The 7 Best Windows File Explorer Replacements
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The best way to describe Windows File Explorer is “functional.” Sure, it’s got a few little settings you can tweak, and there are several tricks Windows 10 Has a Secret UWP Version of File Explorer Windows 10 Has a Secret UWP Version of File Explorer Did you know that Microsoft hid a Universal Windows Platform version of the File Explorer in Windows 10? It's not complete yet, but you can still check it out to see what's coming. Read More that’ll make it work more efficiently, but it’s still decidedly more “Volvo” than “Mercedes.”

If you spend a lot of time in the app, it’s easy to become weary of its idiosyncrasies. Why can’t you integrate non-Microsoft cloud storage providers? Why can’t you reorder the main shortcuts in the left-hand panel? And why hasn’t Microsoft introduced tabbed browsing?

Perhaps it’s time to dump File Explorer and use a third-party alternative? If you’ve never looked into what’s available, you might be surprised. Here are the seven best Windows File Explorer replacements.

1. XYplorer

To be honest, if you’re looking for an alternative, you could stop searching right now. XYplorer is possibly the best replacement for Windows File Explorer.


But what makes it so good?

First, it’s portable. That means you don’t need to worry about it not being available on other computers you have to use during the day. Just keep it loaded on your USB stick along with all your other useful portable apps 100 Portable Apps for Your USB Stick for Windows and macOS 100 Portable Apps for Your USB Stick for Windows and macOS Portable apps let you take your favorite software anywhere via a flash drive or cloud storage. Here are 100 of them to cover your every need, from games to image editors. Read More .

Second, it’s got a hugely impressive feature set that will appeal to both casual users and hardcore geeks.

For example, the explorer has tabbed browsing. The tabs function like a web browser’s tabs: you can reorder them, drag files between them, and even pre-configure them. The app also boasts support for custom scripts 7 Simple Windows Scripts to Save You Time and Effort 7 Simple Windows Scripts to Save You Time and Effort Want to take shortcuts in Windows? Or curious about taking your first steps into scripting? Here are seven Windows scripts to get started with. Read More , customizable fonts and colors, and secondary sorting.

XYplorer has both a free and paid version. The paid costs $39.95 for a lifetime license.

Download: XYplorer

2. Directory Opus

If XYplorer doesn’t meet your requirements, check out Directory Opus instead.

It arguably has a steeper learning curve than XYplorer. While the previous app takes many of its design queues from Windows File Explorer, Directory Opus introduces more of its own style decisions.

directory opus

If you’re prepared to spend the time learning where to find everything, you will be handsomely rewarded. Features include support for synchronizing files and finding duplicates, scripting capabilities, graphics that allow you to flag and check mark files, and a customizable status bar.

Just watch out for the beefy file size. XYplorer is 7 MB, whereas the Directory Opus installer clocks in at 50 MB. The final app directory is almost 100 MB.

The lite version costs about $40 while the full version is $70. A 60-day free trial is available.

Download: Directory Opus

3. fman

fman is the least Windows-like app on the list so far. It’s self-described as “GoTo on steroids.”

Perhaps the best thing about fman is its cross-platform support; it works on Mac and Linux as well as Windows. If you spend a lot of time jumping between the three operating systems, it’ll provide a sense of continuity in your work.

Nonetheless, if you’re a beginner, this probably isn’t the app for you. fman is mainly aimed at software developers and other tech-savvy pros.


Feature-wise, it always displays the contents of two directories to make moving and copying files a breeze. It also has an extensive list of plugins for additional functionality and it has full keyboard shortcut support.

It’s free to download and use, but an update license costs $12.

Download: fman

4. Free Commander

Free Commander is the first entirely-free software on this list. If you’re not a power user and you don’t want to pay for a Windows File Explorer replacement, this is probably the app for you.

The app doesn’t try to confuse users with lots of features most people will probably never use. Rather, it aims to offer an alternative solution that remedies some of the glaring omissions within the native Windows app.

free commander

So, if you’re a first-time user, what can you expect?

Free Commander offers a tabbed interface, dual panels for easy drag-and-drop, built-in support for archive handling How to Extract Files From ZIP, RAR, 7z and Other Common Archives How to Extract Files From ZIP, RAR, 7z and Other Common Archives Were you ever faced with a .rar file and wondered how to open it? Fortunately, managing ZIP files and other compressed archives is simple with the right tools. Here is what you need to know. Read More (ZIP files), folder synchronization, definable shortcuts, and even a DOS command line.

Download: Free Commander

5. Explorer++

The second entirely-free app on the list, Explorer++ makes the cut because it’s open source. That means the community can keep working on it for as long as they wish — there’s no danger you’ll be tied to an unsupported app at some point in the future.

explorer plus plus

Interestingly, it’s also one of the most basic apps on the list. It looks the most similar to Windows File Explorer and offers the fewest enhancements.

Despite that, the enhancements will lift most users to a new level of productivity. You will enjoy tabbed browsing, the ability to merge and split files, and a display window for file previews.

Download: Explorer++

6. Altap Salamander

Most of the apps I have shown you so far have focused on one computer. Altap Salamander is the first Windows File Explorer replacement that makes a big push to offer extensive networking tools Networking 101: Ethernet, LANs, and How They Work Networking 101: Ethernet, LANs, and How They Work Even for modern users, the language surrounding home networking can be a little confusing. What's a LAN? Why do I need an Ethernet cable? Isn't it all the same? Read More .

Network protocols such as FTP, FTPS, SCP, and SFTP are all supported. It makes transferring files over the internet exceptionally straightforward.

altap salamander

The app also offers support for more archive file types than its rivals. It can work with ZIP, RAR, 7-Zip, ISO images, and UDF images.

Altap Salamander offers one other unique tool: a built-in password manager How to Migrate From LastPass to an Alternative Password Manager How to Migrate From LastPass to an Alternative Password Manager LastPass is a popular password manager, but if you've decided to move to another solution, you'll need to export your data. Here's how to export your data into 1Password, Dashlane, or KeePass. Read More . It means you can protect any sensitive or personal files using secure encryption techniques, thus stopping them from falling into the wrong hands.

Costing around $27 (depending on the current euro exchange rate), it’s also one of the most reasonably-priced paid apps.

Download: Altap Salamander

7. TagSpaces

I will leave you with something entirely different. Have you heard of TagSpaces? If not, it’s worth a look.

TagSpaces is an open source file organizer. It’s seemingly targeted at light users and people who want to keep everything organized on their machine without using a full-featured file manager.


It works by adding user-defined tags to all your files. For example, you could tag things as “Photos,” “Recipes,” “College,” and so on. You can color-coordinate your tags, then organize them thematically into groups for easy recall.

Best of all, because it works on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android, you can stay coordinated regardless of which device you’re working on. The app even boasts Chromecast support.

Download: TagSpaces

Which File Manager Replacement Do You Use?

In this piece, I’ve introduced you to seven different file managers. Each of them will appeal to a different type of user.

People looking for a small amount of added functionality should consider Explorer++ or Free Commander. If you’re a power user, check out XYplorer or Directory Opus. Developers need fman, networkers need Altap Salamander, and if you want something completely different, download TagSpaces.

Which Windows File Explorer replacements do you use? What makes them so unique? Why should they be on this list? Let us know your thoughts, opinions, and feedback in the comments below. And remember to share the article on social media to see what your followers think.

Image Credit: OBprod/Shutterstock

Explore more about: File Explorer, Windows Explorer.

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  1. Ken Rundqvist
    August 8, 2018 at 7:20 am

    I use TotalCommander, (it's written in Delphi language!)

  2. vijer
    August 7, 2018 at 5:16 am

    XYplorer is pretty nice, the UI is easier to navigate, but they don't have full dark mode and they can't display PDFs using modern PDF viewers because they don't recognize 64bit previewers (really, in 2018?!).

    Directory Opus does everything I want, and is pretty fast. The only complaint is with the UI, There are so many options and they put the least used up front, things like tab groups are hidden in the menu tree and I use tab groups all day long. Still the best choice though. A lot to learn to use Directory Opus fully.

  3. D
    June 28, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    Do any of these browsers enable file name sorting by a user-defined part of the file name?

    • John
      September 25, 2018 at 6:25 am

      XYplorer does. Ask in the user forum.

  4. Gideon Ravid
    June 24, 2018 at 6:01 am

    Total Commander 8.52 by Christian Ghistler

  5. Gil
    May 9, 2018 at 4:19 am

    Xplorer2 lite and there’s a paid version
    Dual panes is a plus

  6. Mike De Petris
    May 6, 2018 at 9:34 am

    No TotalCommander? I need to cancel my makeuseof subscription.

  7. Rikard
    May 6, 2018 at 5:58 am

    I prefer Total Commander

    April 4, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    Most of them would be free, isn't it? Free word comes with hectic errors to solve, no customer support and much more, I learned this the hard way. Now I am using GS Richcopy 360, industry level software. Pretty much reliable and all in one package. Dont hesitate to spend some bucks on such software. Good luck!

  9. sohier
    February 21, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    If you need adds to survive, you need to switch to a pratictal bussiness model.
    Blocking user with add blocker only schrink your audiance, and in the long term reducing your income.

    And for me I rather prefer to not see some content rather than being polute with adds.

    • Alex Ashton
      September 30, 2018 at 3:45 pm

      I use an ad blocker, I receive the begging message to white-list, I ignore it, and . . . multiple pages of ads in the right-hand column!

      What you are asking for is permission to use intrusive, pop-up, pop-under, auto-play with sound set on "11," and other annoying CRAP. I don't mind unintrusive, static ads alongside the content, which get displayed despite my ad blocker. But I agree with the poster that I'd rather give up makeuseof entirely than browse through the typical ad blitz.

  10. Jessie
    February 1, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    Q-Dir. Extensive customizations and you can run the whole thing from the keyboard without touching the mouse - A huge time saver.

    • Brilliant
      August 5, 2018 at 8:27 pm

      Amen! Not surprise it's not on the list.

    • vijer
      August 7, 2018 at 5:24 am

      Looks terrible to me.

  11. Septian
    January 31, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    I prefer CloverBrowser

  12. Erich
    January 31, 2018 at 7:54 am

    You didn't mention Q-Dir. It's free, portable, regularly updated. After having tried some of the above, I still prefer Q-Dir. Take a look!

  13. jackgfdreacher
    January 15, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    use robocopy

  14. Sharat
    January 8, 2018 at 3:18 am

    I have been using free commander for more than 7 years. Had tried couple of them earlier... but this was good for me.

  15. Klaas Vaak
    January 3, 2018 at 5:16 am

    The free edition of XYExplorer has been discontinued as of 10 January 2017 !!!!

    • BounceBoy
      January 15, 2018 at 4:54 pm

      XYplorer is the best file manager out there. You really expect to get the best for free? Okay, "The best things in life are free", but they weren't singing about software I'm afraid.

  16. Klaas Vaak
    January 3, 2018 at 5:12 am

    Explorer++ is a good basic replacement but on Win 8.1/64-bit it crashes, esp. when you right-click on an entry. I have adjusted the properties to Win 8 compatible and to run as an administrator, and at 1st that seemed to work, it is slowly going back to crashing regularly. The app is no longer supported.

  17. Jim Turner
    December 21, 2017 at 3:15 am

    I have been using PowerDesk from Avanquest for years upon years. I loved it.. that is until they started renting the program. You could not buy it outright. For later versions they hit you up for a yearly rental fee. So I quit them at that point. BUT, now I'm building a new system and need my old powerdesk. Old License Key will not work on the rebuid. Seems that key was already used once in the past. What a shame, I own the product and can't put it on my new machine.

  18. Baretto James
    December 12, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Most of them would be free, isn't it? Free word comes with hectic errors to solve, no customer support and much more, I learned this the hard way. Now I am using GS Richcopy 360, industry level software. Pretty much reliable and all in one package. Dont hesitate to spend some bucks on such software. Good luck!

    December 3, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Alternative File Managers I've gone back to using WinFile for making copying files between volumes, user's full profile for full backups,etc. as Explorer isn't too useful for an administrator. Yes, WinFile. As kludgy as it is, it doesn't puke during a file copy where Explorer will say "Can't copy file, invalid file name or file path too long". WinFile stops and waits for user input, then continues it's Merry way. MUCH better than explorer for large file copies that go awry somewhere in the midst of the copy. so.... What other decent file managers are out there that are actually worth using? I could care less about looking at JPEGs or BMPs, just something that offers a more robust GUI-based file management tool that works as reliable and as fast as WinFile w/o the Explorer headaches. I have a Vista laptop (yes, I admitted that out loud) that has dual-boot to SuSE. (Once I can figure out how to get the 1505n card to work under SuSE, I'll be using this OS much more. Until then....). Given the Vista installation, alternative file managers are a must as explorer hangs and file copying procedures take far too long with the Explorer interface. Heck, just copying 3MB of files from a USB dongle took over 4 min's on Vista! No joke! I thought something was wrong with the USB key...popped it into an XP box and the file copy procedure was darn near instantaenous using Explorer to copy the data.

  20. Bill de Haan
    October 20, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    On my primary machine, I use Total Commander. I've been using it for 20+ years now, since the days when it was called Windows Commander. Dual panes, multiple tags, and an entire ecosystem of plugins. As a basic, dual pane file manager, it works out of the box, and supports tree views, UNCs, image thumbnails, compressed files, and numerous other features. If you start including plugins, you can burn CDs, compare directories, do backups, syncronize directories, and much more.

    For secondary machines, the freeware workalike Double Commander is very similar to Total Commander, and can use many but not all of the plugins. Being freeware, it can be installed on every machine you want without licencing issues.

    Both can be configured to be used as portable applications.

    Total Commander:
    Double Commander:

  21. Joel
    October 17, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    I use One Commander (v2) for the dual-pane and shortcut customization.

  22. Happy
    September 20, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Not really a file manager per se, but I used Clover 3 on Windows. It makes Windows Explorer / File Explorer tabbed and adds some nice features, without being bloated.

    • Bigster
      November 12, 2017 at 8:50 pm

      I also use Clover 3 and like it very much. However, lately it has crashed a lot plus automatically opens a frozen icon of Windows explorer.

    • Guntur
      November 20, 2017 at 6:49 pm

      Thanks, I am happy now. :)

      Seems Clover 3 is the best version of windows explorer alternative, at least for me. Good looking too.

  23. Wayne Pirtle
    August 25, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    I use multi-commander which is free and comes in both an installable version and a portable version. It is specifically for windows but it has a lot of features and is easy to use. I believe that it exceeds most of the file managers mentioned in the article with the exception of fman which has the advantage of running across three operating systems but has a steep learning curve due to it being totally keyboard driven.

  24. Joe Birch
    August 3, 2017 at 10:18 am

    2xExplorer. A twin pane explorer which is very small, has loads of functionality and has worked on every version of windows since Windows 95.

  25. alex
    August 2, 2017 at 7:51 pm

    free commander simply the best.... and I tried them all one by one

  26. roirraWedorehT
    August 1, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    I've been using Directory Opus for over 25 years. There's just nothing like it. I've tried the others on this list, I always go back to DOpus.

    • MMcKaibab
      November 26, 2017 at 11:11 pm

      Yes, but since version 10 Directory Opus has gotten ridiculously and unnsupportably expensive. I don't remember when I first started using it, but then and up until the upgrade to v 9 it was pretty reasonable. But then they jacked up their upgrade, yes upgrade, price to $70! For a basic utility this is massively out of line so I've stuck with v. 9 for a long time. Now I'm looking for an upgrade and it definitely won't be DOpus.

      • roirraWedorehT
        November 29, 2017 at 7:11 pm

        While I agree it's relatively expensive, it's totally worth it to me. They don't have frivolous yearly major updates (Directory Opus 2018!), they have regular meaningful updates with very detailed changelogs, and there's always the $49 "Light" Directory Opus. I feel they earn the money I use for major upgrades every average three or so years.

        But I understand it's not worth it to everyone.

  27. Jay
    July 31, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    IMHO, Multi Commander, is one of the best orthodox (dual pane) file manager (hints: Norton Commander lover). Lots of customization and still actively developed. Another one is oMega Commander, which has MS office ribbon style, which make it looks quite modern.

  28. Matt
    July 31, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    Total Commander (before Windows Commander and the DOS original before) - nothing else for ages now.
    You can use it for free and if you are used to the old DOS file managers it's a no brainer, especially if you are the keyboard using kind of guy.
    I recommend buying a license even if development is slow currently - there is not much to be optimized though anyway.
    Close 2nd place is QDir

  29. WWY
    July 31, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Anyone serious about file managers has to check out xplorer2 ( It has a free version for personal use plus 2 paid versions. I have been a user of the paid version for at least 10 years. I've tried the others, free and paid, and nothing comes close. The feature set is huge and it has a very active user community with a forum. I work in software development so file managers are my life line.

    • Michael
      August 1, 2017 at 11:55 am

      I will second that

    • TheGabe
      August 2, 2017 at 11:36 am

      It seems, there are only the two paid versions left.

    • Carol Elkins
      August 2, 2017 at 11:04 pm

      Ditto. Been using xplorer2 since 2007 that I know for sure. My favorite feature is being able to display two separate folders side by side and drag and drop between them. And being able to create bookmarks to often-used directories so that I don't have to navigate to them. There are far more sophisticated features, but these are the two that make me glad I purchased a lifetime license.

  30. Nobruca
    July 31, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    I've been using the free version of xplorer² for years now and it's my default file manager. Q-Dir is also a very interesting option: you can have up to 4 different file locations opened at the same time, it's highly customizable, portable and completely free.

  31. Eric
    July 31, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    I use Total Commander. It has pretty much everything I need(tabs, plugins, etc...) and has a paid version and free version. Free is nag screen but nothing horrible.

    • Mike Bee
      August 8, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      Second that. I've used TC for more than 18 years and rely on its speed, flexibility, and rock solid performance. It is the one that I've seen most support persons use, as it has the complete feature set and reliability you need.

  32. Jon
    July 31, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    My problem is that all these are cluttered, confusingly organized, and overloaded with features without taking into consideration what features are more important to put before the user, and which ought to be hid. And they are all ugly. I'm still looking for/waiting for something that is like the Mac's Finder--seriously, nothing with a column view? And attractive iconography? and a simple interface that works?

    • Andre
      October 30, 2017 at 12:45 pm

      One Commander is like that. Lacks folder size and the interface is not so clean as could be.

  33. steve
    July 31, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    I've used FreeCommander for many years and I find it meets my needs totally - so much so that although it is free I took on the paid 'supporters' solution.