How to Open File Explorer in Windows 11

Accessing the operating system's file manager

What to Know

  • Type WIN+E or select folder icon from taskbar.
  • Alternatively, right-click Start, choose File Explorer.
  • File Explorer is just a different name for Windows Explorer.

This article explains all the different ways you can open File Explorer in Windows 11, plus what File Explorer means versus Windows Explorer.

How to Open File Explorer in Windows 11

The fastest way to launch File Explorer is with just your keyboard: WIN+E. However, there are also on-screen shortcuts and other techniques which work just as well.

Taskbar Shortcuts

There are two shortcuts to File Explorer accessible directly from the taskbar:

  • Select the folder icon.
  • Right-click the Start button and choose File Explorer.
File Explorer shortcut on Windows 11 taskbar

Search For It

Another method is to search for it, which is handy if you're not using a mouse. Just press the WIN key, type explorer, and then press Enter.

File Explorer in Windows 11 search results

Command Line

Although probably not most people's first choice, another way to open File Explorer in Windows 11 is through the explorer command. It works in Command Prompt, Task Manager, the Run dialog box, and Windows PowerShell.

You'll probably only ever use this method if you're already in a command line tool or if Windows isn't working to the point that using commands is your only way forward.

Explorer command in Windows 11 Command Prompt

File Explorer Is Missing?

File Explorer can't actually go anywhere. At the most, you might not have quick access to it through a shortcut, but it's still on your computer. You don't need to download File Explorer or reinstall it.

Instead, if the Windows 11 taskbar is missing the folder icon, you can put it back easily. Unlike some taskbar items, there isn't an option within settings which controls its visibility. Instead, you need to open File Explorer using any of the other methods explained above, and then "pin" it to the taskbar again.

For example, press WIN+E to find File Explorer, and then right-click the icon and choose Pin to taskbar.

Pin to taskbar option for Windows 11 file explorer shortcut

If you want to be able to open it through a Start menu shortcut, you can do that, too. By default, there isn't one there, but it's really easy to add one.

After completing the steps below, a small folder like this one will appear along the bottom of the Start menu.

File Explorer icon on Windows 11 Start menu
  1. Open Settings by right-clicking the Start button and choosing Settings. The WIN+I shortcut works, too.

  2. Navigate to Personalization > Start > Choose which folders appear on Start.

  3. Select the button next to File Explorer to enable it.

    File Explorer toggle in Windows 11 Start menu settings

Difference Between Windows Explorer and File Explorer

Besides a visual redesign, Windows Explorer and File Explorer refer to the same tool. Windows 8 introduced the name change, so from that version on, the file manager is called File Explorer. However, most of the techniques mentioned above will open Windows Explorer, too, since they serve the same function.

If you want to be consistent, Windows Explorer technically refers to older Windows versions. However, you can get by using them interchangeably because the only time you need to refer to the process that controls File Explorer or Windows Explorer is through its command (explorer), which is the same even in older Windows versions.

FAQ
  • Why does Windows 11 File Explorer keep crashing?

    The Windows file system could have corrupt data or files. Clear the system cache and run SFC /Scannow to repair damaged Windows files.

  • Does Windows 11 File Explorer have tabs?

    No. If you prefer the tabbed interface of earlier versions, install a custom third-party file explorer for Windows 11.

  • How do I change where files are downloaded in Windows 11?

    In File Explorer, right-click the Downloads folder and select Properties. In the Properties menu, go to the Location tab and select Move to choose where you want downloaded files to be saved.

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