How to work with files and folders

File Explorer (previously called Windows Explorer) helps you work with files and folders on your OneDrive, PC and network.

  • Open File Explorer by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the top-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, then clicking Search), entering File Explorer in the search box, then tapping or clicking File Explorer.

What’s happened to My Computer and the libraries?

The Computer location is now called "This PC", and you can still use the Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos folders to save your files. You just browse to these folders differently in File Explorer. To browse the locations on your PC, including the folders that used to appear under "Libraries", expand This PC in the left pane.

Learn about the different parts of the File Explorer window

Here's a typical window with its parts:

The File Explorer window
File Explorer. Have a look at the following table for more info about each numbered area.
Window part What it's useful for
Window part

1. Left pane

What it's useful for

Use the left pane to get to all kinds of locations: your OneDrive, folders on your PC, devices and drives connected to your PC, and other PCs on your network. Tap or click a location to view its contents in the file list, or tap or click an arrow to expand a location in the left pane.

Window part

2. Back, Forward and Up buttons

What it's useful for

Use the Back button to go back to the last location or search results you were viewing, and the Forward button to return to the next location or search results. Use the Up button to open the location where the folder you're viewing is saved.

Window part

3. Ribbon

What it's useful for

Use the ribbon for common tasks, such as copying and moving, creating new folders, emailing and zipping items, and changing the view. The tabs change to show extra tasks that apply to the selected item. For example, if you select This PC in the left pane, the ribbon shows different tabs than it would if you select your Pictures folder. If you can't see the ribbon, tap or click the Expand the Ribbon button in the top right or press Ctrl+F1.

Window part

4. Address bar

What it's useful for

Use the address bar to enter or select a location. Tap or click a part of the path to go to that level, or tap or click at the end of the path to select the path for copying.

Window part

5. File list

What it's useful for

This is where the contents of the current folder are displayed. It's also where your search results appear when you enter a search term in the search box.

Window part

6. Column headings

What it's useful for

In the Details view, you can use the column headings to change how the files in the file list are organised. For example, you can tap or click the Date modified heading to sort by date (with the files you worked on most recently at the top). If you tap or click the column heading again, the files are sorted with the oldest ones at the top. Press and hold or right-click a column heading to select other columns to add. To learn how to switch to Details view, see the next section, "Changing the view".

Window part

7. Search box

What it's useful for

Enter a word or phrase in the search box to look for an item in the current folder. The search begins as soon as you begin typing – so if you enter "B", for example, all the files with names starting with the letter B will appear in the file list.

Window part

8. Status bar

What it's useful for

Use the status bar to quickly see the total number of items in a location, or the number of selected items and their total size.

Window part

9. Details/Preview pane

What it's useful for

Use the details pane to see the most common properties associated with the selected file. File properties provide more detailed info about a file, such as the author, the date you last changed the file and any descriptive tags you might have added to the file. If you can’t see the details pane, tap or click the View tab, then tap or click Details pane.

Use the preview pane to see the contents of a file, such as an Office document, without opening it in an application. If you can’t see the preview pane, tap or click the View tab, then tap or click Preview pane.

Show all

Changing the view

When you open a folder, you can change how the files look in the window. For example, you might prefer larger (or smaller) icons or a view that lets you see different kinds of info about each file. To make these kinds of changes, use the View tab.

The View tab on the ribbon
The View tab


  • File Explorer isn't designed to let you manually arrange files within a folder. For advanced procedures on how to do this in some views and locations, search the Microsoft Community.

Searching for a file

Depending on how many files you have and how they're organized, it might be a lot of work to always browse to each particular file you need. To save time and effort, use the search box to search for files.

The search box is located at the top of every window. To search for a file, open a folder as a starting point for your search, tap or click the search box, then start entering your search term. The search box filters the current view based on the text you enter. Files are displayed as search results if your search term matches the file's name, tags or other properties, or even the text inside a document. For more information about searching in File Explorer, see Searching for files in File Explorer.

Creating a new folder

You can create folders to help organise your files. You can even create folders within folders (sometimes called subfolders).

  • Tap or click the Home tab, then tap or click New folder.

Printing a document

You can often print files directly from File Explorer, but it's best to open the file you want to print in an app and use the app's command for printing. This way, you can check and change print options if you need to. If you can't find the print command in the app you're using, try pressing Ctrl+P.

Creating or deleting a file

The most common way to create new files is by using an application. For example, you can create a letter in a word-processing application or a movie file in a video-editing application. By default, most apps save files in common folders like Pictures and Music, which makes it easier to find the files again next time.

When you no longer need a file, you can remove it from your PC to save space and to keep your PC from getting cluttered with files you don't need. To delete a file, find the file and then select it. Tap or click the Home tab, then tap or click Delete.

When you delete a file, it’s moved to the Recycle Bin, where it's stored temporarily. Think of the Recycle Bin as a safety net that allows you to recover files or folders you might have accidentally deleted. To open the Recycle Bin in File Explorer, enter Recycle Bin in the address bar. Occasionally, you should empty the Recycle Bin to reclaim all the storage space being used by files you no longer need. To empty the Recycle Bin, right-click or press and hold it, and then tap or click Empty Recycle Bin.

Opening an existing file

To open a file, double-tap or double-click it. The file will usually open in the application you used to create or edit it. For example, a text file will open in your word-processing application. If you want to open a file in a different application to the one you usually use, select the file, tap or click the Home tab, tap or click the arrow next to Open, then choose the application you want to use.

Burning a CD or DVD

If you have a CD or DVD burner on your PC, you can burn discs using Windows Media Player. For more information, see Burning a CD or DVD in Windows Media Player. Note that Windows Media Player isn't included in Windows RT 8.1.

Renaming a file or folder

To rename a file or folder, select it in the file list, tap or click the Home tab, then tap or click Rename.


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