File Explorer

Updated: 04/12/2021 by Computer Hope

Alternatively referred to as Windows Explorer or Explorer, File Explorer is a file browser found in every version of Microsoft Windows since Windows 95. It is used to navigate and manage the drives, folders, and files on your computer. The image below shows File Explorer in Windows 10.

Windows 10 File Explorer


Don't confuse the File Explorer with Microsoft Internet Explorer, which was the default web browser on Windows 8.1 and earlier versions of Windows.

How to open Windows Explorer

There are several ways to open a new Explorer window, which vary slightly depending on which version of Windows you are running.


If you repeat any of the options below, you can open two or more separate Explorer windows.

In all versions of Windows

  • Press Windows key+E (hold down the Windows key and press E).
  • Click Start and select Run (or press Windows key+R), then type explorer or explorer.exe and press Enter.
  • If displayed, on the Windows desktop, click or double-click the My Computer icon (named "Computer" in Windows Vista & 7, and "This PC" in Windows 8 & 10).

In Windows 10

  • Press the Windows key+X to open the Power User Tasks Menu, then select File Explorer (or press E).
  • Click Start, select Programs, select Accessories, then Windows Explorer or Explorer.

In Windows 8 and 8.1

Right-click the bottom-left corner of the screen to open the Power User Tasks Menu and choose File Explorer (or press E).

In Windows 7 and earlier versions

Right-click Start and select Explorer or Open Windows Explorer.

Examples of how Windows Explorer could be used

Windows Documents

Below are examples of what can be done in Explorer.

Open a document

Microsoft has made it easier to find your documents in Windows by creating a My Documents folder. Once in Explorer, you can open My Documents and double-click the document file to open the document.

Open a program

Although most programs create a shortcut to programs in the Start menu or Start Screen after being installed, you can also open a program through Explorer. To open a program in Explorer, browse to the Program Files folder by opening the C: drive and then double-clicking the Program Files folder. In the listing of folders, find the program you want to open and double-click its folder. Finally, once in the program folder, find the executable file and double-click that file to run the program. Since file extensions may be hidden, you can determine an executable by looking for a file with the same name as the program.

Search for a file or folder

In the Search tab, you can find files or folders on your computers. Press the F3 shortcut key to open search at any time while in Windows Explorer.

Other system tasks and functions

Using Windows Explorer, you can also perform any of the system tasks listed below:

What did Explorer replace?

Before Windows 95, computers using Windows 3.11 used File Manager as the program for managing the files on their computer.

Where is Windows Explorer on macOS, Chromebook, and Linux?

Windows Explorer is only found on the Microsoft Windows operating system. For the macOS, Chrome OS, and Linux versions, see below.

Users familiar with Apple computers can think of Explorer as the Windows equivalent of the macOS Finder. If you're using an Apple computer, see our Finder page to help explore the files on your computer.

Chrome OS uses My Files as the equivalent to Windows Explorer. To open My Files, click the App launcher in the bottom-left corner of the screen. Once the App Launcher opens, click Files.

With Linux, there are multiple variants, each with a file explorer equivalent to Windows Explorer.

My computer, Operating system terms, Views button