Windows 11 now has tabs in File Explorer. This works OK if you open a new folder from within file explorer. However, As far as I know:

  • It is not possible to merge an open File Explorer to another instance of File Explorer (as extra tabs).
  • It is not possible to detach a tab to a new window.

However, when opening a folder via some 3rd Party software, is it possible to force it to open into an existing file explorer instance as a new tab?

  • I added a change to my answer. It is not possible to merge an open File Explorer with another instance of File Explorer and it is not possible to detach tabs.
    – John
    Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 19:56
  • 2
    It would make much more sense if Win+E opened a new tab in an existing Explorer window instead of a new Explorer window than how it's currently implemented.
    – Andreas
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 5:48

4 Answers 4


This is not natively possible to any longer detach File Explorer tabs into separate windows at this point in time. This is the future direction for Windows 11 as far as I can see (no changes in Windows Insider) .

This may change in a future build, but this is the situation at this point.

Tabs were a highly desired addition to File Explorer.

This is the answer to your first question.

However, if you open a file with another App (I tried WinZip), it opens in a different Window. I do not see a way to adjust this behavior either.

It is not possible to merge this with another File Explorer Window.

This is the answer to your second question.

I have not seen any third party apps to change the Windows programming.

File Explorer may undergo changes into the future.

You might try a third party Explorer replacement. I also use xPlorer2 (Zabkat) and I like it a lot. I use both this and Windows File Explorer.

  • Tab Detaching can be enabled in Dev Build 25290, see my answer below
    – OmerB
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 17:45

I've created a utility that forces open tabs instead of a new window: Explorer Tab Utility

It intercepts Win+E keys and File Explorer's directory opening to open a new tab instead.

Win+E Tabs


  • 1
    Cool, but this still doesn't work with other applications that open explorer. for example, the most annoying thing is when I use "Open Containing Folder" from Visual Studio. Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 17:35
  • Actually, it does, Make sure to tick "All Windows" from the tray icon, it's disabled by default.
    – w4po
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 21:03
  • ok but that will not allow you to detach a tab to a new window. Commented Nov 30, 2023 at 18:55
  • Yes, sadly, that's right. However, you can temporarily disable 'All Windows' to detach the window and then enable it back. I know it's a pain, but I can't do anything about it, at least for now.
    – w4po
    Commented Dec 1, 2023 at 0:31

It is now possible to open tabs in new window. Just select the three dots ... inside a file explorer and then options. There you can pick the 'open each folder in its own window' -option.

  • This does not appear to solve the issue at hand, as far as I understand it.
    – Rich_Rich
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 16:02

Haven't tried it myself, but according to several sources Windows 11 Dev Build 25290 added Tab Detaching as a hidden feature.

See an example in this tweet.

Detailed instructions are here.

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