The 7 Best Windows File Explorer Alternatives and Replacements

Dan Price Updated 30-11-2019

Windows File Explorer isn’t the best for moving files around. There are many better free file manager alternatives for Windows out there.


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

This is a screen capture of the Windows File Explorer alternative xyplorer main screen

XYplorer is one of the best Windows Explorer alternatives. But what makes it so good?

Firstly, 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 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 .

Secondly, it’s got an 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 pre-configure them. The app also boasts support for custom scripts, 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.

This is a screen capture of the Windows File Explorer alternative directory opus's main screen

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.

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


Download: Directory Opus

3. fman

This is a screen capture of the Windows File Explorer alternative, fman app's, home screen

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

This is a screen capture of the Windows File Explorer alternative free commander main app screen

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.

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 (ZIP files), folder synchronization, definable shortcuts, and even a DOS command line.

Download: Free Commander

5. Explorer++

This is a screen capture of the Windows File Explorer alternative explorer++ main screen

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.

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

This is a screen capture of the Windows File Explorer alternative altap file explorer

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.

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

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. 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

This is a screen capture of the Windows File Explorer alternative tagspaces file explorer app screen

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

The Best Windows 10 File Explorer and Manager

Each app 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. You can also go with Windows apps that automatically organize your files for you.

If you’d prefer to stick with Windows Explorer, you can get more features with these Windows File Explorer extensions for file management. You might also want to learn about a few ways to fix Windows File Explorer search and quick tips to share files in Windows Explorer.

And if you’re interested in other great tools, take a look at this list of the best Microsoft Store apps for Windows 10 The Best Microsoft Store Apps for Windows 10 Microsoft Store apps for Windows 10 have come a long way. Here's our selection of the best Windows 10 apps, both free and paid. Read More .

Related topics: File Explorer, Windows Apps, Windows Explorer.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Rob
    June 16, 2020 at 10:00 pm

    'Design queues' ?? Come on, pal, if you are going to be a writer, learn English.

  2. Sanjay
    May 30, 2020 at 4:22 am

    The new "File Tree" App on Microsoft Store works well with Windows File Explorer and lets you print and see Tree Lists of Folders and Files along with sizes of folders and files.

  3. David
    April 22, 2020 at 7:26 am

    No one going to mention the fact that every single windows file explorer looks like 💩 (including all the ones mentioned in the comments). Sure they have some useful additional functionality from the default explorer but why on earth would you want your OS UI to look like a 10 year old designed it with crayons?

  4. MemphiS
    February 12, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    You forgot MultiCommander as a free alternative.
    Very nice explorer. Not to far away from freeCommander

  5. Anablakp
    December 8, 2019 at 4:02 pm

    I use Clover, it has multi-tabs and more!

  6. Pico
    December 2, 2019 at 10:56 am

    This article is pourly written. Total commader (paid) and duoble commander (free).

  7. Herman
    September 27, 2019 at 1:39 am

    Starting Salamander 4.0 it's freeware

  8. Denis Gauthier
    August 13, 2019 at 5:51 am

    Altap Salamander is freeware.

  9. Phil Hart
    April 18, 2019 at 11:40 am

    Explorer++ fell apart completely when I asked it to look at one of my folders. Admittedly said folder is a trifle unusual (2,543,269 png files occupying 88.4GB of disk) but on a 64-bit machine with 32GB of RAM I would not have expected this to be an issue.

  10. dourily
    April 15, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    Does anyone know of any that support a favorites folder (not "quick access") to quickly link to most often used locations AND name them with meaningful names? I must now use windows 10 and explorer has been seriously downgraded. I have about 15 mapped drives and have about 20 favorite locations where I work regularly. Since there is no favorites and "quick access" is useless I am looking for an alternate program...

    • Nemo
      June 19, 2019 at 6:57 am

      Total Commander.

  11. Schvenn
    March 20, 2019 at 12:42 am

    I think the fact that nearly a dozen people mentioned Total Commander indicates how important this tool is and that it should have at least been mentioned on the list, if not topping it.

  12. ZoNi
    February 4, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    Where are zabkat xplorer2 and Total Commander?

  13. Nicholas
    February 3, 2019 at 2:22 am

    This article is seriously misleading as it actually lists the 7 runners up to the best Windows Explorer replacement. The winner is without doubt Q-Dir ( A single tree pane and four folder panes, each capable of multiple tabs for different folders. Or you can set it up with fewer folder panes if you prefer. Or more tree panes. And you can save multiple favorite configurations. Oh yes, it can be installed or portable .

  14. Croq
    February 1, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    XYPlorer is great! I got a license to it nearly 6 years ago, and use it daily instead of the built in file explorer. Really useful features built-in and the multi-tab/multi-window aspect makes it easy to move/copy stuff around.

  15. Bill de Haan
    January 31, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    Still no Total Commander?

    I've been using Total Commander (TC) since it was Windows Commander, about 20 years ago. I've played with XYExplorer, Explorer++, and FreeCommander, but I always keep coming back to TC because of the plugins, speed, and ease of use.

    If you're averse to paying for a file manager (TC is about $40), there's the freeware workalike Double Commander, available on SourceForge for Windows, MacOS, FreeBSD, and Linux.

    I think Directory Opus may be more powerful, but the learning curve is pretty off putting, and I have yet to find anything I could not do in TC or Double Commander.

    • Schvenn
      March 20, 2019 at 12:40 am

      Agreed! I've been using TC for about as long and it's one of the only pieces of Shareware (if anyone even remembers what that is) I've ever paid for. The pay once, upgrade and use for a lifetime is well worth the value. I have it customized out the ying yang and it's the first thing I install on every computer, along with IrfanView.

  16. Fred Biles
    January 31, 2019 at 5:44 pm

    I like SpeedCommander Pro. It's another one that isn't free, but I've tried many of the ones mentioned here and have always come back to that one.

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

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

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

    Total Commander 8.52 by Christian Ghistler

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

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

    • Nobruca
      February 2, 2019 at 3:02 pm

      xplorer² lite is awesome. It's been one of my must-install apps for years now.

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

    No TotalCommander? I need to cancel my makeuseof subscription.

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

    I prefer Total Commander

  24. AMANDA
    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!

  25. 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.

    • Mike Torrance
      January 8, 2019 at 1:02 am

      What language is this in?

  26. 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.

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

    I prefer CloverBrowser

  28. 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!

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

    use robocopy

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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!

    • James Blond
      February 3, 2019 at 10:32 am

      Nice copy and paste SHIL!!!

    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.

  36. 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:

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

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

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

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

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

    • alex
      January 31, 2019 at 10:29 am

      Definitely right. There is no comparison ... I am addicted and do not replace any pale substitute.

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.