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How to Use File Explorer Without a Mouse on Windows 10

The File Explorer icon on Windows 10's desktop

Windows 10’s file manager is packed with keyboard shortcuts. You can launch File Explorer and use it entirely with your keyboard—without ever touching a mouse. It’s no Norton Commander, but it’s extremely keyboard-friendly.

Launch File Explorer

To launch File Explorer from anywhere on your Windows system, press Windows+E.

You can also use other keyboard shortcuts—for example, if File Explorer is the first icon from the left on your Windows 10 taskbar, you can press Windows+1 to activate that taskbar button. If it’s the third icon on your taskbar, you can press Windows+3 to activate it.

Navigating Folders

File Explorer will open to the Quick Access view when you launch it. Use the arrow keys to select files and folders and press Enter to enter folders or open files. To expand a collapsed section (like “Devices and drives” under “This PC”), select it and press the Right arrow key.

To select a file or folder in a directory, start typing its name. For example, when you’re in the C:\ directory and you type “Win”, File Explorer will select the “Windows” directory.

To go to the first or last file in a directory, press the Home or End keys.

To go “Up” a directory, press Alt+Up arrow. To go Back and Forward, press Alt+Left arrow and Alt+Right arrow.

If you need to refresh a folder and see updated contents, press F5.

The "This PC" view in Windows 10's File Explorer

Typing Directories and Searching

To focus the location bar at the top of the window, press Ctrl+L or Alt+D. You can then type an address (like “C:\Users”) and press Enter to go there.

To focus the search bar, press Ctrl+F or Ctrl+E. You can then type a search phrase and press Enter.

Selecting Multiple Files

To select a range of files, hold down the Shift key and use the arrow keys. You can also press Ctrl+A to select all files in the current folder.

To select multiple files, press and hold the Ctrl key. Use your arrow keys to highlight other files or folders and press Space to add them to your selection. Release the Ctrl key when you’re done.

Selecting multiple files with the keyboard in File Explorer.

Renaming Files

To rename a file with your keyboard, select it with the arrow keys (or by starting to type its name) and press F2. File Explorer will automatically highlight the file’s name, excluding the file extension. You can then type a new name for the file and press Enter. Press Escape to cancel renaming the file without saving any changes.

The usual keyboard shortcuts for text editing work while editing a file name, so you can press Ctrl+Left arrow to quickly navigate between words in a file name that has multiple words.

RELATED: 42+ Text-Editing Keyboard Shortcuts That Work Almost Everywhere

Creating a New Folder

To create a new folder in the current directory, press Ctrl+Shift+N. Type the name for the directory and press Enter.

Creating a new folder in File Explorer.

Copying, Pasting, and Deleting Files

As usual, Ctrl+C copies a file, Ctrl+X cuts a file (removing it from its current location), and Ctrl+V pastes the file into a new location.

To undo an action, press Ctrl+Z. To redo an action you just undid, press Ctrl+Y.

To delete a selected file, press Delete. To delete a file permanently, skipping the Recycle Bin, press Shift+Delete.

Opening the Context Menu

To open the Context menu for your currently selected items, press Shift+F10. The Context menu will open as if you right-clicked the items.

Navigate between options in the menu using the Up and Down arrow keys. Press Enter to select an option.

You can also press Alt+Enter to open the Properties window for a selected item, skipping the context menu. Use the Tab, arrow and Enter keys to use the Properties window. You can also press Alt along with an underlined character displayed in the Properties window to activate an option.

For example, the “Advanced” button appears as “Advanced…” with the “d” underlined. This means you can press Alt+D to activate it.

The Properties window in File Explorer.

Viewing the Preview and Details Panes

To open and close the preview pane, which shows you a preview of the currently selected file, press Alt+P.

To open and close the details pane, which shows you details about the selected file, press Alt+Shift+P.

Launching and Closing Windows

To open a new File Explorer window, press Ctrl+N. To close the current File Explorer window, press Ctrl+W.

Multiple windows in File Explorer.

Finding More Keyboard Shortcuts

For more help, press Alt and release it. You’ll see letters appear over the buttons on the ribbon. You can press Alt along with whatever letter is displayed here to activate a button. For example, Alt+F opens the File menu.

If you press Alt+H, Alt+S, or Alt+V to select the Home, Share, or View tabs, you’ll see a list of keyboard shortcuts for the actions on that section of the ribbon.

File Explorer displaying keyboard shortcuts for the Home ribbon.

As usual in Windows applications, you can also repeatedly press the Tab key to cycle between parts of the interface, using the arrow keys and Enter key to navigate and activate buttons. Press Shift+Tab to cycle in reverse. For example, with the main content pane selected, you can press Shift+Tab to focus the left sidebar, use arrow keys to select a folder, and press Enter to open it.

RELATED: Get Help With File Explorer on Windows 10

Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor in Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for nearly a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than 500 million times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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