back to article Windows File Explorer gets nostalgic speed boost thanks to one weird bug

An exploit for a bug in Windows appears to increase the performance of File Explorer in Microsoft's flagship operating system. While reports of bugs in Windows rarely raise an eyebrow nowadays, one that actually appears to improve the experience for users – or reminds them of the days before the operating system became bloated …

  1. Whitter
    Thumb Up

    Fast opening of Windows File Explorer

    I've found that opening File Explorer using the microsoft key + E is much faster than clicking on an icon to do the same job.

    Maybe the same effect with a different path?

  2. David-M

    I use "Everything" by voidtools instead of Explorer for almost all tasks. Highly recommend it. The main purpose of existence of Explorer therefore is to find its installer on first install, although even then I'd usually do it from the browser... d

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      I use:


      dir Driveletter:\*wildcardfile* /b /s /a

      which is quite often faster than explorer search. And always works, no matter what the status of indexing is.

      1. Mike_T.

        As ever with MS your assertion 'And always works' depends on your definition of working. If that includes only listing file names that match your wild card pattern you may be disappointed.

        The problem is that the DIR command will list any file whose long name or SHORT name matches the wild card pattern, which can be very confusing...

    2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      XYplorer used by me

  3. MiguelC Silver badge

    Maybe it causes background telemetry to be disabled by mistake... one can only hope

    1. simonlb

      Stopping automatic indexing of any external USB storage devices that are plugged in would probably also help.

    2. Ilgaz

      It senses a full screen application is running and enables game/movie mode disabling telemetry?

  4. Wally Dug

    Windows Explorer is Speedier...

    ...and the article is written by Richard Speed.

    I see what you did there - well done!

    Now, if only you had Getridov Bloatt or Fallback To-Xp working at El Reg Towers, who knows what may happen...

  5. H in The Hague

    File list - easy way to create?

    Is it me, or is File Explorer still incapable of printing/saving a list of the files in a directory?

    At the moment I open a command window and then use dir > filename.txt to save a directory listing. But convenient it ain't.

    For a while I kept a copy of WordPerfect at hand for just that - its file explorer could save a directory listing.

    Any suggestions for an alternative file explorer? (Thanks for the Everything tip, but that seems to focus on searching file names, which is less relevant to me.)

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: File list - easy way to create?

      TotalCommander -> Select the files/dirs -> Mark -> Save Selection To File.

      FreeCommander -> Select the files/dirs -> Edit -> Save Selection To File.

      I use both on fileservers, 'cause explorer.exe does never really run with admin rights. And that does not work well on fileservers where you WOULD have to click that "fix so I can access" button often, which in some cases mess up ACLs and cause quite a problem. (Yes, of course member of local admin group, of course the local admin group has full access - ask M$ why it is so weird).

      But if you run one of those two commanders with admin rights, everything is fine, you can access normally. Rund cmd.exe or powershell.exe with admin rights works fine too.

      1. Grogan Bronze badge

        Re: File list - easy way to create?

        Because the "Administrator" user and group aren't actually the god account on Windows NT. It's the System account that is comparable to "root" privileges.

        Microsoft also has silly ownership of a lot of files, like the "Trusted Installer" user and there is bullshit in the ACLs of a lot of objects that is annoying to deal with. (and as you say, you don't always want to simply take ownership and replace them). That's why simply running explorer with admin privileges doesn't cut it.

        There used to be a program from Russinovich that launched you a shell with System privileges, but it went away pretty much immediately after he started working at MS. I still had it, but I think it needed some maintenance for later Windows, for it no longer worked as expected. I used that extensively back in the Windows XP days, when every computer I serviced had difficult to remove malware (and the security features of Windows NT foisted on the consumer, with crippled interfaces to configure them on the Home versions, is what facilitated it getting dug in, ordinary scanners couldn't remove it easily)

      2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: File list - easy way to create?

        From what I know about it all, it's down to the way that Microsoft abused explorer.exe so it became not only the file explorer but also the desktop. I can vaguely get why, but it's still a ridiculous way to implement things.

        When explorer.exe first starts it becomes the desktop, and the desktop has intentionally been not quite an admin for years now due to security being cobbled and hacked into Windows as an afterthought and the introduction of UAC. For subsequent executions of explorer.exe the initial code checks if explorer.exe is running within the same user session and if it is, then it passes the request to the existing explorer.exe and ends execution. The existing explorer.exe then just opens a child window named "File Explorer". If you are fast enough or have access to a suitable process explorer you can see this happen.

        You can see parts of this in operation when you open up Task Manager, find the running explorer.exe process and terminate it - your desktop shell closes. Start a new task, enter explorer.exe and your desktop shell re-opens. Start another instance of explorer.exe and File Manager opens in the previously started instance which recreated the desktop shell. This is also why when things go wrong, which they do, and you wind up with a frozen desktop and multiple instances of explorer.exe, the "fix" is to terminate every one of them and then start just one, which will start the desktop windowing environment. It's also why the the desktop instance of explorer.exe locks up, file explorer, and subsequent attempts to start file explorer (explorer.exe) don't work either.

        If one is belligerent enough then it's easy to create a new application that's sole purpose is to open multiple copies of explorer.exe as quickly as possible and on older OSes, particularly multi-processor you can observe interesting/unhelpful things due to intentionally messing with it. I haven't tried this for a while (current W10) but previously Microsoft had put in place checks within explorer.exe to handle this kind of belligerence - or more likely the annoying edge cases with concurrent application execution and it gives an insight into what developers, even at Microsoft, have to put in place to handle both concurrent execution edge cases and belligerent tinkerers :) The reason I found all this out is that we deployed a kiosk type system and we did not want the user to be able to alt-tab to the desktop. Replace the reference in the registry to start explorer.exe with your own application and you're most of the way there, particularly when combined with local security policies to prevent the creation of new tasks in Task Manager.

        It would have been far better to have the desktop environment separate to file explorer for so many reasons, and it's how more sensibly designed windowing environments operate and it allows the full separation of the windowing environment and a file explorer, permitting the replacement of the file explorer application and the execution of it with different access levels, But this was a Microsoft decision made many years ago when they were still embedding anti-competitive practices and bundling into the operating system.

    2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      Re: File list - easy way to create?

      XYplorer & Autohotkey

      The latter mainly to override Windows-e for loading Explorer

    3. dt545

      Re: File list - easy way to create?

      Select the files you want listed.

      Shift + right-click adds 'Copy as path' option to context menu.

      Paste into Notepad or whatever.

      But it always shows full path, and doesn't show subdirectory contents, so not as versatile as dir.

      1. H in The Hague

        Re: File list - easy way to create?

        Thanks for the tip!

        That it shows the full path isn't a major problem. I just paste the list into Word and then use Alt+mouse to select the actual file names and then copy and paste those. (Selecting the beginning of the path and deleting that doesn't seem to work.)

        So in future I'll use your tip for shortish file lists, and muck about with Dir for longer ones.

        Have one of these, on me -->

    4. CountCadaver

      Re: File list - easy way to create?

      Works wonders and does exactly what it claims to. Original author has sadly died but code is being maintained by someone else

    5. This is my handle

      Re: File list - easy way to create?

      Following.... I no longer have a WordPerfect that will install on Windows (since the 1st 64 bit version... 7?) but I use a CMD.EXE or bash redirect, depending on what I want. Obviously, "ls" and "find" give you more flexibility in formatting but often DIR will do the trick.

    6. HelpfulJohn

      Re: File list - easy way to create?

      "Any suggestions for an alternative file explorer?"

      I've been using an old version (V. 9.0) of "PowerDesk 9" for over a decade on XP and Win-7.

      It has everthing *I* need for a file manager in Windows and it was, when I bought it, very much better than Windows' File Explorer/Manager.

      I doubt if it is still available.

  6. chuckufarley Silver badge

    It is a bit silly... complex file managers have become in the in the past thirty years. If have never seen or used the old text based file managers I suggest you give Midnight Commander a try just for comparison.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It is a bit silly...

      Or explorer++

      That's a portable app and you can run as admin to get to files that explorer in it's wisdom says that you need to gain access to.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: It is a bit silly...

      I used Norton Commander for some things under DOS, but in any OS where I have ksh or bash and the POSIX command-line tools I've never felt any desire to use a "file manager".

      1. chuckufarley Silver badge

        Re: It is a bit silly...

        If you have a local host and a remote host that you have ssh access to and need to copy files from one to the other try:

        mc /home/username/source_dir sftp://remote_host/destination_dir or vice versa for Source and destination.

        It might save you a few keystrokes.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    just get Linux already

    it's way faster than Windoze (as long as you get a good distro)

    1. mercster

      Re: just get Linux already

      ... and have no specific software requirements that can only run in Windows. Look, I love Linux, I've been running it since 1993. But saying Linux is the best OS for everyone is kinda goofy. Use the right tool for the right job. Linux has benefits and deficiencies, Windows has benefits and deficiencies. This isn't the 90s anymore, Windows has actually improved, dontcha know.

      A wise man once said "All operating systems suck; Linux just sucks less." You can look up who said it.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: just get Linux already

        Churchill, I think?

        1. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: just get Linux already

          No, pretty sure it was Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde.

          1. Wally Dug

            Re: just get Linux already

            Sorry to be pedantic, but...

            Mark Twain: "The reports of Windows' death are greatly exagerated."

            Oscar Wilde: "There are two tragedies in life; one is Windows, the other is Linux."

            Henry Hoover: "All operating systems suck; Linux just sucks less."

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: just get Linux already

              “Either these Windows go or I do.”

              - Wilde, advocating for FOSS shortly before being made redundant.

          2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: All operating systems suck; Linux just sucks less

            Nah, it will be Sir James Dyson.

            He should really launch a vacuum cleaner for the desktop. When he does, it would no doubt be running Linux.

            He can them proudly announce that 20xx is the year of Linux for the Desktop.

            1. Meetoo998

              Re: All operating systems suck; Linux just sucks less

              Nah, it's the other way around. Linux fans aren't wired like the rest of us, similarly conspiracy theorists and Trump supporters aren't either.

              1. mercster

                Re: All operating systems suck; Linux just sucks less

                Way to make an ass of yourself with political a statement in a conversation about computers. You've proven you have nothing of worth to add. Shoo fly.

      2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: just get Linux already

        > ... and have no specific software requirements that can only run in Windows.

        WINE is a lot better than it used to be. Just saying.

        My personal acid test used to be Word 2003. (I have no need for the rest of Office.) 5Y ago I needed Crossover to run that; as of WINE 7 it just installs and runs -- and the service releases as well. Same as several Amiga emulators I tried.

        It runs on macOS as well as Linux. It runs on Arm64 as well as x86, and can run x86 Windows binaries. It can run 16-bit binaries on a 64-bit OS which Windows can't.

        I think it's because of Steam and the Valve Steam Deck, which is sold as a gaming device, which means to run Windows games, even though it itself is a Linux PC. Even if you never even look at games, the R&D that's gone into running Windows games on Linux means that now an awful lot of corporate Windows apps just work. It's really impressive.

        1. mercster

          Re: just get Linux already

          Yes, WINE is pretty good. It used to be better at running apps than games. The reason it's the other way around is actually not Steam/Steamdeck, but a project by one guy (Philip Rebohle... he was hired by Valve well after he had gotten dxvk to do amazing things) called dxvk. It's a Vulkan API translation layer that allows for the playing of DirectX 10/11 games... Steam's Proton is a series of patches on top of dxvk, and is nicely integrated into Steam's interface. They both deserve credit for where Linux gaming is today. WINE as well. WINE is the meat, dxvk is the salt and pepper... Steam's Proton integration puts it on a plate and pours gravy on it, holding the fork while you chew. Wonderful stuff.

          (You can still use DXVK in a WINE installation and run lots of games that aren't on Steam. You don't even have to do all the black magic fudgery with the Proton binary, which is integrated heavily with Steam's internal structures and pathing. There are even patch sets that turn dxvk into a stand-alone Proton, providing the compatibility patches and improvements that Proton gets over at Valve. It's a neat project. It's all on github. But this is the kind of stuff a newbie Linux gamer is gonna struggle with, not because it's hard, it's just foreign and takes time to learn.)

          WINE is still not perfect, not much better than it used to be (when I first regularly, used it way back before pre-1.0.)

        2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Re: just get Linux already

          But if you want to get rid of Microsoft Windows, why WINE?

          1. mercster

            Re: just get Linux already

            An operating system is separate from the applications it runs. Someone may write an application for an operating system that the person does not wish to use. You may not interact much with the operating system... it may simply be a facility that runs applications for you, and that's fine. Some people do more with the operating system facilities themselves. It can be useful to run programs from one operating system on another. This is also a use of virtual machines, which are very popular, and run much of the internet these days, if you weren't aware.

          2. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: just get Linux already

            if you want to get rid of Microsoft Windows, why WINE?

            Because using Linux exclusively is going to drive you to drink ;)

            1. Geoffrey W

              Re: just get Linux already

              I'm way past the alcohol stage of Linux; I've been into the psychedelic stage for some time now and it makes much more sense when high!

        3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: just get Linux already

          Unfortunately even Linux + WINE isn't a viable option for my work system. IT here make some effort to support Linux (and MacOS) for developer systems, but we're so heavily dependent on MIcrosoft for communications and office work that it's a substantial burden on the end user. And I have to sometimes develop for .NET Framework, which is not fully ported to Linux and never will be. (This is a product that relies heavily on WCF, among other things.)

          Even for my personal laptop, the path of least resistance has been to keep the preinstalled Windows, add Cygwin so I have a decent CLI, use Pale Moon and Vivaldi for browsers, and run Linux (Kali for hackage, Tumbleweed for regular stuff) in VMs when I want it. Honestly for most of what I do, Cygwin is fine. At the moment I have Windows vim/gvim for editing, but at some point I'll probably switch that to Cygwin/X's vim and gvim, as I have on my work laptop. The main thing, for me, is having pure-CLI toolchains for development. I use LyX for writing, and LibreOffice if I'm forced to deal with Microsoft's file formats.

        4. chuckufarley Silver badge

          Re: just get Linux already

          After thinking about what to say for a bit I have decided that point out that the path of least resistance is unlikely to exist on most Linux systems. I.E. I can't just type ./Word.exe into a bash shell and get a window running Word to show up in most cases. It would take a little bit of work either by the end user or the support personnel to make this happen seamlessly. While I love what WINE does and how well it does it, This One Thing is a show stopper for most neophytes.

      3. Excused Boots

        Re: just get Linux already

        "... and have no specific software requirements that can only run in Windows. Look, I love Linux, I've been running it since 1993. But saying Linux is the best OS for everyone is kinda goofy. Use the right tool for the right job. Linux has benefits and deficiencies, Windows has benefits and deficiencies. This isn't the 90s anymore, Windows has actually improved, dontcha know."

        Hang on; you're a Linux user but yet are prepared to commit heresy and claim that sometimes other Operating Systems might have advantages in certain circumstances?

        Well that doesn't sound right, reading quite a few comments on here, I get the distinct impression that's it's a holy war - type of scenario; Linux is perfect / useless <delete as appropriate depending on your current viewpoint>; and similarly Windows is perfect / useless <again delete as appropriate.....>

        Your open mindedness about this stuff (ie Linux is good but sometimes it doesn't do as good a job as xyz) is disturbing to the status quo often (vigorously) claimed on here. Can't have people thinking for themselves and deciding to use what ever happens to be best for them, for the job(s) they need to do now; can we?

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Re: just get Linux already

          > commit heresy

          > it's a holy war

          which is usually driven by the Linux or Apple faction. The Windows faction is more pragmatic, usually reason with more practical things, and not as loud. Was a bit different in the past.

  8. mercster

    ...and you have no specific requirements that requires Windows, and also don't mind dealing with Linux's own quirks and foibles . And don't come at me with "But Linux has equivalents for everything, and WINE!" Look, I love Linux... I've been running it since 1993. Went on to have a good career as a UNIX sysadmin. But there are lots of workflows and software solutions that simply work better in Windows (just as there are for other operating systems, including Linux.) Gone are the days when there is a massive delta when comparing the two in many areas of usability and functionality. Linux has benefits and deficiencies... Windows has benefits and deficiencies. Use the right tool for the job.

    A wise man once said, "All operating systems suck; Linux just sucks less." You can look up that quote to see who said it.

    1. mercster


      Whoops, sorry for double post... Register login/posting is weird. Ahh well, expanded/alternative reply to above "Just run Linux!" post.

    2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      > All operating systems suck; Linux just sucks less

      All operating systems suck; Linux just sucks different.

    3. Excused Boots

      "A wise man once said, "All operating systems suck; Linux just sucks less." You can look up that quote to see who said it."

      Was it Bill Gates? Oh no, wait Steve Balmer, no, no Steve Jobs!

      Oh it was Linus, how disappointing!

  9. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Wouldn't be the disk cache?

    The video shows the same directories more than once, first before full-screen and secondly after full-screen.

  10. ludicrous_buffoon

    Or get the manager of files

    Explorers are too slow. I'm more of a File Manager myself:

    As an aside, this one is blazing fast, if you don't mind living without a few features.

  11. Gerlad Dreisewerd

    Who needs Microsoft

    For those who haven't tried it, look into one of the Linux distros. I intend to go Microsoft-free in the next couple years.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. parrot

      Re: Who needs Microsoft

      What is this ‘Linux’ of which you speak? Show us the way, oh wise one.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who needs Microsoft

        Linux is for those who overthink every small thing unnecessarily and love the challenge of doing this the long or complicated way. Simplicity is not an option for Linux fans, like Trump, and conspiracy theorists, they're just wired differently.

        1. chuckufarley Silver badge

          Re: Who needs Microsoft

          OR...MAYBE...Linux is just for those that really want to control their data. Easy is expensive. If you are unaware of how or why that is then things are too easy for you, for now. Before you learned this you could just count it as the cost of doing business in the Modern World. Now that have heard the truth of the matter (you can can control your own data) will you ignore it or explore it?

          If you think that control in underrate then let me point to one Mr. Xi who is very influential around this small area known as China.

          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

            Re: Who needs Microsoft

            > OR...MAYBE...Linux is just for those that really want to control their data.

            You can have that with Windows too. Either us an old version, or use Windows Server 2019 / 2022. Or the upcoming Server 2025 which will probably be released Nov 2024 as Insider, if you are brave.

            Needs LESS RAM, and you have more control. Wifi capabilities? Install as a feature. Defender? You can remove the feature. Trying to push you to create an MS account at every step? Nope. Constantly blabbing home? Nope. Cool things like deduplication and a GUI to handle snapshot-configuration? Yep.

            Expensive? Yep, but the EVAL version can be freed easily to run without timelimit.

  12. navarac Bronze badge

    This doesn't mitigate the utter disaster that File Explorer is in the latest Beta Build of 23H2. Incompetent.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The disaster started after Windows 7. Full stop.

  13. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Android trick too

    A lot of phone makers restrict the maximum CPU speed when there's no user interaction. It's essentially a workaround for the bundled Chrome browser sucking so much. Rubbing your finger around in the screen makes everything run faster on these phones.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Android trick too

      Apples and Oranges...not the same. Thanks for the gaslighting though!

  14. Meetoo998

    It works but not really.

    For example, right click on a folder icon on your screen, there will be a delay of up to 5 seconds the first time you open the folder up. After the first time, it's considerably faster.

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