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I like the folder-tree behavior of Windows XP, that is, clicking on any folder on the left pane will automatically expand the folder-tree. Unfortunately this is not how Explorer works in Windows 7.

Does anyone know how I can get Windows 7’s Explorer to behave like the one in XP?

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migrated from Jul 12 '11 at 2:51

This question came from our site for system and network administrators.

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You could try another file manager, but it is unlikely you can get rid of 'Windows Explorer' - it is rather integral to Windows.

To get that specific behaviour, under the 'Tools' menu, click 'Folder Options', and check 'Automatically Expand to Current Folder'; Click OK and restart Windows Explorer.

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This can also be done like this: right-click the left pane, and select "Show all folders" and "Expand to Current Folder". – KCotreau Jul 12 '11 at 2:58
@KCotreau: nice trick; it only seems to work though when you click above the first or below the last entry in explorer (to avoid opening the context menu for any particular folder). – Jonas Heidelberg Sep 6 '11 at 8:38

I've learned to use the Explorer more efficiently. Here is what you need to make liberal use: the following features.

  • Favorites
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Libraries
  • Saved Searches


This is probably the biggest feature that people never use. Basically for any given folder that you know you will use more than once, you should save a shortcut to the folder here. And the shortcuts can be used like real folders. Rather than having two Explorer windows, dragging and dropping, you can just drag and drop to the shortcut in Favorites.

Also handy is that you can save searches here. For example, I have a shortcut that shows all files I've downloaded today. Or all registry files I have saved.


In Explorer's addressbox, there are arrows. You can click them to get a list of relevant folders at that level. So for example, clicking the very right hand arrow will show all folders that are at the same level as your current folder. It also shows the folders above you. You can either just click their names to navigate or click the arrows. You can also type names into the address bar. Explorer even has folder and file autocompletion.


Lastly, and this one is a big one. Use your Libraries. No need to navigate folders when Libraries are far more powerful. You can make generic ones, like "Documents" or (What I prefer) specific ones like "Time Tracker Project" and "Code Project Samples."

Having a default folder means you don't even have to open the Library. Just drag a file over. Or I just Cut and right click the Library and select paste.

Saved Searches

Take a look at the Advanced Search Query page.

It gets way more complex than that. This is the MSDN page for Windows Search Syntax.

But I suggest you just stick to the first page.

In case you haven't noticed, Saved Searches are essentially virtual folders. They will hold whatever you want.

And if you use Outlook, you can save searches of your emails here!

This is what I use for my unified Inbox for Outlook. It is a glorified Explorer Saved Search Folder. But never the less, I can save that, and still save each one of my Inboxes to my Email Library. It does Conversation view also (Group by Conversation ID then sort by Date Received(DESC)).

I also save searches for network folders. For example. Instead of scrolling through folders of my media server trying to figure out what I want to watch, I just click on my saved search shortcut and it shows all videos I own in one continuous list. If your media server is running Vista or above, your computer actually runs the queries against the host server's index. It's pretty darn fast.

Those are just some tips that I've picked up from using the OS everyday.

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I like Q-Dir, it has 4 file panes (dir) by default but can be configured for 1 Dir if you like, it does the auto expansion like XP.

You will need to configure it using 1 dir, then set: Extras > Tree View > One for All, to make it work like XP with the left pane showing everything and opening the files inside the selected directory on the right.

Yes they destroyed explorer in Windows 7.

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Explorer++ will give you an enhanced tabbed interface similar to Explorer in XP.


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Thank you paradroid, but I found Explorer++ cannot refresh contents automatically... That is, if I created a new text file, I need to refresh MANUALLY to see the new file. – yuandongchen Jul 13 '11 at 7:36
+1 for an open source solution. Unfortunately, however, it doesn't even look like XP's Windows Explorer. – Withheld Jun 25 '13 at 19:54

Another way to work around the issue is to:

  1. Open Windows Explorer
  2. Click the Oragnize button
  3. Select Folder and Search Options ⇨ General ⇨ Navigation Panel
  4. Check the boxes
  5. Select View and Search
  6. Make any changes that you want there

When you open Windows Explorer, you do have to drill down on the left side of the folder each time, but once you’ve opened it and drilled down, it does work like in XP.

I agree the Microsoft makes stupid changes that don’t work well for people who are serious with their computers, as opposed to playing games and just checking e-mail. Unfortunately it appears that they never ask real users about the changes.

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The straight forward answer is that you cannot. You may however like to try xplorer 2 lite edition which is free:

Alernatively the following article produced by How To Geek explains some of the tips & tricks to make the most out of Windows 7 explorer and ease the pain.

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Maybe the best replacement for explorer is Directory Opus . Very stable program, a lot of useful things.

Lets say you need to create 3 folders. Click create folder button and type the names of folders comma separating them and boom you have three folders created at once :)

There is free and payed edition. Payed edition is free for 60 days!

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Simple use , it has all the functionality WindowsXP filemanager had, but also allows you to get everything you want

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Please read How do I recommend software for some tips as to how you should go about recommending software. At the very least you should provide more than just a link, for example some additional information about the software itself, for example how it can be used to solve the problem in the question. – DavidPostill May 24 '15 at 22:20

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