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Video: Tweak Windows Explorer to open in a specific directory

If you regularly use Windows Explorer to manipulate files, you might be tired of the way it opens the My Documents by default. In this video, Bill Detwiler demonstrates a simple tweak that will make Windows Explorer open in any directory that you choose.

If you're running Windows XP or Vista and you regularly use Windows Explorer to manipulate files, you might be tired of the way it opens the My Documents by default. In this video, I'll show you a simple tweak that will make Windows Explorer open in any directory that you choose.

For those of you who prefer text to video, you can click the Transcript link that appears below the video player window or you can also read Mark Kaelin's article, "How do I ... tweak Windows Explorer to open in a directory of my choosing?" on which this video is based.

You can also sign up to receive the latest IT Dojo lessons through one or more of the following methods:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

76 comments
FL-Jan
FL-Jan

Thank you! I'd not figured out how to get Vista to do this to date. It works perfectly!

dstreifling
dstreifling

You just made my life a little easier. Thank you!

thomsonk
thomsonk

I've been fiddling with this off and on for some time, and have never got it to work! I'm very happy to finally know how to do this. Thanks all.

muhegde
muhegde

another quick way is to create a shortcut in the mydocuments folder of the folders which you need to access frequently. In this case the working folder

jerichozil
jerichozil

explore to all your needed directories. once seeing the desired directory, right click it and press the "send shortcut to desktop". Now manage your shortcuts as you like and here you go!!! you have your own fast access manu to all your desired locations on your drive sphere"

abnranger76
abnranger76

Bill, I am running Vista Ultimate 64 SP1, I had to put a space after,\explorer.exe before starting with the forward slash switches. Vista threw a tantrum with out it.

chmdavis
chmdavis

Great idea. Problem is I can't get it to work on my Vista 64 system. Followed directions. Tried everything. Simply will not work. Sometimes opens at Desktop, sometimes in my named user folder, never where I want it to.

phil
phil

This does not work

ceji
ceji

This was gold, thanks I love you

foxkat
foxkat

I once asked a forum how to change the directory that Right-Click Start, Explore opened into (instead of the "C:\Documents and Settings\UserName\Start Menu" folder) and someone wrote a very small registry hack for me. I wanted the choice to open in the root of C (C:\), and their hack worked perfectly. I have long since lost that hack and would love to implement it on other PCs. Is anyone willing to give it a try?

IndianaTux
IndianaTux

Create a new toolbar and point it to the My Computer folder. Right-click the taskbar and uncheck the option Lock Taskbar. Then, drag the new My Computer toolbar to the desktop, but do not drag it to the top, sides, or bottom unless you prefer to have it docked. Resize and position on the desktop as desired, away from the edges. This will give you quick, one-click access to all of your fixed, removeable, and mapped drives, along with the Control Panel, right from the desktop, along with the option to right-click and select Explore for each drive. Removeable USB drives appear when mounted, which can be very handy for using the Safely Remove Hardware applet when you can't remember which USB drive has been assigned which letter. Tested in XP SP3 only. Have not tried in Vista yet. Hope this helps, IndianaTux

benroberts
benroberts

Very helpful Bill, I don't know how long I've been waiting for this tweak! I implemented it on my machine immediately!

fullerwe
fullerwe

Another excellent tip that is now working perfectly for me.... thank you.

cinesport
cinesport

Thanks Bill. I have XP-SP-2 and I keep getting an error message when I hit the "Apply" button..."Name specified in Target box is not valid.Make sure path and file name are correct>" I doubled checked the location of my "Explorer.exe" and the file directory that I wanted to go to and everything is correct. Is there a typo in your video or am I doing something wrong. Also, closely related to this thread, what I would really want to eliminate when opening explorer is the info panel to the left of the explorer window. I know that if I narrow the window width enough, the left hand pane will disappear. I would permanently like to have it not come up. In Xp it is blue. In Win 2000 it is different but relentless in wasting my screen real estate.

sjcoil
sjcoil

Kudos, Much appreciated the tip!

anysia
anysia

It's a lot better than being opened in the documents directory. I like this, what how would I get it to show "My Computer" with all the drives visible?

John_DWH
John_DWH

Nice tweak! Although I previously right-clicked the START to get to Explorer, after making the changes to the outlined shortcut, I just copied it and pasted it to the desktop, then dragged it to the Quick Launch area on the TaskBar. Now instead of right-clicking START, I click the icon in the Quick Launch. BTW, dragging the shortcut to the Quick Launch area only copies the shortcut, leaving the shortcut on the desktop. If you delete it, the Quick Launch icon disappears too. So I just dragged the desktop shortcut to the "Unused Desktop Shortcuts" folder. Now it's out of sight and the Quick Launch icon works just fine.

JyrkiAr
JyrkiAr

Nice one -though i would like to see how this behaviour could be added to windows+e keyboard shortcut i mainly use. =/

amoltupe
amoltupe

Hi This was very useful post. Usually I Use following method to open win-explorer :- 1.Right click on 'Start' button 2. from list of options select 'Explorer' Is there any way to Tweak this (Start button) short-cut of Win-Explorer?

toni.sarabadu
toni.sarabadu

I found the Dojo really helpful as I have been trying to figure this out for sometime. However I would like WE to default to My Computer as My Documents is redirected to our server so when I take my laptop offsite I always get an error message when first open Windows Explorer. Can anyone help please?

chmdavis
chmdavis

Thanks. Did that. Still comes up in Desktop, not the folder of choice.

seanferd
seanferd

You must be doing something wrong or you don't have the permissions. Post your command, someone will work it out.

seanferd
seanferd

It is there to manage the Start Menu. However, you can add an Explore C to that context menu without breaking anything. -.begin.- Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shell\Explore C] [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shell\Explore C\Command] @="explorer.exe /e ,/root,C:" -.end.- Copy what is between the begin and end markers, and paste into a text file, then save it. Rename the .txt extension to .reg. Right-click the file, select Merge. As you see it is very simple in form, so you should have no trouble renaming the menu entry from "Explore C" to whatever you like. You may also wish to change the explorer.exe command line switches to suit your needs. For example, the command in thr reg entry opens C: as the root, you only see C: and subfolders. If you want to see the root in the normal namespace, but have C: selected and opened: explorer.exe /e ,C: Here's a decent reference: http://www.infocellar.com/Win98/explorer-switches.htm Don't be fooled by the "Win98" in the URL, it covers 95-XP. More advanced stuff: http://www.mydigitallife.info/2009/02/07/command-line-switches-to-display-special-objects-or-folders-when-opening-windows-explorer/

seanferd
seanferd

and the text transcript.

ess
ess

Ok so you've created a shortcut on the Quick Launch Toolbar and positioned it exactly where on the tool bar you want it. Then Windows suddenly rearranges your icons in sort order so you end up moving them back to where you had them. Solution is to rename the short cut with a number, for example... All folder shortcuts are # 31 31 C drive 31 D drive 31 E drive I start with 00 and end with 99 Browser icons are # 10 10 IE7 10 Firefox 10 Google Chrome Frequently used are low numbered starting at 00. Utilities are # 40-45 for example. Icons below 50 are universal to all systems and can be copied to all systems. Icons above 50 are specific to that machine. This numbering system allows you to group icons on the quick launch toolbar and fix their position as well. You can easily rename the QL TB shortcuts by right clicking the QL task bar area and select "Open Folder" Then simply rename the shortcuts with leading numbers. Now all your systems can have the same QL TB layout. BTW you can apply the number system to your desktop icons as well. HTH

RaymondJM4
RaymondJM4

Open a folder Select the tools menu Then select Folder options Select the windows calsic radial button then select OK

seanferd
seanferd

The Desktop is usually the default namespace.

IndianaTux
IndianaTux

I take this a little further on my laptop at work. I've been using it this way for a while now and it works great for me. I have a custom toolbar (created from a folder with shortcuts to my most-used apps, show title selected, not showing text) docked at the bottom next to quick launch which I still use for show desktop, IE & Outlook. I copied the WE shortcut to the desktop, edited the target the same way Bill outlined, then dragged this shortcut to my custom toolbar and voila! I now have access to my network folder, along with all my other folders and mapped drives, in one click, with no need to right-click the Start button and select Explore.

RPip
RPip

I think by dragging a shortcut from the desktop to the QuickLaunch toolbar, you are making a 'shortcut to a shortcut'. That's why it disappears if you delete the original from the desktop. Try right-clicking and dragging the icon, then choose Copy. Then you can dump the original.

rstaton
rstaton

What kind of IT ninja clicks on Start and then Program Files and then Accessories and then Explorer when there is a keyboard shortcut??

seanferd
seanferd

Right-click desktop > New > Shortcut Type explorer.exe with appropriate switches for your target folder Type a name, click Finish. Right-click your new shortcut, > Properties Place cursor in Shortcut Key box, choose your key As long as that shorcut is on the Desktop, or in the root of the Start Menu, the CTRL+ALT+(yourkey) will open Explorer as you have chosen. Quick Tip: Control Windows Explorer with command line switches http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878_11-1039592.html OR Winkey + number key = pinned item on start menu, I believe.

blarman
blarman

Yes, please. The Windows+E is so much faster than even a double-click on a desktop icon... A registry hack, maybe?

brian
brian

I would also like to know how to apply this to the [windows]+e shortcut

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

Right click My Computer, choose Explore, voila! If you set up the shortcut option, it does NOT propagate to other ways of launching Explorer. Windows + e still opens to My Computer view and Start button method finds the actual start menu in the c:\Documents and Settings\Username location. So I'm guessing a registry hack may be required to change all methods. Just be careful to choose a location that will always be available. Networks can and will go offline, portable/removable drives are just that...removable, so they may not be there all the time. I personally think that double clicking is much quicker than right click, search menu, find option, left click on option method. AND you can customize the shortcut with different icons, change the location it goes to, copy it to another desktop, heaps more customization options. Copy it to the quick launch toolbar and then it's only a single click...can't get quicker than that!

seanferd
seanferd

How are you opening Explorer? Start menu shortcut?

seanferd
seanferd

locking the taskbar, and turning off Auto Arrange and Arrange Icons By

IndianaTux
IndianaTux

I create a custom folder and place my shortcuts there, then create a new toolbar on the taskbar. The icons will always be arranged in the order you set them. I've never had an issue wiht XP SP2 or SP3 rearranging them on a custom toolbar.

ess
ess

As a matter of good practice it's suggested to never edit the original. Right click the selected shortcut and select "Create Shortcut". That will create a copy of the shortcut, but numbered in the same menu tree. Windows Explorer (2) When you drag and drop from the "Start Menu" shortcuts are moved not copied. Create the shortcut copy first then move/edit as desired. HTH

anysia
anysia

No kidding, really? Hully gee. (sarcasm off) There are times I have so many windows opened full screen it would be quicker to use the Start/Programs menu.

markg
markg

Aw, shucks. You really mean that there is no reg hack to edit the control of W + E? It is one of my most used key combos, and I like it.

seanferd
seanferd

rather than Open and save yourself a click. In Explorer: Tools > Folder Options > File Types, select Folder > explore > Set Default > OK

seanferd
seanferd

Leave the shortcut in the root of the Start Menu, or the Programs menu. Assign a hotkey to the shortcut. (Ctrl+Alt+whatever). If you want more than one Explorer shortcut that opens in a different place, just call it Explorer2, or whatever you like. I don't know that there is a shortcut to the QuickLaunch, and shortcut keys assigned to shortcuts in QuickLaunch don't work, that I know of. Winkey shortcuts http://www.activewin.com/tips/desk_tips_10.shtml For a list of other standard shortcut keys, type shortcut keys into the Windows Help search box. See "Specify shortcut keys" and "Windows keyboard shortcuts overview". If you really are into mouse avoidance, and want to further customize your keyboard, check this out: http://www.autohotkey.com/

markg
markg

Thanks for the justification! Okay, so I put a copy of the WE icon from the start menu on my Quick Launch toolbar that goes to my documents. Now, is there a keystroke shortcut to get to the icons in the Quick Launch tool bar?? (Notice my trend to avoid the mouse?)

seanferd
seanferd

The only ways to change explorer behavior in the reg for this situation will break all sorts of stuff. Winkey behavior itself is not stored in the registry.

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