Managing Windows Explorer

Using Windows Explorer

The manner in which Windows Explorer displays its information depends on the method you use to start it. As an example, if you right-click on My Computer and select “Explore” the Windows Explorer window will open with “My Computer” highlighted. The same will happen if you use the Windows shortcut Win-E (holding the Windows key while pressing “E”). On the other hand, if you go to the Start menu and click Start | Programs | Windows Explorer, it will open up with the C: drive highlighted and already expanded (presuming the default options are unchanged).

We’ve been asked many time why this happens, and if there are ways to manipulate how Windows Explorer opens and which directories or folders are opened by default.

Let’s begin with the basics. Windows Explorer relies on a specific program to open these various folder windows, and it does have command line parameters that can be used to control its behavior when started.

This specific program is c:\windows\explorer.exe and the parameters or syntax and command format are as follows:

explorer.exe [/n,] [/e,] [options] [folder]

Where: /n – The /n switch causes Explorer to open a new window. This is not normally used, and is only if you choose to start Explorer from within Explorer. /e – The /e switch opens a specified folder in an expanded view. options – you have two choices here: /root – Specifies that the topmost folder in the new explorer window should be the folder specified immediately after this option. /select – Shows the folder specified’s parent folder folder – Causes Explorer open a folder of choice, such as C:\, which is the root of your hard drive, or d:\myfiles\letters, which would be the “letters” sub-folder of “myfiles”.

Now that you have the basics, you can modify how Windows Explorer opens regardless of whether you change the Start | Programs | Windows Explorer or create specific Windows Explorer shortcuts to your favorite folders! If you open the shortcut properties for the default installation of the Windows Explorer entry on the Start menu, you’ll see that it has been set as:

C:\WINDOWS\EXPLORER.EXE /n,/e,C:\

Beyond the Basics

Let’s say that you have some documents you work on constantly in d:\myfiles\projects\docs, and in order to access that folder in Windows Explorer you have to constantly open an explorer window, then drill down to that folder to view the list of documents.

You can easily create a Windows Explorer desktop shortcut by just right-clicking on the desktop, and then selecting New | Shortcut). For this example, the syntax for the command line (target) would be:

c:\windows\explorer.exe /e,/root,d:\myfiles\projects\docs

For a shortcut name, enter whatever you feel comfortable with, as an example “Project Documents”. Now when you double-click the shortcut icon, an Explorer window will open directly to your project/documents folder with the folder contents displayed in the right-hand Explorer window pane.

Opening the Default Windows Explorer Shortcut Properties

Not sure how to access the default Windows Explorer shortcut properties?

  1. Right-click the Start button, then select (click) Open.
  2. Now double-click Programs.
  3. Now right-click on the Windows Explorer shortcut icon and select Properties.

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