How-To Geek

Set the Navigation Pane Tree to Automatically Expand in Windows 7


In Windows 7, when you double-click or press Enter on folders in the right pane of Windows Explorer to open them, the folder tree in the left pane (the navigation pane) does not automatically expand to show where you are.

By default, the navigation pane stays at the top level if you use the right pane to navigate through folders. You have to manually expand the navigation pane tree. Prior versions of Windows, including Vista and XP, automatically expanded the folder tree to show the location of the folder opened in the right pane.

You can change this behavior in Windows 7, it’s just turned off by default. To change this option, open Windows Explorer and select Folder and search options from the Organize menu.


In the Navigation pane section of the Folder Options dialog box, select the Automatically expand to current folder check box.


You can also choose to view the classic navigation tree used in Vista and XP, as shown below. The tree starts with the Desktop and  To do this, select the Show all folders check box in the Navigation pane section on the Folder Options dialog box. Click OK to save your changes and close the dialog box.


The classic navigation tree also includes all hard drives under Computer and Network, Control Panel, and the Recycle Bin.


Now, maybe you won’t get lost when navigating in Explorer.

Lori Kaufman is a writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 01/16/12

Comments (9)

  1. sragan5

    Thanks so much. Your easy tip works great. Being able to do something this simple but elegant in Windows 7 makes me long for my XP days.

  2. emir

    i hate that feature

  3. Age

    What I want to know is how to make the folders automatically close back up once you navigate away! The default behaviour leaves an expanded mess behind.

  4. Arston

    Yeah, Age. That’s why I don’t use it.

  5. rcazador

    just noticed, all you have to do is right click is anywhere in the
    “Navigation pane” and choose expand to “current folder”.

  6. HOZAY

    Nice !!!

  7. Jerry R.

    Nav Pane Tree to automatically expand in Win7. I followed instructions and win Explore did not expand. What or where is the problem?

  8. Brian

    What would be neat would be the ability to use a hotkey or a right-click to expand the appropriate part of the navigator panel when you want to. I prefer the navigator to not automatically expand, but occasionally want to expand it.

  9. neeraj

    nice one

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