How To Improve Windows Explorer By Adding New Columns

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improve windows explorerWindows Explorer is one of the most used Windows applications and at the same time probably also the least acknowledged productivity tool. You are using Windows Explorer every day to interact with your computer as you access your files and folders. An application you use this much should be customized to your needs. An optimized Windows Explorer will make working with your computer easier, faster, and more enjoyable.

This article shows you how to add custom columns to the Windows Explorer details view. Moreover, the article demonstrates how to activate the Last Access Time Stamp detail, which was deactivated in Windows Vista and Windows 7 to save system resources.

How To Switch to Details View in Windows 7 Explorer

Before I can show you how to add custom columns to Windows Explorer, you need to switch to the Details view, which allows you to see these columns.

  • In any given folder click View in the toolbar.
  • Select Details.

improve windows explorer

How To Add Columns to Windows Explorer Details View

In Details view you will see different columns, depending on the type of folder you are in. The screenshot below shows examples from Windows 7 libraries and a regular folder at the bottom.

windows explorer columns

As you see, there are various columns options. You can customize the Details view by adding and removing columns, changing their default size, and moving them around.

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Add/Remove Columns:

  • In the toolbar click View.
  • Select Choose details… from the menu.

windows explorer columns

  • In the Choose Details window check and un-check details, depending on what you would like to see.

windows explorer columns

Change Default Column Size:

  • In the Choose Details window, change Width of selected column (in pixels) in the bottom right.

Move Columns:

  • In the Choose Details window, move selected details up and down into the preferred order, using the Move Up / Move Down buttons in the top right.
  • Alternatively, you can go directly to the respective folder and drag&drop columns into position.

How To Add Last Access Time Stamp Column

The Last Access Time Stamp detail was deactivated in Windows Vista to save system resources and remains disabled in Windows 7. If your system isn’t short on resources and if you want to keep an overview of when your files have last been edited, you should reactivate this column and add it to your Details view.

  • Open the Start menu and type cmd in the search field.
  • Right click on the Programs result cmd.exe and select Run as administrator.
  • When asked whether you want to allow the program to make changes to your computer, select Yes.

windows explorer column view

  • Type fsutil behavior set disablelastaccess 0 into the command prompt and click Enter.
  • If you ever want to reverse this change, type fsutil behavior set disablelastaccess 1 instead.

windows explorer column view

In the Choose Details window, this option is listed as Date accessed.

windows explorer column view

You will also see it in file properties.

improve windows explorer

If this article made you curious how else you can customize and improve Windows Explorer, also have a look at these articles:

How have you optimized Windows Explorer to better serve your needs? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments!

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Comments (10)
  • Tony

    I totally agree with you Kurt, I hope Microsoft do something about it.

  • Kurt

    This means nothing if you cannot use the column you added such a “comments”. In XP you could simply add a description to comments column for any file. In Win 7 not so anymore. Say you have many pdf files in a folder and want add the comments column to the folder page. The right click properties no longer has the “summary” tab and now has a “detail” tab that only .doc files allows one to enter comment information making the comment column useless. I have used the comments column for years and the comments did transfer over from XP to Win7 files but that is where it all stops. What good is allowing custom columns to be inserted if they are of no use? Where is Microsoft on this situation? Are they hiding as usual? They all but ruined Office with the “ribbons for dummies” totally making power users useless with adding three clicks to what was one click. Now windows is crippled with all sorts of DOA functions. I miss XP as it actually worked and was very productive.

  • Kurt

    This means nothing if you cannot use the column you added such a “comments”. In XP you could simply add a description to comments column for any file. In Win 7 not so anymore. Say you have many pdf files in a folder and want add the comments column to the folder page. The right click properties no longer has the “summary” tab and now has a “detail” tab that only .doc files allows one to enter comment information making the comment column useless. I have used the comments column for years and the comments did transfer over from XP to Win7 files but that is where it all stops. What good is allowing custom columns to be inserted if they are of no use? Where is Microsoft on this situation? Are they hiding as usual? They all but ruined Office with the “ribbons for dummies” totally making power users useless with adding three clicks to what was one click. Now windows is crippled with all sorts of DOA functions. I miss XP as it actually worked and was very productive.

  • Christian

    Is there anyone, who can unravel why the property-columns availlable in Windows Explorer do only partially match those properties, defined in the propertysets of MS-Office files (the good old compound-file ones, not the new fashioned xml-crap), i.e. 05SummaryInformation and 05DocumentSummaryInformation?

    • Tina

      Wow, that’s quite an advanced question, Christian.

      Unfortunately, I have no idea. However, you might run into someone who can solve this question for you if you ask it on MakeUseOf Answers.

      Of course anyone is welcome to answer it here, too! It’s just less likely that anyone will see your question here.

  • Gian Singh

    I wish it would show the size of a folder in detail view

    • tarzan2001

      I agree. This would be a very helpful feature. I tried searching for a solution because I vaguely recall a registry hack that worked with Windows XP, but I couldn’t find anything similar. There are lots of programs for viewing folder sizes in various bar graphs, but they are usually a bit slow and you have to run the programs manually–they aren’t integrated into Windows Explorer. Let’s home MS wakes up and integrates this feature in the near future.

    • binaryman

      The registry hack doesn’t work with Windows 7
      You should try Directory Report
      http://www.file-utilities.com
      It is faster than most folder size programs

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.