How to Make Windows 10’s File Explorer Look Like Windows 7’s Windows Explorer

By Lori Kaufman on July 7th, 2016

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There are a lot of changes in Windows 10’s File Explorer compared to Windows 7’s Windows Explorer. If you’ve upgraded to Windows 10 and you don’t like the changes, we’ll show you how you can get the look and feel of Windows 7’s Windows Explorer back.

We’re going to use a free tool called OldNewExplorer to perform some of the changes, along with changing some built-in Windows settings and tweaking the registry. Don’t worry: the procedures are simple and we’ll take you through each part.

NOTE: You don’t have to make all of the following changes, of course–you can just make the ones you really want. But to get the most Windows 7-like experience in File Explorer, you’ll need them all.

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Download and Install OldNewExplorer

The first step is to download OldNewExplorer to a folder on your hard drive. Keep in mind this is a third-party tool that alters the Windows system, so you should absolutely make a backup before continuing in case something goes wrong. We have tested the tool thoroughly, but you never know when a Windows Update might cause something to break.

Next, extract the downloaded file to that folder using a tool like 7-Zip. OldNewExplorer is not installed like other programs. First, run the program by double-clicking the OldNewExplorerCfg.exe file.

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Then, on the OldNewExplorer configuration dialog box, click “Install” in the Shell extension section. This allows the settings on this dialog box to be applied to File Explorer when you select them.

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Give the program permission to make changes to your PC. The User Account Control dialog box displays twice. Click “Yes” both times.

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The message “Installed” displays in the Shell extension section of the OldNewExplorer configuration dialog box.

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Disable the File Explorer Ribbon and Change the Look of the Navigation Bar

Microsoft added a ribbon, like the one in Microsoft Office programs, to File Explorer in Windows 8, and changed the look of the navigation bar.

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If you don’t like the ribbon, you can disable it and use the command bar from Windows 7’s Windows Explorer instead. To do this, check the “Use command bar instead of Ribbon” box in the Appearance section of the OldNewExplorer configuration dialog box.

NOTE: There are additional options below the “Use command bar instead of Ribbon” option that look like they depend on that option. However, they can be selected even if the command bar option is not. These additional options are automatically checked when you check the command bar option.

If you want to hide the caption text on the File Explorer title bar, check the “Hide caption text in File Explorer windows” box. Check the “Hide caption icon in File Explorer windows” box if you also want to hide the icon and have an empty title bar (if you turned on the “Use command bar instead of Ribbon” option).

You can also hide the “Up” button by checking the “Hide Up (go to parent folder) button” box, although that button is rather useful. You can also “Enable glass on navigation bar” which makes the navigation bar the same color and style as the title bar, instead of white.

To change the style of the navigation buttons (right and left arrow buttons) on the navigation bar, check the “Use alternate navigation buttons style” box in the Appearance section of the OldNewExplorer configuration dialog box.

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The altered navigation bar area will look similar to the following image. We decided not to hide the Up button.

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Enable the Details Pane

When you show the Details pane in Windows 7’s Windows Explorer, it displays at the bottom of the window. However, the Details pane was moved to the right side in Windows 10, taking up precious horizontal space and causing you to widen the window to see the file details.

NOTE: If you replaced the ribbon with the command bar in the previous section, you can show the Details pane by selecting Organize > Layout > Details pane. If not, click the “View” tab and then click “Details pane” in the Panes section.

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To move the Details pane to the bottom of the File Explorer window, check the “Show details pane at the bottom” box in the Appearance section of the OldNewExplorer configuration dialog box.

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The details pane now displays at the bottom of the window, restoring your horizontal space.

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Show the Status Bar

Windows 10’s Windows Explorer is also lacking a status bar, which normally displays below the Details pane.

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To enable the status bar, check the “Show status bar” box in the Appearance section of the OldNewExplorer configuration dialog box.

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The status bar displays below the Details pane. By default, the status bar is white, but it can be changed to gray to match the Details pane.

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To change the status bar to gray, select “Gray” from the “Status bar style” drop-down list.

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Now, the status bar is gray and matches the Details pane. Vertical bars are also added separating the sections of the status bar.

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Enable Libraries in the Navigation Pane and Hide the Folders Group in “This PC”

As of Windows 8.1, Microsoft added a Folders group to This PC that displays above the Devices and drives group. In addition, the Libraries were removed.

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To add back the Libraries and remove the Folders group, check the “Use libraries; hide folders from This PC” box in the Behavior section of the OldNewExplorer configuration dialog box.

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Now, the Libraries are available again in the navigation pane on the left…

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…and the Folders group is removed leaving the Devices and drives group listed at the top in This PC.

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Hide the Frequent Folders in the Quick Access List

The Quick Access list in File Explorer replaces the old Favorites list from Windows 7, and is a slight redesign of the Favorites list. Like Windows Explorer in Windows 7, the Quick access list in File Explorer contains favorite folders that are pinned to that list. Windows 7 allowed you to customize the Favorites list, but Microsoft thought they would be helpful and add frequently used folders to the Quick access list in Windows 10’s File Explorer, for those people who never did customize their Favorites list with their most used folders.

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If you want to make the Quick access list act more like the old Favorites list, you just need to hide the frequently used folders from that list. To do that, you don’t need OldNewExplorer (we’ll get back to using that). We’re going to change a setting in File Explorer. If you replaced the ribbon with the command bar (in the “Disable the File Explorer Ribbon and Change the Look of the Navigation Bar” section above), select “Folder Options” from the “Tools” menu.

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If you’re still using the ribbon, click the “View” tab. Then, click the down arrow on the “Options” button and select “Change folder and search options”.

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The Folder Options dialog box displays. On the General tab, check the “Show frequently used folders in Quick access” box in the Privacy section. Click “Apply” or “OK”.

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The frequently used folders are removed from the Quick access list.

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Make File Explorer Open to This PC by Default

Bu default, File Explorer in Windows 10 opens to the Quick access view. However, if you’d rather open File Explorer to This PC instead, select “This PC” from the “Open File Explorer to” drop-down list on the General tab on the Folders Options dialog box we opened in the last section.

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Now, File Explorer opens to This PC by default.

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Enable Classical Drive Grouping

In Windows 10, all the drives under This PC are listed in the Devices and drives with no special grouping. In Windows 7, the Devices and drives list was called Computer and that list was separated into groups, such as Hard Disk Drives, Devices with Removable Storage, and Network Location.

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You can easily return to the Windows 7 classic drive grouping. To do so, return to the OldNewExplorer configuration dialog box (or open it again if you closed it) and check the “Use classical drive grouping in This PC” box.

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The devices and drives are now grouped like in Windows 7.

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Change the Appearance Style

OldNewExplorer also allows you to change the appearance of the options bar above the file list and the Details pane. To do this, return to the OldNewExplorer configuration dialog box (or open it again) and select an option from the “Appearance style” drop-down list in the Appearance section.

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For example, we applied the Silver cream style to the File Explorer window, which makes the options bar and the Details pane lighter.

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Get Windows 7’s Old Folder Icons in Windows 10 File Explorer

In Windows 10, the folder icons were changed from the open folder icon of Windows 7 and 8.1 to a flat folder icon. However, you can change the folder icons back to the Windows 7-style icons using these instructions.

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Revert Back to Windows 10 File Explorer Style

To revert back to Windows 10-style File Explorer, uncheck all the options on the OldNewExplorer configuration dialog box and select the default options from the drop-down lists in the Appearance section. Then, click “Uninstall” in the Shell extension section.

NOTE: Unchecking all the boxes and setting the drop-down lists back to the defaults are necessary to revert the changes. When we tested this program, simply clicking “Uninstall” without resetting the options, did not revert the changes.

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If you want to show frequently used folders again in the Quick access list, check the “Show frequently used folders in Quick access” box in the Privacy section on the Folder Options dialog box’s General tab. You can also go back to opening File Explorer to Quick access rather than This PC by selecting “Quick access” from the “Open File Explorer to” drop-down list on the Folder Options dialog box’s General tab.

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 07/7/16
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