A closer look at File Explorer's new dark mode in Windows 10

Microsoft is debuting a brand new dark theme for File Explorer with its upcoming Windows 10 feature update, codenamed Redstone 5 and scheduled for release in October. It's not often that you see File Explorer receive any new features or changes, the last notable one was when Microsoft added the Ribbon UI to it back in 2012{.nofollow}. So the introduction of a new dark theme for File Explorer is a pretty big deal — let's take a closer look and see how it is.

Just like most apps on Windows 10, enabling the dark theme for File Explorer is done through the system-wide dark mode toggle within the Settings app on Windows 10. Once enabled, File Explorer seamlessly switches into dark mode, which blackens out the title bar and tabs, and gives the rest of the UI a dark gray tone, which is super easy on the eyes.

Even the context menus within the File Explorer and on the desktop have received dark mode treatment, which makes these legacy context menus appear more consistent alongside the modern context menus found in UWP apps when dark mode is enabled. It's pretty awesome and is something I've been asking for since Windows 10 first launched back in 2015.

It's not all good news

On the surface, dark mode within File Explorer is really cool. It looks good and functions well. However, when you start to dig a little deeper, things aren't so peachy. For example, other than the File Explorer itself, none of the popups or related dialogs have been themed to match the dark mode. That means when you copy and paste or view the properties of a file, you're thrown back into a UI that's blindingly white in nature.

I've also noticed a few bugs when dark mode is enabled, sometimes it doesn't fully enable in the File Explorer when opening it up, leaving for some elements remaining white while the rest of it is dark. There's also a minor UI issue going back from legacy Control Panel to File Explorer, which will see white flashes when switching between folders and sidebar dividers remain white instead of switching back to dark.

And then there are other Explorer windows such as the legacy Control Panel itself, which appear to be half themed with some UI elements featuring dark mode and others not. I know Microsoft is slowly phasing out the Control Panel and related legacy Explorer windows, but they aren't gone yet. So it's important they at least look finished.

Of course, there's still several weeks of development time left before this update is finalized, so these issues could still be ironed out before then. However, Microsoft has announced that its dark mode in File Explorer is pretty much done at this point, so expecting any considerable changes to how it behaves across different windows is likely not going to happen for this release.

Other than those small issues, the dark mode in File Explorer looks excellent, and is exactly what I've been hoping for within Windows 10. When you aren't surfaced with a white popup dialog, the dark mode UI looks and feels complete, and it's great to see Microsoft focusing on at least trying to make its light/dark modes consistent across apps, even if they are legacy.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter and Threads