If I've got a file (or files) selected in Windows Explorer, the only way I've found to "unselect" them is click with the mouse on some empty space.

I thought Esc would do this, but it doesn't. Also changing focus with Tab or Shift + Tab doesn't work; the file(s) are still selected even if focus goes to the address bar for instance.

Does anyone know of a keyboard shortcut to do this?


10 Answers 10


You can use Ctrl+Arrow to move among selected items. Ctrl+Space will select/deselect. (Space alone will select but not deselect.)


I also found another quick solution: pressing F5 will refresh the folder and deselect single or multiple items.

  • 4
    Did not deselect a single selection, but ctrl+space as suggested in another answer does work.
    – angularsen
    Oct 5, 2012 at 12:23

Pulling from the other solutions here, the method that works every time is Ctrl+A then F5. You can sort of roll your hand up the keyboard to do this.

Even though it's an extra step over just Ctrl+Spacebar when deselecting one item or just F5 when more than one item is selected, the consistency and not having to think each time will save time in the long run, I think.

Note: If you are pressing F5, then it makes no difference whether you press CTRL-A first or don't. CTRL-A is Select All, F5 is Refresh. Therefore, if F5 is acceptable for the functionality you're looking for, there is no benefit to pressing CTRL-A prior.

  • 1
    This is the only answer the works with both single file or multiples files selected. Doesn't require Windows to be in english. And allows for automation with AutoHotkey. The note at the bottom makes no sense. Jun 12, 2021 at 15:18

As far as I know there isn't a keyboard shortcut for Invert Selection in Windows Explorer, and unfortunately Select All doesn't toggle the selection.

So if you really want an all keyboard solution:

Ctrl + A, Alt + E, I

If you're used to Emacs multi-key bindings then this shouldn't bother you. :)

  • 2
    Alt + E, I has no effect. At least, in Win7 Explorer. Feb 28, 2018 at 13:02

You can use alt+ up to navigate one folder up in the heirarchy and then press enter to go down again - but that's not so elegant.

  • Instead of alt + up I use backspace :)
    – EzioMercer
    Aug 14 at 10:58

To access this button on the Windows 10 ribbon:


Of course the Explorer window must have focus during these keystrokes.

enter image description here

  • This is also OS language dependend afaik
    – Cadoiz
    Feb 22 at 9:59

Alt + V and then R will also do the trick -- I guess the same as R, but is it one more way to do it.


Here is one more possible answer. It is a combination of three keys.

Press the keyboard-right-click key. Press R (properties). Press Esc.

User warning: This should right click the item, go to properties, and exit the properties menu. Make sure this is what is happening, and that R isn't a key that ends up deleting your item or doing anything else.

Other than that, Ctrl + Space is the best answer I have seen here so far.

  • The key is called AppsKey or menu key btw. Be aware that these keystrokes depend on the OS language.
    – Cadoiz
    Feb 22 at 9:57

I could not find any documentation on Microsoft's websites regarding Ctrl + Space for deselection of items. However, on an unrelated website, https://winscp.net/eng/docs/ui_explorer_key, there is documentation regarding WinSCP, a free SFTP/FTP/SCP client for Windows. It uses some shortcuts that are also applicable to the Windows OS, such as Ctrl + Space for file selection/deselect. However Ctrl + Space does work, as stated above.

Anyway, the only different answer so far I could offer is:

Press key Delete to delete your file, then press Ctrl + Z to bring it back. Now you have unselected it.

User warning: it may have unintended consequences. Such as if you have configured files for permanent deletion and may not be brought back easily, as is the case in some external hard disk drives. Use this answer with caution.

  • 3
    This is a bit treacherous, to say the least. On network drives, for instance, deletion is permanent!
    – Ben N
    Feb 14, 2016 at 20:58

CTRL+A actually toggles selection, so doing it twice will do the thing.

  • 2
    This is contradicted by another answer which states the opposite- care to clarify?
    – bertieb
    Feb 17, 2017 at 17:46
  • 2
    A third-party app or plugin may give it this "feature", but no, in Windows Explorer, CTRL-A does NOT toggle a selection. Pressing it once selects all files, pressing it again while all files are already selected does nothing. Using it to select all and then holding CTRL and unselecting a few entries, and then using CTRL-A again returns the selection to All. Feb 17, 2017 at 18:27

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