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A guide to the new File Explorer changes

There are a lot of changes in the Windows 11 2022 Update, which you may also know as Windows 11 version 22H2. This is the first major update to Windows 11 since it debuted in October 2021, and there are many improvements to various aspects of the experience. One of these is File Explorer, a core part of Windows. The Windows 11 2022 update brings some design changes and new features to the File Explorer, both at launch and in future updates.

Indeed, with the Windows 11 2022 Update, Microsoft is also introducing a new cadence of minor updates, so a few changes to File Explorer are scheduled for an October update. That includes tabs (similar to what you’d find in a web browser) and a few more design tweaks. These changes are already available to Windows Insiders in the beta channel, so we’re going to cover them all here. We’re going to break them down into what’s new at launch and what’s coming later. Let’s start.

What’s new in File Explorer in the Windows 11 2022 Update

We’ll start with the changes in File Explorer that you can now take advantage of in the Windows 11 2022 update. This is a relatively small set of improvements, but there are still some notable changes to point out.

A new home page

With the Windows 11 2022 Update, the default page for File Explorer changes. What was previously called Quick Access has now been renamed Home, and the page itself has undergone a few changes. At the top there is a Quick Access section, where you can see your pinned folders, as well as the folders you open most often.

Explorer home page in Windows 11 2022 Update

Below that there is a section for pinned files, which is a new addition. If you have files that you often want to work with, you can pin them to the home page so that you can quickly access them when you need to. Below that, as before, you’ll see a list of recent files, including recent files from OneDrive and any SharePoint servers you may have access to.

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You will also notice a new filter option in the File Explorer toolbar on this new home page. You can now easily filter by different types of documents, such as Word, Excel or PDF files, so you can quickly find what you are looking for.

New context menu options

The modern context menu in Windows 11 tried to simplify things, as the classic context menu had a lot of options that are not often used. Initially, however, some important ones were missing and Microsoft is addressing that in this update.

For starters, if you have a supporting font file, you can now create a to install option directly in the File Explorer context menu. This also applies to certificates (.cer) and system information (.inf) files, so installing these types of files is now much easier.

Explorer context menu with option to install a font

In addition, in the This PC section of the File Explorer, the context menu that appears when you right-click an empty area of ​​the window now contains an option to map a network drive. You can also right-click on an existing network drive to make it easier to disconnect.

File Explorer context menu in This PC, with option to add a network location

On the desktop, Microsoft has also enabled the modern context menu for the Recycle Bin.

Modern context menu for Recycle Bin in the Windows 11 2022 Update

Even if these additions aren’t enough to make the modern context menu appealing to you, you can now access the classic context menu more easily. You can hold down Shift on your keyboard while right-clicking to go straight to the classic menu without seeing the modern menu.

OneDrive storage

Finally, another update you might like in File Explorer has to do with OneDrive specifically. Now when you open your OneDrive folder, you will see a OneDrive icon in the toolbar. Clicking it will show you how much of your cloud storage limit you are using and how much you have left.

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OneDrive folder with storage flyout in File Explorer

What’s coming to File Explorer later in the Windows 11 2022 Update

As we mentioned above, some changes are coming to the file explorer and there will be another update later in October. One is support for tabs, something that has been in high demand for a few years now.

File Explorer Tabs

We’re going to get started right away – the file explorer is finally getting support for tabs, similar to what you’re used to in your browser. When the update rolls out with this change, you’ll notice it right away when you first launch File Explorer. Once you open it, you will see that there is a tab open at the top and you can click the + button to open a new tab.

Screenshot of File Explorer in Windows 11, showing three tabs at the top of the window

Just like your browser, there are also some keyboard shortcuts you can use, such as Ctrl + T to open a new tab, or Ctrl + W to close the open tab. However, not every shortcut is supported – for example, if you accidentally close a tab, you won’t be able to open it again with Ctrl + Shift + T. At least not in the current iteration.

However, some mouse functions are also supported. If you have a mouse with a scroll wheel, you can click a folder with the scroll wheel to open that folder in a new tab. You can also middle-click a tab to close it.

This is a feature that doesn’t need much explanation, but its usefulness is immediately apparent. It’s something that Microsoft has tried to implement many times in the past, and now it’s finally coming.

Reorganized Navigation Pane

A smaller, but also welcome change coming with the October update has to do with the navigation pane on the left side of FIle Explorer. Microsoft has cleaned things up and made some big changes. Now the Home section is no longer extensible and you will see both Home and OneDrive at the top of the navigation pane. Below that, you’ll see your Quick Access folders on the home page, which have their own section instead of collapsing below the home page.

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This PC folder is open in File Explorer in Windows 11 version 22H2

At the bottom of the navigation pane, you’ll see This PC and this network. The This PC folder has also been modified so that you no longer see your libraries such as documents or images. Since these folders are pinned to Quick Access by default, Microsoft removes the duplicate content and cleans up the navigation pane. However, this change also applies to the “This PC” view when you open it in File Explorer, bringing your drives and shared folders to the foreground.

This can be a little inconvenient if you accidentally detach your documents, images, or other libraries, but you can always get them back. You can find them in your OS drive by going to the Users folder and then open the folder that points to you. You’ll find several folders here, but the default libraries have special icons, so they should be easy to spot.

And that’s all there is to it with the new File Explorer in Windows 11 2022 Update. There are some big and very welcome changes here, and while not all of them are available right now, you won’t have long to wait. If you’re looking for more help with new features in the Windows 11 2022 Update, check out our guides on using touch gestures or Start menu folders in this release.



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