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With the upgrade to Windows 11, Microsoft has streamlined many of the operating system’s user interface options, including removing the command ribbon from File Explorer. While that streamlining may be appreciated by some and barely noticed by others, it is viewed with disdain by many long-time Windows 10 users.

SEE: Windows 11: Tips on installation, security and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)


For many users, that File Explorer command ribbon was a mainstay of their Windows user experience and is sorely missed. For those users we have good news: That feature can be restored. By editing the Windows 11 Registry File and applying a specific value string we can restore the classic File Explorer to Windows 11, complete with a functional ribbon of commands.

How to restore the classic File Explorer in Windows 11

Disclaimer: Editing the Windows Registry file is a serious undertaking. A corrupted Windows Registry file could render your computer inoperable, requiring a reinstallation of the Windows operating system and potential loss of data. Back up the Windows Registry file and create a valid restore point before you proceed.

Figure A shows you the Windows 11 File Explorer with the streamlined ribbon of commands highlighted. While there are a few readily available commands, most useful commands are buried behind dropdown menus or context menus.

Figure A

To restore the classic ribbon to the File Explorer interface, type “regedit” into the Windows 11 search tool and select Regedit from the search results. Using the left-hand window, navigate to this key, as shown in Figure B.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Shell Extensions

Figure B

We have to create a new key, so right-click the Shell Extensions folder and select New | Key and give it the name Blocked, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Now we must add a string value. Right-click the Blocked key you just created, and select New | String Value and then enter the following string value as its name, as shown in Figure D:
Figure D

You can now exit out of the registry file editor and restart your PC.

Now, the next time you open Windows 11 File Explorer, you will see the familiar classic ribbon of commands, as shown in Figure E.
Figure E

To return to the current default File Explorer in Windows 11, open Regedit and delete the Blocked key you created, close the editor and then restart your PC.