Explorer

Alternatively referred to as File Explorer or Windows Explorer, 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.

Windows 10 File Explorer

Note: 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.

Tip: Users familiar with Apple computers can think of Explorer as the Windows equivalent of the OS X Finder.

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.

In all versions of Windows:

  • Press Win + E (hold down the Windows key and press E), or
  • Click Start and select Run (or press Win + R), then type explorer or explorer.exe and press Enter.

In Windows 10:

  • Press the Win + X to open the Power User Tasks Menu, then select File Explorer (or press E), or
  • 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 the Start button and select Explorer or Open Windows Explorer.

Examples of how Windows Explorer could be used

Windows DocumentsBelow 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 it has been 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 are disabled by default, you can determine an executable by looking for a file with the same name of the program or that has an icon representing the program.

Search for a file or folder

Within 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:

Related pages

Also see: My computer, Operating system terms, Views button