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Windows File Explorer.

Windows File Explorer (sometimes called Windows Explorer, File Explorer or simply Explorer) is the central hub for accessing and saving files and folders on your PC.

You can think of it as being like a digital filing cabinet for your computer. It gives you access to every file and folder on your system. Quickly.

You’re using File Explorer whenever you open a folder, open a file, search for a file, save a file or access any storage drive on your computer.

How To Open Windows Explorer.

There are many ways to open File Explorer. Here are the 4 most common –

  1. Click the Explorer icon (folder icon) on the taskbar.
  2. Use the keyboard shortcut Windows key and the letter E.
  3. Search for by clicking the Start button and then typing “explorer“
  4. Open any folder.
File Explorer icon indicated on Windows 11 taskbar. Also a keyboard shown with Windows key and letter E marked.
To open Windows Explorer, either click the Explorer icon on the taskbar or press the Windows key and E on your keyboard.

If File Explorer Is Missing From Your Taskbar.

If you can’t see the explorer icon (folder) on your taskbar, you can easily replace it. File Explorer Is Missing From Taskbar.

The File Explorer Window.

When you open File Explorer, it’s slightly different depending on whether you’re using Windows 10 or Windows 11. But only slightly.

Over on the left hand side of the window you’ll see the Navigation pane (or panel). The navigation pane allows you to quickly move (or jump) from folder to folder.

The central pane (or panel) is called the File View and shows you what’s inside the folder that was clicked in the navigation pane.

Navigation pane and File View area indicated by callouts in Windows File Explorer.
The Navigation Pane & File View.

The Address Box.

At the top of the Explorer window you’ll see the Address Bar (or Address Box).

The Address Box shows you which folder you’re viewing in File View. Which folder you have open.

For example, if I click the Pictures folder in the navigation pane, the contents of the Pictures folder is displayed in File View, and Pictures is showing in the Address Bar.

The Address Box is indicated in Windows Explorer. It shows the name of the current folder.
The Address Box shows you which folder you’re viewing in the File View area

File Explorer Navigation Pane.

The Navigation pane shows you your main folders and the different drives attached to your computer (such as CD/DVD drive and USB drives etc).

Quite often some of the entries in the Navigation pane will be collapsed (or closed). To expand (or open) an item, click the small arrowhead beside it.

Expand arrowhead is shown magnified in File Explorer.
To expand an item in the navigation pane, click the small arrowhead.
After clicking the Expand arrowhead, This PC is expanded (or opened).
And the item will expand as a drop down list of its contents.

Quick Access Area Of File Explorer.

The Quick Access area is where you’ll find your user folders.

On Windows 10 computers, Quick Access will usually have your Desktop, Downloads, Documents and Pictures folders already pinned.

Whereas on Windows 11 computers, all your user folders are pinned. Desktop, Downloads, Documents, Pictures, Music and Videos.

You can add (or pin) any folder that you’re using regularly to the Quick Access area.

Quick Access area of Windows Explorer noted by a callout in Windows 10
The Quick Access area of File Explorer in Windows 10.
Quick Access indicated in Windows Explorer in Windows 11.
Quick Access in Windows 11.

Windows automatically adds folders that you’re using to the Quick Access area. So over time you’ll find that other folders will appear here.

Pinning To Quick Access.

Whatever you use your computer for, there are bound to be certain folders that you use, or access, more often than others.

These folders can be pinned to the Quick Access area to make saving and opening files quicker and easier. This includes sub folders, they can be pinned exactly the same.

For example, to pin a folder to the Quick Access area, right click on it and then left click Pin To Quick Access.

Context menu is open and Pin to Quick Access is being clicked in Windows 10.
Pinning a folder to Quick Access in Windows 10.
Options menu is shown with Pin To Quick Access marked in Windows 11.
Pin to Quick Access in Windows 11.

The newly pinned folder will appear at the bottom of the list in the Quick Access area of Windows Explorer.

The Quick Access folders can be re-arranged in order of preference by dragging and dropping them up or down the list.

Folder is indicated in File View and in the Quick Access area of File Explorer.
A folder pinned to Quick Access will appear at the bottom of the list.

Unpinning A Folder From Quick Access.

Just as you can pin (or add) folders to Quick Access, you can also unpin (remove) them.

To unpin a folder, right click on it and then left click Unpin From Quick Access.

Unpinning a folder in Windows 10.
Unpin folders from Quick Access in Windows 10.
Options menu open and Unpin from Quick Access is highlighted in Windows 11.
And unpinning a folder from Quick Access in Windows 11.

Pinning & Unpinning.

Make use of this feature of Windows Explorer. Pin folders that you’re currently using often. It makes saving and opening files much quicker and easier.

Unpin folders that you’re not using to make way for folders that you are using.

How To Open Two Explorer Windows At The Same Time.

Sometimes you’ll want to have two separate Explorer windows open at the same time. It makes comparing, and moving files between folders so much easier if you can see exactly what is already inside each folder.

The easiest way to open a second File Explorer window is to use the keyboard shortcut Windows key + E.

That’ll open a second Explorer window on top of the first.

You can then resize each window so that you can see both clearly.

How To Resize Or Move A Computer Program Window

A File Explorer window is open. Also a keyboard is shown with the Windows key and the letter E marked.
Open a second File Explorer window by pressing the Windows key and the letter E.


That’s a basic overview of Windows File Explorer. What it is and how you can use it.

Over the next few pages of the course you’ll start to see the true power of Explorer.

Firstly we’ll be creating folders. And then saving files and opening files. All of which will require the use of Windows Explorer to help you navigate around your computer.

I’ll see you on the next page.

At Home Computer Course.

How to create, name, rename & delete folders on Windows computers.
Next Page

It’s All About The Folders

A place for everything and everything in its place. Using folders to keep related files together just makes sense

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