I can sort files and directories in Windows Explorer by date modified. I always let recent files display first. But when I sort by date modified, directories are always displayed after the files.

Is it possible to sort files by date modified, but display directories before files?


8 Answers 8


I've been trying to do the same (i.e. distinguish the sort for folders from files, leaving files sorted by date). A clunky solution for win7 is suggested to me by another superuser post, making use of the 'group by' capabilities. If the file attributes are displayed in explorer (e.g. view > sort by > more... > [check 'attributes']), then you can group by attribute (essentially files vs. folders) using view > group by > attributes, and sort by date modified using view > sort by > date modified. With this, I can get folders to appear at the top, and files underneath this arranged by date.

Why would I want to do this? I'm by no way pedantic in how I organize files, but I do find I end up with a large directory structure - and typically when clicking through this, I'm usually interested in getting to subfolders. When I've reached the folder I want however, I usually will be wanting to access the most recently modified file. So having folders and recently modified files at the top saves scrolling.

  • 13
    Why was this accepted as the answer? Isn't OP trying to avoid the default behavior of automatically grouping files and folders separately during a sort? This doesn't answer the question...
    – Omar
    Jan 1, 2013 at 4:09
  • 1
    You're right, this is a clunky, plus it doesn't always keep folders before files like the completely hidden answer by @sHr0oMaN
    – jla
    Aug 17, 2015 at 18:08
  • 1
    This is not the answer. The answer is below at superuser.com/a/595669/427063. Oct 11, 2016 at 14:57
  • Appreciate THIS answer, because I want to do the exact opposite of what OP wants. For certain folders I want to see the files FIRST and newest FIRST. So using the method laid out by @tryingToBeClever worked perfectly. Thanks!!
    – Malachi
    Jan 25 at 15:25

First, put the directory into “Details” view mode (if it isn’t already) so you have column headings.

If you click on the “Date Modified” heading, which will sort by Date Modified (descending), and then Shift+click on “Name”, it should remain sorted by Date Modified (descending), but with the folders at the top.

Note: This is observed as not working while the “preview pane” is enabled (Windows 7).  Simply disable the preview pane temporarily with Alt+P before sorting.  The preview pane can then be re-enabled and the sort method will remain.

To revert this, just click on whatever column you want to sort by.

Once you have the sort order that you want, you can switch into one of the other view modes (e.g., “Icons”, “List” or “Tiles”), and the presentation will retain the sort order that you specified.

  • 13
    This actually works (Tested on Win8.1). This is the only real solution I've seen that doesn't create other issues.
    – Bort
    Nov 29, 2014 at 19:56
  • 3
    Works on Win7. Hate my company for making me work on Windows. Apr 28, 2015 at 5:07
  • 12
    Worked for me on Windows 10 as well. Aug 10, 2015 at 5:08
  • 6
    Thanks a lot for this. I know I'm a little late, but what is happening when you Shift Click on Name? Is that the secondary sort or something?
    – charlie
    Mar 15, 2016 at 0:47
  • 4
    So this works but windows keeps "forgetting" this in subfolders or on restart etc. Is there a way to make this permanent default for all folders? Sep 10, 2020 at 8:05

Try arranging the files by Date instead of Date Modified. I always have the problem with folders appearing before my files. It seems when you arrange by date, folders are displayed at the top regardless of the direction of arrangement. When you arrange by date modified, folders are always at the bottom in descending order.

  • 12
    Sorry but this is wrong and misleading. Please remember that "Date" works differently than "Date modified". If you download a document from the internet today, the file could have been last "saved" a year ago. Sorting by "Date" will likely put that file far in the past. "Date modified" will use the date the file was copied to your computer. Thus, it's important to realize that recently downloaded files may OR MAY NOT be near the top/bottom of the list when sorted by "Data". The ACTUAL solution is posted below by "sHr0oMaN".
    – Bort
    Nov 29, 2014 at 19:55
  • 1
  • This is still a valuable answer, since it describes weird windows behavior. Putting Folders first when you sort by 'date', but putting files first when you sort by 'date modified'. Jun 30, 2021 at 5:55

In Windows:

dir /og-d

will sort directories first (g) then in most-recent-first (-d) order.

  • 2
    I, and the OP are interested in the sorting in Windows Explorer. Your command worked, but how do I make it apply to Windows Explorer?
    – jla
    Aug 17, 2015 at 17:53
  • 1
    @jla: I answered the question before the OP added the Windows Explorer qualification. Aug 17, 2015 at 19:22

No, unfortunately this is how Windows Explorer behaves, it always groups the folders together before files (or after, depending on the sort direction).

Many users have complained and requested the ability to interleave files and folders like some other OSes do, but it is still not an option with Windows Explorer (though some alternative Windows shells and file-managers have implemented such a function).

  • I agree that it groups folders without group-by selected but pre 8.1 upgrade my folders always stayed on top no matter how I sorted. Now they only stay on top if I use a library view, otherwise they flop sides as you indicate. I'm pretty sure of this change, I nearly always sort by Date modified descending to grab the most recently built output so the change was immediately apparent and jarring to my process.
    – jla
    Aug 17, 2015 at 18:02
  • Actually, if you set the directory as being "Photos" or "Video" then the folders will always be at top, regardless of sort direction.
    – apraetor
    May 11, 2016 at 17:31

The @tryingToBeClever's answer worked for me, but with two additional steps:

  1. view > sort by > more... > [check 'Attributes']
  2. view > group by > Attributes
  3. view > sort by > Attributes
  4. view > sort by > Descending (or click on the Attributes tab)
  5. view > sort by > Date modified

I had to add steps 3 and 4, otherwise the attribute A of the files was always going first before that of the folders, i.e., D.

  1. Open the Properties pane for the folder in question
  2. Go to the "Customize" tab
  3. Change the folder content type to "Photos"

Folders will now always be kept at the top, regardless of sort direction.

  • I prefer this approach vs having to manually sort by date, then shift clicking name. I can leave the folder and come back to the same sorting behavior.
    – Multinerd
    Aug 9, 2019 at 17:02

TL;DR - Hold shift and click name

:Detailed Walkthrough
Start with "Detailed view"
Next, click the "Dated Modified" column header, with the arrow pointing down.
Finally, Hold shift and click the "Name" column header.

The view will now show all folders at the top, and the most recently modified files will be at the top of their group. Same with the folders, the most recent will be at the top of the folders.

You can then apply it to the defaults for all File Explorer views by going to:
Files>Change Folder and Search Options>Folder Options>View
Then click "Apply to Folders"

  • We always appreciate the contributions from our community members! However, how is this answer really different from this one?
    – Run5k
    May 4, 2019 at 18:00
  • Ha, your point is valid. I must have skipped the part in that answer that was the same as mine. If I had noticed it, I probably would not have posted an answer. Thanks for being polite about it though!
    – semtex41
    May 5, 2019 at 21:04

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .