Make ‘Folders View’ the Windows Explorer Default in Windows XP

Windows XP Windows Explorer Folders View   Windows XP Windows Explorer Default View
(click images for larger views)

From the launch of Windows XP in October of 2001 until two days ago I have been frustrated by the fact that, unlike every version of Windows, Windows Explorer could not be set to open in ‘folders view’ (pictured on the left above) by default. Instead the default view has been the wholly useless and very frustrating ‘common tasks view’ pictured on the right above. Fortunately Windows Explorer in Vista doesn’t saddle the user with the same issue.

I must have clicked on the “Folders” button (circled in red in the right picture above) many thousands of times over the last 7.5 years to get Windows Explorer to show me the directory tree in ‘folders view’ (the left pain in the left picture above). I had searched for a solution to this at least a dozen times in the intervening years. I finally found an easy solution.

The Solution

With Windows Explorer open in the toolbar:

  • left click ‘Tools’
  • left click ‘Folder Options…’

to open the ‘Folders Options’ windows depicted below.

Windows XP Folder Options Window

In the ‘Folders Options’ window:

  • left click on the ‘File Types’ tab
  • left click on the ‘(NONE) Folder’ file type
  • left click on the ‘Advanced’ button

all as pictured above, to open the ‘Edit File Type’ window depicted below.

Windows XP Edit Folder File Type 

In the ‘Edit File Type’ window:

  • left click the ‘open’ action to select it
  • left click the ‘Set Default’ button
  • left click the ‘OK’ button

Voila! From now on, Windows Explorer will open in ‘Folder View’.

[Update: As others have pointed out in the comments below, selecting “explore” rather than “open” solves the problem for them.  One or the other should work.]

3 Replies to “Make ‘Folders View’ the Windows Explorer Default in Windows XP”

  1. Good Grief.. Thank you so much for that. I had the opposite problem.. I hate the folder view and I couldn’t make it stop defaulting; even after I kept unchecking it in the Explorer Bar setting.. This fix worked for me. Explore was set as default and so I set open to default and now I have back my beloved “Common Task View” LOL.. It worked and I’m thrilled , but there must be a registry fix too?? Now I can sleep!!

  2. Dale,rnrnYour my hero :-)rnrnI had exaclty the opposite problem, windows kept popping up when I disabled the FOLDERS button so I was forced to turn of the “FOLDERS” button and close the previous window.rnrnThanks for your article.rnrnrnI have been searching for quite some time until I found your solution.

  3. Thank you so much Steve. I was looking all around for a way to open the folders as normal again. I have an win explorer shortcut in the quick launch toolbar and use it all the time [a shout out also to Lisa L for that superb link on how to target the opening folder!]. Sometimes, however i don’t need the exporer view when i click on a folder and was horrified to see new windows popping up when i changed the default back to (or so i thought) open. Deleting the data from the default reg key did the trick.rnYou saved me a lot of grief – I’d buy you a beer if i could ^^

  4. Thanks Dale (and Ricardo)! rnrnAfter years of thinking, “Why do I keep pressing the Folders button?” I decided to look for a solution. Perfect.

  5. Good idea Truth:rnrnIf others want to chime in with their O.S. specs that could be useful. I’ve long since moved past XP to Vista and now to Windows 7, so I have nothing more to contribute personally.rnrnWhat bugs me is that in Windows 7 the default view is the damned, useless library. However, there are other useful features in Windows 7 like pinning directories to the Windows Explorer icon so I rarely go in to the default directory any more.rnrn…Dale

  6. Great post! rnrnI remember using an XP tweaker program some years back that had an option for this but I really hate using those programs as there is often a costly learning curve associated with discovering how these tweaks effect your system in often irreversible manners and in ways that can be very damaging to the functionality.rnrnRegarding the curiosity of why for some people the default should be u201copenu2019 and for others u201cexploreu201d I will submit my O.S. details so that maybe we can figure it out.rnrnI am running a modified version of XP Pro known as BlackXPDVD405FINAL. It is not perfect but it is better than any other O.S. I have ever used including many varieties of Linux, Mac OSX, and all the windows except for 7. The installation is awesome because this version has a ton of extra drivers most importantly SATA drivers and it is automated. rnFrom explorer clicking on u201chelpu201d and then u201cabout windowsu201d you get:rnMicrosoft Windows XP Pro Ver. 5.1 build 2600.xpsp_sp2_qfe.090206-1239 : Service Pack 2rnrnAnd what works on this one is u201cexploreu201d set as default.rn

  7. Felipe, as you can read in the comments above, “open” works for some people (it did on my PCs) and “explore” works for others. I don’t know why one works sometimes and the other works at other times. I have taken your suggestion and updated the post to reflect that one or the other should work. Thanks.

  8. you ought to change your POST dude! It should be set to “exlore” not “open” as your readers have already pointed out!!! C’mon!

  9. By the way, if you want to reverse the mod for any reason and regain the shift+doubleclick functionrnrnRun….RegeditrnrnNavigate to: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTFoldershellrnrnIn the right hand pane, Right click on (default) and click MODIFYrnrndelete the content, either: OPEN or EXPLORErnrnClose REGEDIT

  10. Exellent! I prefer Classic windows view so Ricardo’s extra help was the key (ouch!)rnrnThis is one of the best tips on the web!

  11. Instead of clicking on ‘open’ in the ‘Advanced’ window, click on ‘explore’, and then ‘My Documents’ and other explorer windows will open with the folders view.

  12. Cool! Your comment made my day. rnrn I’m happy to note that Folders View , well something very similar to Folders View is the default in Windows 7 Beta. rnrnCheers

  13. I never use “My Documents” (I prefer to keep all my files in a c:\files hierarchy for easy backup and restore) so I’ve not tested that.

    It’s odd that your Windows Explorer default folder view is different than ALL of the XP PC’s I’ve ever used (and there’s been probably 2 dozen of them over the last 7 years).

    I wonder if you did something years ago to change your defaults?

    …Dale

  14. Hi Dale.
    Great clear comments, thanks. I’m delighted to find your site.
    I’ve been having trouble with my shortcuts recently, and I’ve solved everything except one really annoying thing. Maybe you can help me.
    I use WinXP Pro and a similar filing system to yours (i.e., I don’t use My Documents … and wish I could get rid of the file). I have a shortcut on my desktop to Windows Explorer which, until lately, worked just fine. When I double-clicked it, it took me to a full-screen view of Win Explorer in the FOLDERS view.
    Now, after resetting the properties for that shortcut (and even creating a new one), I get to the non-FOLDERS view in Win Explorer. I’ve been trying everything, including your tip about making FOLDER view the default. It doesn’t seem to work.
    Curiously, I have “File Folders” and “Folders” as file types on my system. I have set the default on “Folders” to “open” and on the “File Folders” to “explore.” Both open with explorer.exe in the Windows folder … but they both get me to that darned non-FOLDERS view.
    I suspect that I may need a specific key after the .exe address, but I don’t know what it is.
    Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
    Many thanks.
    Lisa

  15. Hi.

    I’ve been looking for a solution for this for some time now (apparently not hard enough, since a simple google search pointed me to this site… XD) and I can finally say that this problem is solved. But, in my case, it wasn’t solved by following these exact steps. Here’s what I had to do, in case it helps someone:

    I have Windows Explorer set up to show “classic Windows folders”, so it never shows the “common tasks” pane. I chose this option since it was the only way I found to be able to get rid once and for all of the annoying “filmstrip view” for pictures. You can do it from Folder Options, in General, under Tasks.
    This was very nice and all, but now all the windows open with no panels at all on the left side. Folders look really ugly this way, so I always click on the “Folders” button. Plus, I love the “Folders” tree view, I find it the main reason I prefer Win Explorer over Mac Finder.

    The funny thing is that when I followed this guide, and set the default option for “Folders” to “open”, i not only do not get the Folder Tree View as default, but also when I double click a folder it always opens up in a new window.

    The fix for this in my case was to set the default option to “explore” instead of “open”. This gives me the Tree View by default, and also opens folders in the same window when double clicked. The funny thing is that I thought that this was the way it was before, but apparently no option is set as default, not “open” and not “explore”. Anyway, I’m finally completely happy with the way my Explorer behaves ^o^

    So, step by step, to get Explorer to work the way I have it:

    1. From a Explorer window, open “Tools” and “Folder Options”.
    2. In the “General” tab check “Use Windows Cassic Folders”.
    3. in the “File Types” tab, click on the “(NONE) Folder” option and “Advanced”.
    4. Click on “explore” and then “Set Default”.

    And that’s it.

    Thanks for this guide! Saved me a lot of trouble ^__^

    Bye.

  16. Hi Dale

    Was most excited when I discovered your tip. I have also clicked the “Folders” button a million times over the last four years since upgrading to XP from Windows 97, where this was the default behavior. Unfortunately though your tip did not work for me, nor did Ricardo’s version.

    However, I followed Lisa L’s link suggestion, and found a solution there that DOES work (for me at least!)

    Simply change the command in your shortcut for Windows Explorer to the following:
    %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /e ,c:

    The /e switch specifies that Explorer should open in the double pane view.

    As an aside, this is why I loathe Microsoft – four years to find a solution to this!!!!

  17. This was just what I needed, and been through all sorts of other options before reading this! Many big curses to the MS default team for settling on the 'explore view'. But in the 'Edit File Type' window I had to left click the 'explore' option to get the folders view, just as some others had to do.

  18. After a dozen years of right-clicking on folders (and folder shortcuts) sitting on my desktop so that I could “explore” them with the full folder tree available, I stumbled upon your solution. Wow. This totally made my day. Thanks!

  19. Cool! Your comment made my day.

    I'm happy to note that Folders View , well something very similar to Folders View is the default in Windows 7 Beta.

    Cheers

  20. Instead of clicking on 'open' in the 'Advanced' window, click on 'explore', and then 'My Documents' and other explorer windows will open with the folders view.

  21. Exellent! I prefer Classic windows view so Ricardo's extra help was the key (ouch!)

    This is one of the best tips on the web!

  22. By the way, if you want to reverse the mod for any reason and regain the shift+doubleclick function

    Run….Regedit

    Navigate to: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTFoldershell

    In the right hand pane, Right click on (default) and click MODIFY

    delete the content, either: OPEN or EXPLORE

    Close REGEDIT

  23. Felipe, as you can read in the comments above, “open” works for some people and “explore” works for others. I don't know why one works sometimes and the other works at other times. Anybody who reads through the comments will understand that. You make a good point. I will update the post to reflect that either works.

  24. Great post!

    I remember using an XP tweaker program some years back that had an option for this but I really hate using those programs as there is often a costly learning curve associated with discovering how these tweaks effect your system in often irreversible manners and in ways that can be very damaging to the functionality.

    Regarding the curiosity of why for some people the default should be “open’ and for others “explore” I will submit my O.S. details so that maybe we can figure it out.

    I am running a modified version of XP Pro known as BlackXPDVD405FINAL. It is not perfect but it is better than any other O.S. I have ever used including many varieties of Linux, Mac OSX, and all the windows except for 7. The installation is awesome because this version has a ton of extra drivers most importantly SATA drivers and it is automated.
    From explorer clicking on “help” and then “about windows” you get:
    Microsoft Windows XP Pro Ver. 5.1 build 2600.xpsp_sp2_qfe.090206-1239 : Service Pack 2

    And what works on this one is “explore” set as default.

  25. Great post!

    I remember using an XP tweaker program some years back that had an option for this but I really hate using those programs as there is often a costly learning curve associated with discovering how these tweaks effect your system in often irreversible manners and in ways that can be very damaging to the functionality.

    Regarding the curiosity of why for some people the default should be “open’ and for others “explore” I will submit my O.S. details so that maybe we can figure it out.

    I am running a modified version of XP Pro known as BlackXPDVD405FINAL. It is not perfect but it is better than any other O.S. I have ever used including many varieties of Linux, Mac OSX, and all the windows except for 7. The installation is awesome because this version has a ton of extra drivers most importantly SATA drivers and it is automated.
    From explorer clicking on “help” and then “about windows” you get:
    Microsoft Windows XP Pro Ver. 5.1 build 2600.xpsp_sp2_qfe.090206-1239 : Service Pack 2

    And what works on this one is “explore” set as default.

  26. Good idea Truth:

    If others want to chime in with their O.S. specs that could be useful. I've long since moved past XP to Vista and now to Windows 7, so I have nothing more to contribute personally.

    What bugs me is that in Windows 7 the default view is the damned, useless library. However, there are other useful features in Windows 7 like pinning directories to the Windows Explorer icon so I rarely go in to the default directory any more.

    …Dale

  27. Thanks Dale (and Ricardo)!

    After years of thinking, “Why do I keep pressing the Folders button?” I decided to look for a solution. Perfect.

  28. Thank you so much Steve. I was looking all around for a way to open the folders as normal again. I have an win explorer shortcut in the quick launch toolbar and use it all the time [a shout out also to Lisa L for that superb link on how to target the opening folder!]. Sometimes, however i don't need the exporer view when i click on a folder and was horrified to see new windows popping up when i changed the default back to (or so i thought) open. Deleting the data from the default reg key did the trick.
    You saved me a lot of grief – I'd buy you a beer if i could ^^

  29. Finally, after years of frustration with the default uselessness of Explorer and more years wasted on searches trying to find an answer, there is a solution. Someone at MS must have known about this. Apparently MS is so disconnected from what we want and use that they never noticed. In any case, thank you, Dale.

  30. Thank you! I finally found the right search terms (“folders view” shortcut options) that led me to your solution.

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