When using your Windows 10 system to create information, over time, we accumulate a lot of files that store on our hard disk. A critical part of how Windows 10 (and Windows in general) organizes 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 records that 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, first introduced in Windows 8.
Since a lot of you are coming from Windows 7 and skipped Windows 8.x altogether, we thought you’d like to take a look at using File Explorer in Windows 10.
Using File Explorer in Windows 10
To see into your computer’s storage vault, click the File Explorer icon located on your Taskbar or click Start > File Explorer.
When you launch File Explorer in Windows 10, you get 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.
You can use File Explorer 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 storage, 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 often reveals 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 a host of other tasks using the Ribbon.|
|Navigation and Address Bar||You can use these to navigate smoothly through a folder’s hierarchy or back and forward between folders. The Address bar also has a breadcrumb menu that makes it easy to navigate to a different folder path.|
|Quick Access||Here you can find your most frequently accessed folders and also ones you have pinned show up here, 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 in 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.|
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, select the View tab on the Ribbon and click Options under Show/Hide group.
Click in the Open File Explorer to list box and choose This PC then click Apply and OK.
If you don’t like to see your most frequently accessed folders and recently accessed 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 in Quick access
Or you can choose to erase all traces by clicking the Clear button.
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 will still be available from This PC. Other folders that might be part of your User Folder created by third-party applications are accessible from within your user directory from the Bread Crumb menu.
To do that, click the arrow on the address bar (see below) and click your user folder represented by your account name. Or, press Windows key + R, then type: %userprofile% and hit Enter.
Change how Files Display 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 onscreen. Within the Layout group, click one of the available options to change how your files display onscreen. You can also preview the layout before confirming by hovering over one of the available options.
Go Back to a Previous Folder
If you would like to navigate to a previous folder, you can do this a couple of ways efficiently using either Recent Locations button or the Bread Crumb menu.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 subfolders within a folder, you can quickly jump to any folder within that path.
Tip: You can also use the Backspace key to go back one step too.
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.
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 it’s listed, or click the Choose Location button and select the location.
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 then Pin to Quick access under the Home tab.
If you don’t always want to see the Ribbon in Windows 10, you can minimize it by clicking the Minimize button or press Control + F1 on your keyboard.
As you now know, 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 numerous organizational tools that are quickly accessible. All of this makes it easier to discover and find your information.