How to enable the hidden, touch-friendly File Explorer in Windows 10

Although a lot of things have been changing on Windows 10, users continue to browse and manage content on their PCs using File Explorer the same way they have for more than a decade.

In part, that's because File Explorer is one of those features that Microsoft has been cautious not to change drastically to preserve a familiar navigation experience and avoid making users relearn how to move around the OS.

However, starting with the Creators update, Windows 10 includes a new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app for File Explorer, which is identical to the version found in Windows 10 Mobile. It's not a full-featured experience like the classic File Explorer, but it includes most of the basic functionalities for browsing and managing files and folders.

This hidden gem was discovered by Google+ user Pravin Vibhute and then spotted by OnMSFT. You can give it a try with a simple workaround.

In this Windows 10 guide, we walk you through the steps to access the hidden touch-friendly version of File Explorer on your PC.

How to enable the touch-friendly version of File Explorer

If you're running the Windows 10 Creators Update (version 1703), you can use these steps to use the new version of File Explorer:

  1. Right-click the desktop, select new, and then click Shortcut.

  1. Copy and paste the following command, and then paste it in the shortcut wizard:explorer shell:AppsFolder\c5e2524a-ea46-4f67-841f-6a9465d9d515_cw5n1h2txyewy!App
  2. Click Next.

  1. Type a name for the shortcut (for example, Explorer UWP).
  2. Click Finish.

Once you complete the steps, simply double-click the shortcut to launch the touch-friendly version of File Explorer. It will even change colors when switching your system to the dark theme.

While it might seem limited compared to the classic desktop version, this new app includes most of the basic functionality you need. For example, on the touch-optimized version of File Explorer, you can:

  • Browse any drive connected to your computer.
  • Sort content by name, date, and size.
  • Change views (list and tile).
  • Search files and folders.

  • Create new folders.
  • Copy, move, delete, and share files and folders.
  • Rename files and folders.
  • See files and folders properties and ownership.

Wrapping things up

While the new touch-friendly version of the File Explorer app works, for the most part, it lacks a lot of features included with the classic version, and because it's not an "official" product, you may come across bugs and other errors.

And by using these steps, you're not replacing the old File Explorer. The shortcut you create is to interact with a completely different experience, and they can both run at the same time.

More Windows 10 resources

For more help articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10, visit the following resources:

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

86 Comments
  • Very cool find, looking forward to checking this out. Thanks!!
  • I tried it a few days ago already. (dot)exe applications don't launch from the UWP FileExplorer. Photos, videos, songs are all fine. Crashes once in a while (expected). Detects external hard drives and pen drives just fine! 🙂
  • Files&Folders Pro is UWP app and can launch .exe 
  • And also has cloud support. The built-in UWP app is so limited, I couldn’t imagine using it as my daily file manager
  • Abhi, to correct you it detects SOME external drives, but only USB/E-SATA drives. Since most external drives for touch devices (ie. portable and mobile devices) are going to be using Ethernet to connect, this fails badly. OK, so you can use the standard file explorer, but that's hard on my 8 inch tablet and impossible on my phone. Why this extremely basic feature has been left out (since this is release, not beta, for mobile) I have no clue, but the result is you can ONLY use this to access the few files you've manually uploaded to internal storage on your device unless you want to carry an external HDD in your pocket. MS has piddled about for years not sorting this core issue so don't expect an update. Yuki Explorer does do network files and works with Continuum, but I can't find another that does both and Yuki isn't the greatest UX out there, but it is the only one I can find that covers the essentials.
  • I would guess that's why it's still hidden in the os while they improve it
  • Finally, we have the confirmation that Microsoft is working on a new File Explorer.
  • No, it's just the file explorer from mobile.
  • it the uwp from mobile not really good on pc
  • Not really good on mobile either. There are better file managers in the store.
  • If you can let me know of one of these better ones, that supports both Continuum and network drive access, then I will be very interested. All I have is Yuki Explorer and the UX for that is not great.
  • Sorry, I don't use Continuum, so no idea.
  • This file explorer was available month ago on insider builds. And they haven't changed anything since the explorer launched for Windows Mobile.
  • Absolutely. I'm desperate for an update to access network drives but MS just piddle about for a couple of years before cancelling stuff and starting again. My expectations are not high anymore so we just have to wait for a better option from others. Unfortunately only Yuki Explorer does both Continuum and network drives and disappointingly Yuki isn't the greatest user experience.
  • And why exactly do we need a new File Explorer, when the old one is perfectly fine, only minor spacing tweak needed to make it more touch friedly, just like the ribbon in Office;
  • Needs tabs as well, we've been waiting on that for a decade.
  • Clover is your friend.
  • Whilst I do like my buttered toast, how will buttering my tablet with Clover help?
  • Clover is very slow. It just makes the PC lag a lot.
  • I think there was an article a while ago that stated they are working on that
  • The minor spacing changes in the traditional version are already there in touch mode, and on an 8 inch screen they help very little. Your fingers may be tiny, but for average sized adults this is not good enough at all. A touch app is necessary for most of us on small touch devices. And what about mobile devices? The traditional version will never be practical for those. I can't see your approach of using the traditional version, John, is viable for people with a more average build.
  • Because the ribbon principle is FROM HELL
  • Nice. Until they release it i will stick to files & folders.
  • So the things that this app can't do are?
  • Cannot launch .exe files
  • Can't use clipboard (It uses that pathetic copyto moveto nonsense), can't copy path, can't enter path, can't map network drives, there's no open with option, no context menu addons, can't format drives, can't create shortcuts (.lnk files), can't edit metadata for files, such as music, can't pin favourite commands to title bar, can't edit icons... just a few features of the top of my head.
    It's a disgrace even on a phone and it hasn't been touched sicne the launch of WIndows 10 Mobile.
  • In other words, it can't do anything.
  • You can look at your local files (but not run them) and copy them locally. Problem is, on your small touch devices most of your files will be off-device on a network share. So, the devices this is supposed to cover it helps the least.
  • But Files&Folders Pro do it.
  • What's the point then. I'll stick with the good old faithful.
  • So you can use your fat fingers, you know, "nature's pointing device." Jobs was such a blowhard it still makes me sick.
  • It's HIDDEN people! They didn't even expose this to consumers, someone found it. No one at MS is saying to use it. It would be reasonable to assume that since they've added it to desktop windows that they intend to improve it before making it truly visible.
  • F&F does not seem to support both network drives and Continuum. I tried a fair few file managers and I'm sure I tried that one. Only Yuki Explorer seems to cover the bases but that's got an awkward UX.
  • We will add these features 
  • I sure hope they don't replace File Explorer with such limited POS. Only thing needed to make File Explorer fully touch friendly is a more spacious ribbon when in Tablet mode. Every other aspects (including menus) are touch-friendly enough already.
  • Exactly, It's severely limited even on a phone, when compared to Android's File Managers, or even a decade old File Explorer on Windows Mobile 6.5 Pro... It'll take years efore it's at least half as usable as Win32 version.
  • Completely agree; its another stupid move by Microsoft; just like the whole Settings app, which since Windows 8 still only has half all the settings Control Panel had, but now Microsoft in all their wisdom started removing setting from Control Panel, so now you have to juggle between the Stupid Settings app and Control Panel if you want to change anything; in other words a complete unfinished mess just like most of Windows 10. And now the morons at Microsoft want to do the same for File Explorer??? Good luck with that, how many years is it gonna be in a state of complete mess before you finish the process of transition with the half bakes File Explorer 'app'.
  • A stupid move that involves trying something out internally. Burying it so users hopefully can't find it? Relax.
  • No indication that they intend to do anything of the sort. This is the same file explorer that's in Mobile, which we would expect to also run on desktop Windows.
  • No. Try it on an 8 inch tablet. Awful, even with the extra spacing. And if you think it could ever work on mobile you're very wrong.
  • Deleted - after trying this out, I see what a load of rubbish it is compared to the regular file explorer
  • "However, starting with the Creators update, Windows 10 includes a new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app for File Explorer" Creator's Update? It's been there since 14936... Why are all the news site reporting this as something new?
    https://www.onmsft.com/news/here-is-how-to-open-the-holograms-app-and-th... http://winaero.com/blog/how-to-launch-the-universal-file-explorer-app-in...
  • Yeah, well I had to go to another site to learn about the patch release for the mess that CU made on mobile. Article about it here showed up later.
  • WC has been making it clear they're moving focus away from mobile. Problem is, the users are not. I suspect they'll gently encourage mobile users to look elsewhere by dropping news a little after other more mobile focussed sites from now on.
  • It's limited and I wouldn't use it but still a cool find
  • Sweeeet
  • this is really useful I always struggle only to open a file...
  • I have a huge problem with the lack of a "list" view. I am a visual learner and my brain has a tough time using a "tree" from left to right. This app is very similar to the OneDrive app, and that too has no list view. There should be an option to list from A-Z top to bottom NOT left to right, AND a way to split the view to drag files and folders across the screen. Like the "details" view in current file manager. The folders view in Photos App also does not have a list view, drives me insane.
  • Universal app, Windows 10 (Neon) look, etc don't mean a thing if you are losing functionality, which you are with this app. The old (and so much more useful) File Explorer will still be my explorer till they can match the functionality on the new app. For mobile, it is okay. But there are other better options on mobile as well, E.g. Metro File Manager, Pocket File Manager, Metro Commander, Total Commander etc.
  • Metro Commander Pro can launch .exe unlike another UWP apps
  • Looks like XBOX version
  • UWP so yeah  
  • i think it is, or the mobile version, or the xbox one is based off the windows/mobile version
  • Finally its about time! Hopefully it will eventually have split windows and other advanced features.
  • Another watered down mess of a previously great user interface. Same as the mess that is the Settings 'app' instead of Control Panel which had all the setting, not just some, and a lot better interface for power users that want quick easy access to all Windows setting without stupidly designed touch capable menus that have five things on each page and you need to go through countless windows to set up anything.
  • Yes, this is super annoying. You know what else sucks is wireless network management. I almost punched a hole through the wall trying to figure out how to change a wireless network password.
  • But this is not the final product of the new file explorer, hence it's hidden meaning that Microsoft is still working on it... It's too early to judge it right now.
  • And the Settings app is final products? Its half done yet already released and its a huge mess jumping between setting app and control panel.
  • Don't even get me started on network setup; you have to do crap through cmd that in Win7 had a user interface, WTF Microsoft;
  • I'll put it on my tablet if I get a chance...with a keyboard and mouse I dont see a big use for it
  • For the full version I would much appreciate tabs in file explorer.
  • Its cool as a concept but needs much work: details view, choose aditional columns for ex modification date so you can sort by modification date, open with, preview panel, 7zip integration
  • This is most definitely the "File Explorer" used in Windows 10 Mobile. Considering Windows 10 Mobile is basically the same architecture as Windows 10 on PCs, doesn't surprise me that the PC version has it locked up somewhere. :P Cool find. Definitely like how it adapts to the dark theme. Hopefully Microsoft develops this into the full File Explorer down the road.
  • nice tip! thx
    would be nice to have libraries tough :)
  • That is good. What about tabbed shell?
  • How get rid of the Recent option in W10M
  • You can't.
  • Yea you cant clear it per se, but opening other random files should overwrite the recent files if you want to cover up something ;)
  • Best tip of the year. So useful on smaller tablets...
  • At first, I was disappointed that there doesn't seem to be a way to access network shares, but if you a shortcut to the network location, you can browse it's content using this touch-based explorer.
  • Would be nice if you could set this version to be used when in tablet mode, and the classic to be used in desktop.
  • This is great for Tablet use. Always downloaded third party apps and found that each had its own problems in a way.
  • I don't know if any of you guys have updated your W10M apps recently but Project NEON is already present in some apps. It's most visible in Maps. It's also now available in Movies & TV and Groove but only the most boring parts of NEON got carried over - specifically the illuminating lines when you hover over a selection in the hamburger menu.
  • Interesting that if you attempt to add this shortcut to the All Apps list on the Start menu, then it's suppressed from being displayed.
  • Works fantastic on my win 10 Lenovo tablet. Thanks
  • neat!
  • Not bringing any serious versatile usability to the table.
  • I saw this app on the XBOX after the creators update
  • But why do you need special touch-friendly explorer if the old one works with touch as well. It has since Windows 7. MSF is forcing those flat things on the interface to cover up the fact that the old one works with touch as well. To make it easier, they just need to readjust size of "touchy" elements, mostly size of the fonts. That's all. No square boring colors boxes anymore.
  • because the old one isnt UWP and cant be updated through the store. Same as what theyre doing with control panel -> settings app.
  • As someone who uses a very high resolution 8" tablet, I can tell you the old one does NOT work very well with touch. Sure, it works, but it doesn't scale properly worth garbage. This will be highly valuable to me when using my tablet.
  • Hm, OK, then why not make it fully functional, as the old one?
  • another find, one can not start from this new file manager some exe files. It is part of the "new world" where only uwp will be usable, Windows S.
  • My guess is that this was hidden simply as it wasn't finished for the CU release, I would imagine this will be part of Redstone 3.
  • This is just like the one on xbox, i was really surprised to find that, and that it fully works with usbs, they really werent kidding about making everything built on the windows platform
  • Thanks for the tip! Then right click and pin to taskbar and delete from desktop if you don't like folders on your desktop, like me!