The best File Explorer alternative on Windows 11 just got better at handling large folders

Files app on Windows
(Image credit: Future)

What you need to know

  • Files is a popular third-party alternative to the built-in File Explorer on Windows.
  • The Files app just received an update that brings it to version 3.2.
  • The update adds a list view layout, adds the option to edit album covers through properties, and adds support for higher quality thumbnails.
  • Several fixes and general improvements ship with the update as well.

Popular third-party file explorer Files just received an update that fixes one of its most frustrating issues. Following an update to version 3.2, the Files app should be more stable when navigating through large folders. The update also adds a list view for files and folders, brings the option to change album covers on media files, and adds support for higher quality thumbnails.

Files is not made by Microsoft, so it's not the File Explorer. But it is a file explorer. It's one of the more popular File Explorer alternatives available on Windows 11 and Windows 10. Many of the design elements and features seen in the Files app are highly requested features for the default File Explorer on Windows.

Files App | $8.99 at Microsoft Store

Files App | $8.99 at Microsoft Store

This third-party file explorer has many features people have requested for years from the built-in File Explorer on Windows. It has tabs, a column view, a file preview, and a customizable interface.

Replacing File Explorer on Windows

Files app with acrylic backdrop

Files has improved steadily over the years, including becoming more stable. (Image credit: Yair A)

I've followed the development of the Files app for years, dating all the way back to when it was called Files UWP. I speak with its developer regularly and have used various beta versions of the app over the years. I love the design of Files and several of its features.

When I see people discuss the Files app, they usually laud its design and feature set. But performance of the app can vary from system to system. I've had good luck with the app on some computers and run into slower performance and stabilities issues on other PCs. The app has trended in the right direction at a good pace in my experience, and I like the changes seen in version 3.2.

I don't think Files is ready to completely replace File Explorer on Windows, but it can be a powerful and useful companion app. Files has unique features that make it more than a better-looking clone of File Explorer. For example, its tagging system is excellent and will be familiar to those who use macOS.

I also like the fact that a third-party file management app frequently delivers features before Microsoft's File Explorer. Apps like this can push development of first-party apps forward, which is good for all Windows users.

The developer of Files shared a change log of all the changes seen in version 3.2:

What's new in Files

  • [Reduced] crashes when browsing large folders and when adding and deleting items.
  • List View is a new layout option that lets you display more items while taking up less space. It only shows the icons and file names of your items, without any extra details.
  • You can now change the album covers on media files directly from Files.
  • We’ve enhanced the resolution and contrast of our thumbnail previews to make them more visually appealing and easy to identify.

Files 3.2 changes and improvements

  • Added options to hide the built-in items from the right click context menu
  • Added an option to disable auto scroll when navigating up the file tree
  • Updated the search query to include unindexed items by default
  • Creating a new file now adds it to the Recent Files list
  • Creating a shortcut will now use the naming preferences from File Explorer
  • Clicking a tag in the Details Pane will now start a search for other tagged items
  • Added support for setting jfif files as the desktop & lockscreen background
  • Improved the performance when launching Files in the background at Windows startup
  • Improved support for high contrast themes
  • Updated the cloud status icon in the Columns View
  • Added support for pinning executable shortcuts to the Start Menu
  • Fixed issue where updating the default layout wouldn’t refresh open tabs
  • Fixed issue where renaming a tag wouldn’t save the new name
  • Fixed issue where certain changes in the Properties Window couldn’t be canceled
  • Fixed issue where switching from Details to Tiles would sometimes result in blurry icons
  • Fixed issue where thumbnails would sometimes fail to load for OneDrive items
  • Fixed issue where folder thumbnails wouldn’t display a preview of the contents
  • Fixed issue where the Properties window was missing its icon
  • Fixed issue where search results would sometimes use the Columns View
  • Fixed issue where opening tags from the sidebar would default to the Details View
  • Fixed issue where renaming items on a search page wouldn’t update the file list
  • Fixed issue where the privacy policy link was broken
  • Fixed issue where OneDrive files would automatically download
  • Fixed issue where pinned applications were executed in %windir%\System32
  • Fixed issue where smart extraction didn’t work correctly for a single folder
  • Fixed issue where the path bar didn’t use localized name for system folders
  • Fixed issue where directly opening a library would invoke explorer.exe
  • Fixed environment variables expansion for shortcuts
  • Fixed issue where folders sizes weren’t calculated when opening Properties from the sidebar
  • Fixed issue where modified date was missing from the Properties window
  • Fixed issue where it didn’t work to target files when creating new shortcuts
  • Fixed issue where exiting from the system tray icon didn’t save the open tabs
  • Fixed issue where a new tab would open when trying to open a new window
  • Fixed issue where batch files couldn’t be previewed inside archives
  • Fixed issue where installing multiple fonts would trigger multiple UAC prompts
  • Fixed issue where refocusing Details View would sometimes scroll
  • Fixed crash that would occur when displaying a large number of items at the same time
  • Fixed crash that would occur when items were added from an external app
  • Fixed crash that would occur when opening Properties for certain items in the Recent Files list
  • Fixed crash that would occur when the app failed to update
  • Fixed crash that would occur when renaming items in the Grid View layout
  • Fixed crash that would occur when selecting the address bar via Shift + Tab
  • Fixed crash that would occur when Git path contained an emoji
  • Fixed crash that could occur when dragging in grouped grid layout
Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at

  • packetpuzzler
    Files is indeed a good app but I would also place Directory Opus up there as at least as as good. Expensive but worth it.