How to tweak File Explorer and customize your Windows experience

windows 8 ribbon

Microsoft's File Explorer may not be the most exciting utility on your Windows desktop, but you still have to rely on it every day to move, open, and search for files, or to quickly check out your free disk space.

But how many of us bother to spend a few minutes to get File Explorer to work exactly how we'd like it? I'm guessing not many, so let's change that by getting into the "advanced basics" of File Explorer tweaking.

The view from here

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The View options offer numerous ways to customize File Explorer behavior.

These tweaks are going to be all about the customizations found under the View menu. To get started in Windows 8, go to View > Options and from the drop down menu select "Change folder and search options."

This opens a new pop-up window called Folder Options that hosts a veritable treasure trove of ways to tailor File Explorer. The majority of the tweaking will be under the General and View tabs, although there are a few options under the Search tab that are pretty straightforward for anyone who's interested in improving how their PC searches for files.

Taking a look at the General and View tabs it becomes immediately obvious that there are numerous options you can choose from, so where to start?

Here are three recommendations.

Dump the favorites

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If you don't like to use it, just get rid of the Favorites option in File Explorer's navigation pane.

Some people like it, but others don't have much use for the favorites section in File Explorer's left-hand navigation pane. To get rid of favorites, open the General tab and then, under the Navigation pane section, uncheck Show favorites. Next, click Apply at the bottom of the window and you're all set.

After your favorites disappear, OneDrive will be at the top of the File Explorer navigation pane in Windows 8.1.

If you're a heavy Dropbox user, keep in mind that dumping your favorites will remove the Dropbox link from the File Explorer navigation pane. To access your Dropbox folder you'll either have to click on the Dropbox icon in your taskbar's system tray or navigate to C: > Users > [USERNAME] > Dropbox.

Find your path

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It's handy to see the full path in the File Explorer window. 

I like to know exactly where I am at all times when navigating my file system. To make that easier, I put the file path of the current folder or file I'm viewing at the top of my File Explorer window.

To do this open the View tab and then go to Advanced settings > Files and Folders and check the box next to "Display the pull path in the title bar-OFF." This will change "OFF" to "ON."

Finally, click Apply at the bottom of the window.

Single click FTW

click

If you just can't stand double clicking, give the single-click option a try.

If you don't like double clicking to open a file or folder, you can change that behavior to a single click. Under the General tab, find the section entitled "Click items as follows" and then select the radio button next to "Single-click to open an item (point to select)."

By default, Windows will then underline everything you see in File Explorer. This is supposed to be some kind of reminder that you only need to single-click items from now on, but it sure is ugly. As such, consider clicking the radio button in the same section that says "Underline icon titles only when I point at them." 

Next, click Apply once again and say goodbye to all that repetitive clicking.

Keep digging!

Don't stop there, though. These just scratch the surface of what's waiting to be explored in the Folder Options window.

And remember, it's pretty hard to hurt anything by playing around with these view options. But what do you do if you get to a point where you've gone too far with your tweaks? Just click the Restore Defaults button to get back to the untweaked version of File Explorer and start all over again.

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