, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

    Bob Matthews…

    Open a command prompt and use the xcopy command with the /T & /E switches. Type “xcopy /?” for a list of switches and the help file.

    /T Creates directory structure, but does not copy files. Does not
    include empty directories or subdirectories. /T /E includes
    empty directories and subdirectories.

  4. Mick December 2, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

    How do I increase the font size in File Explorer? Or how do I zoom in so that I can read the screen?

  5. Roger December 19, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    How can one add a back arrow button to where the pin to quick access button is located now? I really miss the old layout, and the small arrows that has replaced it just isn’t the same, at all..

  6. Cheryl Earle January 29, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    I’m trying to burn word documents to a CD. I have file folders with sub folders under each folder. These are recipes that I have organized into different categories, like chicken, pork, etc. When I burn them to a CD they appear in alphabetical order, but not in their sub folder categories. How do I burn the CD keeping the categories separate? Any help is appreciated. Thank you.

  7. kristin February 23, 2016 at 6:43 am #

    I can’t even get two copies of file explorer open. I don’t know how to organize my files and folders without doing this. I need to see what I am doing, my short term memory is apparently not long enough to retain what I am dragging and where I want to drag it to to, and then to make it worse scrolling and dragging can make it all squirrel out.

    • Claudio Paroli August 29, 2016 at 10:40 pm #

      Kristin I suppose by now you’ve worked it out. If not, here’s my way…

      I have File Explorer on the taskbar (Start>File Explorer – right mouse click – Add to Taskbar).

      I click to open it and then, if I want another copy, I click again on the File Explorer icon on the taskbar BUT WHILE HOLDING SHIFT – a separate FE windows open, and you can drag one hard against the side of your monitor using your left mouse button on the title bar. When you then let go of the mouse button – making sure you see a half screen outline on your monitor – the first FE window will snap to fill half screen size. Then you can click on the other FE window to make it snap to the other half of the screen.

      Then you can drag files between different folders in your computer or between different computers on your network.

      Hope it helps! 🙂

  8. Claudio Paroli February 26, 2016 at 3:49 pm #

    Great post Andre, thanks
    Is there a way to customise File Manager so that I don’t see all stuff I don’t need in the Navigation Pane – such as Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos?

  9. MM February 29, 2016 at 5:04 am #

    i accidentally clicked something that i didn’t read while i was deleting an app. (i think it was “do this to others”).. now, i could copy, move or delete any file, apps and all while i have it open.. how do i undo this? how do i return it to its default setting?

  10. Renz March 4, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

    Hi somehow windows 10 file explorer has taken my music album folders and made individual folders for each artist. So now i have many more folders to look through for my music and some folders only have 1 somg in them… i have tried changing the view but i cannot get them to merge back into album folders. Is there a way to do this?

  11. Kermit March 13, 2016 at 7:13 pm #

    on 8, I could like all the favorites and quickly look at them by xing out at the top. Now I have to click each one in the folder to look at. This takes way too much time. How do I get them all to open in a favorites forlder like 8. I hope this isn’t the new way, so aggrevating. Thanks

  12. Jerry May 23, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

    I was trying to save a file to local drive C: but it wont allow me to. How to save a file in desired directory?

  13. Riona June 22, 2016 at 8:30 am #

    You can try Long Path Tool, it helped me a lot.

  14. David August 20, 2016 at 11:24 am #

    Is there anything about how to keep Microsoft from duplicating your files? When Windows 7 came out-was extremely confusing because on one hand you have similar names-like photos for instance-you will find a few different locations for “Photos” but are not the same location. Supposedly, these are all the same files arranged in a different order-there is only one file or on the picture and it all goes back to the one copy of that file.

    With Windows 10 in file explorer-next thing I know is my folders start multiplying without me making it happen. If I want to clean and organize-it is giving me multiple copies of the same file. So instead of having one file accessed from multiple locations-this becomes not one file but multiple copies of the same files you know must manage. Instead of having one file you have five or six files you have to consolidate and eventually deletes-you are not working with one file access from multiple locations but five different files found in five different locations.

    Is there a way to manage files and folders that does not make multiple copies of the same file(so you are only managing one file but not five different files) How can I manage my files and folders so I can keep them in one place, location with out seeing the same files copied and growing into a huge list of files you have to manage? In other words, having a clean and concise work area that bis easy to manage? How do I stop Microsoft from making copies of my files putting them all over the place in my file/folder manager?

  15. Ronald August 22, 2016 at 5:51 am #

    Some online software’s are great in case of long path errors like Long Path Tool, all problems solution in one go.

  16. David August 29, 2016 at 7:12 pm #

    How do you prevent files and folders from being deleted? Been noticing from time to time that a folder I could access is no longer there. I go to the Recycle Bin and thankfully-find it and restore it. How can I stop this action from happening?

    I am the only one using my laptop so the reality-it should be myself determining what gets deleted and what does not.

    Is there some kind of registry, journal entries, or whatever I need to look at to pinpoint when this happens and who caused it(whatever feature on my computer.)

    In a similar action, when working with a lot of files-pictures-when moving them from place to place(like cut and paste), I keep seeing these photos and files being duplicated in file management. I suspect when this happens, the cause being cut and pasted files-that it leaves a copy you did not intend to leave at the current address. For whatever reason-when Windows 7 came out-had a long time to wrap my head around the ideal that there is one file but can be accessed from multiple locations-one file though. I somewhat suspect there has been a change up by Microsoft which would be very disingenuous if that is what is happening.

  17. David September 1, 2016 at 11:52 am #

    Everything you need to manage files and folders except for the files and folders themselves. I want to get rid of excess and copied files. Apparently when you try to open another copy of a folder already opened so you can compare-apparently you can only open one version of a folder. When you try to open a second copy-it takes you right to the first copy you have opened already. The more I get into Windows 10, the more I begin to realise Microsoft is not about making basic features Windows miight have had in the past are not a part of the new and improved edition of Windows. As Microsoft adds innovative features-you do it at the price of losing basic functionality you always had available to you-you have to reinmvent the wheel because Microsoft decided you do not need that wheel

    • Barry Hay September 12, 2016 at 12:48 pm #

      David did you get any help with your two inquires here?
      I have these same problems and my Photo folders and files are beyond management.
      I really need help with these problems too.

  18. laura dawdy October 8, 2016 at 6:24 pm #

    I really like the system

  19. David Emme October 16, 2016 at 6:41 pm #

    Not really but the last few days I figured out why I began seeing more and more files and folders multiplied. The reason is if you select a number of files to move or delete. Not sure if this matters but I do use the little box to show if selected or not.

    When I select some files or folders to be deleted-notice they do not all delete or they all do not cut so am aware of it and now look to see if files or folders were cut or deleted because you cannot trust Windows 10 to delete or cut files and folders.

    What I am doing now is trying to organize file explorer. I get these folders and files and there is a bit of clutter. Try to consolidate. Problem is when I select something here, three other locations pop up with all its folders and this is where confusion comes in. I made a folder named, “Iraq” for pictures of the Iraq war. Put the files in there and have not looked at it fora week or two. I go in to the explorer and could not find it. So I decide to do a search and here comes this folder entitled I”Iraq” which does not have pictures but PDF Books I have.

    But in everything, I think have a total of five or six little folder icons that are the same-like for instance “pictures ” is found this way in files Explorer. I get really confused on how they decided to make things because with these various repeats of files and opening one folder that will open another five which when done-maybe one of those five will prompt you and go open different folders until I get one big convoluted mess. I do not even know why they make files explorer to be in this one pane of in formation that pops up-I honestly thought I should be able to open my files or folders in multiple places on my computer and also decided to put them together in one application-files explorer.

    It all gets very frustrating. It took some time to get here so I apologize in not responding-am sure nI have something in my email but have been ignoring it the last few weeks.

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