Windows has built-in key shortcuts for locking your machine (WinKey+L) and for starting Explorer (WinKey+E). I'd like to create a similar new shortcut, WinKey+X, to start one of my favourite replacements for Explorer.

I've tried the usual method, creating a shortcut and then setting the Shortcut key to WinKey+X, but it shows up as CTRL+ALT+X and doesn't work when I press the WinKey. It does work if I press CTRL+ALT+X.

How can I make the Windows key version of the shortcut work?


5 Answers 5


AutoHotKey was built for this, as well!

#x::Run explorer.exe

would run explorer on winkey (#) and x (x). It's really that simple.

  • 2
    As a keylogger, AutoHotKey is dangerous... Windows would ask to user to allow or deny some kind of app. Ok, all of shown apps here could be or are keyloggers too... But it is so easy to access key history on AutoHotKey that if I use it and have my computer unlocked, someone can see my passwords I recently used.
    – kokbira
    Feb 25, 2016 at 12:07
  • @kokbira Anything that responds to keyboard input when not focussed could be called a keylogger just as much. If you're talking about the visible key history feature, that's primarily a debugging feature that you should probably turn off if you're concerned about people viewing it--though like with many scenarios like that, if somebody has sufficient access to your machine that they can read that log, you're already in trouble.
    – Phoshi
    Feb 27, 2016 at 14:20
  • Ok, just to warn ppl that does not know that default config on that software :)
    – kokbira
    Feb 29, 2016 at 15:32
  • This AutoHotkey script is very easy to configure github.com/JuanmaMenendez/AutoHotkey-script-Open-Show-Apps and also allows minimizing, reopening, and switching between opened windows of the same app (like macOS) Apr 9, 2023 at 12:35

WinKey starts your favorite applications, folders, and Web pages instantly.

This shell extension allows you to define keyboard shortcuts with the Windows key. You can use almost any key combination and create shortcuts to system folders such as My Computer, Network Neighborhood, Dial-Up Networking, Control Panel, and Recycle Bin.

alt text

WinKey is freeware.

More on Winkey from Jeff at Coding Horror.

  • 1
    Thanks for this tip. I've installed Winkey and I like it already! However, the fact that you have to use a program to get this feature implies that it cannot be done through Windows. Does anyone know if this is the case?
    – Bish
    Feb 24, 2010 at 19:34
  • Can not be installed on Windows 10 Oct 25, 2020 at 14:26

Another good option is using this AutoHotkey script https://github.com/JuanmaMenendez/AutoHotkey-script-Open-Show-Apps which also allows minimizing, reopening, and switching between opened windows of the same app (like macOS)


For Windows 10+ solutions with extra background process, also consider Microsoft PowerToys which is slightly safer (some old AutoHotkey versions give ~8 VirusTotal warnings).

Or, especially if you use Python, there may be better than AutoHotkey solution which:
(+) faster to write, safer, more flexible, needs no extra background process
(-) lacks a marco recorder
That is adding a shortcut on taskbar and starting it with Win+1..9 default Windows hotkeys.

This can be Python macro bat launcher or similar which gives freedom in actions. And you can run shortcuts like Win+1, Win+2 in many ways, including an internal keyboard macro key, which gives extra flexibility on how to launch them.
Just in case - is also generally possible to replace Explorer with a custom program, but after years of using this - looks like not worth it.


You could also try Hotkeyz:

HotKeyz lets you easily create and maintain a categorized list of your hotkeys. Each hotkey, a key combination on your keyboard, will launch a command. You decide which commands go with which hotkeys. Some of these commands are internal HotKeyz commands and the rest are Windows commands. HotKeyz will help you to manage repetitive tasks on your PC with speed and minimal effort. Why is it faster? The conventional way to open a program on your PC is by pointing your mouse to the Window start button, clicking on the Start button, then you will click on All Programs, your eyes must first look and search for your program icon, then you must click on it and only then it will be the program be launched. Using your mouse like this takes time. With a hotkey you simply press the key combination you have defined for your program and HotKeyz will launch it immediately!

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