Microsoft is finally adding a dark mode to File Explorer on Windows 10

Windows 10's dark mode is an awesome feature that allows you to switch most apps and system elements into a darker theme, which is easier on the eyes, and, depending on your preference, looks awesome. Unfortunately, the dark mode in Windows 10 has been rather inconsistent in where it is applied; when dark mode is enabled you can find it in most system apps, a few third party apps, and a few system elements. It was always missing from the File Explorer, however.

It appears that won't be the case for much longer, as Microsoft is finally working on bringing support for dark mode to the File Explorer on Windows 10. This isn't the lightweight UWP version, either. It's the full, fat, Win32 File Explorer, and it's getting the dark mode treatment. Early references of this new dark mode can be found in the latest Redstone 5 Insider build, but it isn't fully enabled in that branch yet. Microsoft is working on this feature internally, and man does it look good!

Once ready, enabling dark mode in File Explorer is done with the system-wide toggle found in the Windows Settings app, which makes all your other apps dark too. The screenshot above is of an early version of dark mode in File Explorer, which means it'll likely change before it's finalized. Still, this early look is promising for dark mode advocates like myself. File Explorer has needed a dark mode for years, and it's finally getting one. We're unsure if Microsoft is planning to ship dark mode in File Explorer with Redstone 5, or if it'll wait for 19H1 early next year. Regardless, we know it's coming, and that's super exciting.

For those wondering about the UWP File Explorer, I'm told that it is still in the works and will show up exclusively on Windows Core OS devices at first. It'll likely be a long while before we see the UWP File Explorer replace the legacy File Explorer on classic Windows 10 SKUs such as Home or Pro, as Microsoft wants to ensure the UWP File Explorer can do everything the legacy one can before it replaces it. That process will take time, meaning UWP File Explorer will be a WCOS only thing at first.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

55 Comments
  • A first, still very appreciated step to improve file explorer. :)
  • Yaba daba dooo!!! Seemed fitting for how old that is. Finally getting some love.
  • Great, after almost 10 years we still have a fraction of the customization that we had in Windows 98, XP, and Vista. Thanks so much for my two color choices :-|
  • Dark mode, FTW!
  • Microsoft should bring the options to all of its apps...
    What is left to do now?
  • Just gimme UWP file explorer. It sucks for touch.
  • Only do not replace win32 file explorer with uwp. It would be nice to have uwp as alternative with settings which FE use in desktop mode and touch mode
  • You could get it for a while there on preview builds. Had it for a bit and liked it, but had to blow away the test system and lost it. I agree, though, keep them both. It would be annoying on a 34" curved screen desktop. Perfect on my Surface 3.
  • There are several alternative file explorers designed for touch. I develop such an app in WPF called « Immersive Explorer ». https://www.immersive-explorer.com/
  • Feedback #257 - finally accomplished the indeed!
  • Does anyone know why Set feature is missing from Settings for many users?
  • Did you hack install skip ahead build? If not then it may be part of A/B testing still. I don't have it either.
  • Recently I've got Set after last build 17650.
  • Dark mode is ace for dyslexic people like me... So easy to view rather than black on white. One reason why I'm on windows phone still and not the others. Maybe one day ios or android will catch up. And on my desktops and laptop this will help a lot.
  • Agree!! Or maybe, just maybe there will be a Windows 10 tablet with telephony small enough to fit in your pocket. My money is on that.
  • Hmm... You know it's never occurred to me before because I'm not dyslexic myself, but I wonder why there isn't a dyslexic colour filter... You know, something that would mimic those coloured gels a lot of people with dyslexia place over traditional text books... It couldn't be hard to implement, night time filters basically do it already. It is, of course, entirely possible that this already exists and I just don't know about it haha.
  • Yes! I have a diff vision issue and am on Windows phone for the exact same reason. Am tired of using high contrast mode in Windows 10 desktop to get a dark file explorer
  • Yes! I have a diff vision issue and am on Windows phone for the exact same reason. Am tired of using high contrast mode in Windows 10 desktop to get a dark file explorer
  • Well, it looks nice but is really just a sketch. No preview plane and very limited sorting options ( size name and date) No group by type or any such thing. Icons are a bit mysterious and no tooltips.
    Requires digging to find it too, runs separately from the regular explorer ( which now has tabs-finally:) I'd be surprised to see dark mode rolled out properly any time very soon, from the preview.
  • We shall see.
  • What makes you say that? The screen shot above looks just like how file explorer comes up on my Surface. The ribbon is hidden, tabs are shown. Are you accessing some hidden version different than what is shown? Do you perhaps have the UWP version still. It was gettable for a while.
  • You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Everything you just said is 100% inaccurate.
  • Man! This is AWE-FREAKING-SOME !!
  • I tried to read that out loud and it's actually pretty tough to say at first. Lol
  • FINALLY!!!
  • Looks good
  • OMG! Yesss! DarkMode is 🔥🔥🔥😍❤
  • And, as in the implementation for the rest of Windows 10, the contrast appears too excessive, thus damaging readability. An intersting quirk or color science is that while black-on-white text tends to be very readable, inverted white-on-black text is not. Slightly reducing the contrast, either using a dark gray background or light gray text (or both) is known to improve readability. Microsoft's designers don't seem to appreciate this, apparently. The "dark mode" lacks finesse and usability. On mobile, the original justification for the dark theme on Windows Phone was power savings for AMOLED displays. This isn't really relevant for the vast majority of Windows 10 devices today.
  • It hasn't been activated yet so it'll probably will be lighter when it actually comes out
  • I have been coding for almost two decades now on black background - my default notepad++ setup always has black background (you can try the Vibrant Ink theme for yourself). I have never understood how some developers stare at painfully bright white screens with text on it for so many hours. I can't do it, I'll end up with a headache.
    White text on black background works just fine IMHO, the settings app executes this pretty well in dark mode. Edge does this properly as well. At least, it's no worse than black text on white background in terms of contrast and readability for me.
  • Yes! Next is UWP with Fluent Design Language.
  • 2018, still investing resources in FAT, win32 development. It's necessary but Windows keeps dragging too much stuff.
  • Very nice! Though personally I go a step further and use colour inversion, so I didn't realise file explorer want included in the dark mode! Yo, Google. See how badly Microsoft is kicking your arse in this department? Feel shame, then do better.
  • Dark mode is required for all the applications that come with Windows 10 (including Notepad, WordPad, Classic Paint etc.).
  • Paint? Who paints on a black canvas? No, really wouldn't the majority of the screen still be white?
  • Thank you Microsoft.
  • Great. It only took them 3 years.
  • When I start loving my OS, I'll probably start needing meds. How about WC designing it's own dark mode?
  • Hmmm. Just popped in my head, does it means that right-clicked menu (not on the taskbar btw) get the dark mode too?🤔
  • You can try this by change the display settings to Negative.
    (Settings > Ease of access > High contrast > Choose the negative from dropdown ) In that way, you'll get an idea of Right-click dropdown menu in dark mode. 😊
  • Well, not the one I'm looking for as it will turn everything negative. Hopefully, they set it in the Fall 2018 😊.
  • the sound right-click menu does in RS4 so seem likely to continue 😊
  • You know, it's funny: For the three years I've been complaining that not all Microsoft apps come with a light and a dark them. I've also been complaining that third-party apps that do have a light and a dark theme don't come with a a system theme option so you can switch all apps in one place. Plus I'm still waiting for a light/dark theme quick toggle. All the while I assumed that Android was a lot further along in this matter. Now that the demise of Windows Mobile has forced me to become an Android User again, I've realized that Windows is light years ahead and that not even the Google apps can be centrally themed. Hell the You Tube app, for example, doesn't even have a dark theme.
  • Exactly this. It's amazing how far ahead as a system WM10 is compared to Android although it is far less popular. The app gap really skewed perception against WM10. Overall as a system, WM is just so much more pleasant to use. You only appreciate this after using Android for a week coming from WM and observing that the underlying WM OS is just way more cohesive. The missing apps really let the OS down :-(
  • This looks really good
  • Nice. Can't come soon enough. Looks a lot like the windows phone version of file explorer. Would be awesome if microsoft can pull off more dark mode support for other apps. Dark mode for viewing webpages and email body's what also be nice. It's currently only a glorified darkmode where basically only the edge's are dark, but the actual main body canvas for webcontent and email content is still in light mode. Kind of a sore for the eyes with pure stark contrasts within the same app design.
  • Icons looks awful on this new dark mode. also the file explorer should start to use the accent color & left its always blue color.
  • It's getting kind of annoying how overused the word "finally" is in these types of headlines and articles. The number of people who have been impatiently waiting for dark mode in File Explorer (or whatever else any tech company is "finally" bringing to their product) is very small. It makes you guys sound like entitled children who think they deserve to have everything you want, yesterday.
  • This is a long time coming, so yes, it is "finally."
  • It's used to describe almost every update and new feature... https://www.windowscentral.com/twitter-updates-its-windows-10-uwp-app-pw...
    https://www.windowscentral.com/xbox-one-gifting
    https://www.windowscentral.com/vlc-windows-rt-finally-available-surface-...
    https://www.windowscentral.com/attack-titan-2-game-finally-gets-release-...
    https://www.windowscentral.com/google-chrome-finally-arrives-microsoft-s...
    https://www.windowscentral.com/1password-extension-microsoft-edge-now-av...
    https://www.windowscentral.com/windows-10-photos-app-finally-adds-option... I could go on... Gets to the point where it seems like everything is considered a long time coming. BTW it's not just this site, more a comment about the tech media as a whole.
  • This would be petty neat, but that antiquated Win32 File Explorer is terrible and needs to be vanquished. :P
  • “Microsoft wants to ensure the UWP File Explorer can do everything the legacy one can before it replaces it. That process will take time, meaning UWP File Explorer will be a WCOS only thing at first” Lol that would take decades since UWP has completely failed to replicate the features and functionality of most modern win32 programs despite UWP being in development for over 6 embarrassing years.
  • Because battery life will be a focus on Andromeda, duhhh
  • I just use high contrast mode, the advantage being I can change the colors to what suits my needs. I'm looking at those screen shots of this dark mode and don't see any advantage over just using high contrast mode. Well the only caveat being that you can't selectively use high contrast mode only with windows explorer, you are stuck with everything being dark, but that's not a bad thing. Even with windows dark theme you are still stuck with a lot of things being dark and you can only have it on or off globally. Anyhow it always confused me why it's so difficult and take so long to get everything in dark mode when high contrast mode does it already. Maybe they could implement high contrast mode that you can turn on/off on an app by app basis, that would be pretty awesome.
  • OMG this is going to be awesome... I am not a insider but I cant wait for this..