3 Advanced Tips & Tricks For Using Windows Explorer

Tina Sieber 08-02-2012

tips for windows explorerWindows Explorer is the default Windows file manager. Last week I introduced you to 3 easy ways to improve Windows 7 Explorer 3 Easy Ways to Improve the Windows 7 Explorer Windows Explorer is the file manager application that handles the Windows desktop and taskbar and lets you access your files. Without its nice graphical interface, controlling your computer would be a lot more complicated. It's... Read More by tweaking features and using it to its full potential. In this article, I will show you a small hack and share some tips to get the most out of Windows Explorer.


Change Default Folder (Option 1)

In Windows 7, the default location when opening Windows Explorer is the Libraries folder. Here is a simple trick to set a custom location:

  1. Right-click on your desktop and select > New > Shortcut.
  2. Under Type the location of the item enter: explorer.exe /root,path
  3. Then click Next, enter a name for your shortcut, and click Finish.

tips for windows explorer

Note that you need to give the full path to the desired folder. If you wish to point to Computer, paste the following location: explorer.exe /root,::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}

Once you have a working shortcut, you can pin it to your taskbar, move it to the QuickLaunch bar or use it from your desktop.

Change Default Folder (Option 2)

To simply change the default Windows Explorer startup folder anywhere, do this:

  1. Right-click a folder or the Windows Explorer icon in the taskbar to bring up the jump-list.
  2. In the jump-list, right-click on Windows Explorer and select Properties.
  3. In the Shortcut tab change the Target to the desired location, as per the list below.

windows explorer tips

Alternatively, you can also change the properties of any other shortcut you are using to open Windows Explorer.

Potential locations:

  • Documents folder: %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /n,::{450D8FBA-AD25-11D0-98A8-0800361B1103}
  • Computer: %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /E,::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}
  • Recycle Bin: %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /E,::{645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E}
  • Default (Libraries): %windir%\explorer.exe

For information on how to find out the GUID (Globally Unique Identifiers) for your desired location, check out the following article on How-To Geek: Enable the Secret “How-To Geek” Mode in Windows 7


Navigate Windows Explorer With Keyboard Shortcuts

Nothing is more easy and geeky than nifty little keyboard shortcuts. Here are some relevant key combinations to navigate through the Windows Explorer folder structure:

  • [Windows] + [E] = launch Windows Explorer
  • [ALT] + [RIGHT] = go forward
  • [ALT] + [LEFT] = go back
  • [ENTER] = open selected folder
  • [ALT] + [UP] = move to parent directory
  • [ALT] + [TAB] or [F6] = move between focus areas
  • [ALT] + [D] = focus on address bar and select current path
  • [F4] = open address bar drop-down menu
  • [F3] = focus on search bar and drop down search filter options
  • [ALT] + [P] = open preview pane
  • [ALT] + [ENTER] = view properties of selected file
  • [F2] = change file name of selected file
  • [F10] = jump to file menu
  • [F11] = switch to full screen mode and back
  • [CTRL] + mousewheel = change icon size (works almost everywhere, useful in browser)

Gently Terminate & Restart Windows Explorer

When an application hangs and won’t let you close it, or when Windows Explorer crashes, or to see the effects of editing a current user registry entry, what do you typically do? You either log off and back in or you reboot? However, closing and restarting Windows Explorer has the same effect and is much faster.

Here is a safe way to terminate and then restart Windows Explorer in Windows Vista and Windows 7:

  1. Go to Start.
  2. Click [CTRL] + [SHIFT] while you right-click an empty space of the Start menu.
  3. Select Exit Explorer from the menu that appears.

windows explorer tips


This procedure will gently terminate Windows Explorer, meaning all your folders will close, your desktop will be empty, and the taskbar will be gone. Your system, however, is still running.

To bring Windows Explorer back, do the following:

  1. Use the keyboard combination [CTRL] + [SHIFT] + [ESC] to launch the Task Manager.
  2. Go to > File > New Task (Run…)
  3. Type explorer.exe in the Create New Task text field and click OK.

tips for windows explorer

Et voilà, Windows Explorer is back and fresh as rebooted.


Do you know of any other tips and tricks everyone should know about? Please share with us in the comments!

Related topics: Windows 7, Windows Explorer.

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  1. John Sullivan
    November 12, 2018 at 12:39 am

    Another way to reset Windows Explorer in Windows 10 - Ctrl+Shift+Esc, go to the details tab. Find and end all explorer.exe tasks. From the Task Manager window select File>Run new task and type in explorer.exe (select Admin privileges if you can use them) and select OK.

  2. Edgar
    December 8, 2017 at 8:52 am

    Great tips!
    Especially I like those shortcuts for the explorer. Very helpful!

    • Tina Sieber
      December 8, 2017 at 5:13 pm

      Thank you for the feedback, Edgar.

  3. Suman Acharya
    July 30, 2012 at 2:39 am

    one day accidently exited explorer.exe from taskbar and couldnot get it back...rebooted the system!!!
    now learned -!! thank you.

  4. sriramv24
    July 25, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Very useful! Thanks...

  5. Bravo
    February 9, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Great tips, now, how in the world do you make windows 7 to remember to open or continue to save to the last folder you saved to? I can't find a solution to this problem 
    anywhere and it's driving me crazy. Any suggestions?

    Thanks in advanced!

    • Tina
      February 9, 2012 at 7:42 pm


      I didn't come across this and a quick search didn't yield a result. As a workaround, you could try this app: FileBox eXtender. Or ask a question on MakeUseOf Answers to get a real solution, if there is any.

      • Bravo
        February 9, 2012 at 8:00 pm

        Thanks for the suggestion, I came across this app as a solution when Googling this problem before, I just didn't want to install anything on my computer if there was a way that windows could do natively. But, I guess I have no choice but to use this app until I can find a better solution. Thanks again!

        • Tina
          February 9, 2012 at 10:22 pm

          Most welcome!

  6. Chris Hoffman
    February 9, 2012 at 3:14 am

    Wow, I never knew there was an "Exit Explorer" option. I've always just killed it from the Task Manager.

    For the record, I don't think you need GUIDs for the shortcut, unless you're using a special location.

    I use "%windir%explorer.exe C:UsersChrisLinksDownloads.lnk" to have Explorer always open to my Downloads folder from the taskbar. No fancy GUIDs needed.

    • Tina
      February 9, 2012 at 8:20 am

      Ah, good to know. Thanks for sharing, Chris!

    • Christian Tian
      February 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm

      The same to u. 'Exit explorer' is exactly a deep hide option.
      n Alt+Right, Alt+Up is quite useful to me.