How-To Geek

How to Set a Custom Startup Folder in Windows’ File Explorer

Windows 10’s File Explorer opens to Quick Access by default, and Windows 7’s Windows Explorer opens to the Libraries. If you’d rather the Taskbar icon open in a folder of your choosing, though, here’s how to make that happen.

File Explorer in Windows 10

To change the default startup folder in Windows 10’s File Explorer, open File Explorer and navigate to the folder you want to open by default—but don’t open it. Instead, right-click on the folder and select “Create shortcut” from the popup menu.

A shortcut to that folder is created in the same location as the folder. Select the shortcut and press F2 to rename the shortcut to File Explorer.

Because you’re changing the File Explorer shortcut on the Taskbar to one with a custom folder, you probably want to change it from the standard folder icon used in File Explorer. To do so, right-click on the new shortcut and select “Properties” from the popup menu.

Make sure the “Shortcut” tab is active on the Properties dialog box and then click the “Change Icon” button.

We’re going to grab the File Explorer icon from the explorer.exe file itself. On the Change Icon dialog box, enter the following into the “Look for icons in this file” box and press Enter.

%windir%\explorer.exe

Then, click on the standard File Explorer icon in the upper-left corner of the “Select an icon from the list below” box and click “OK”.

Click “OK” to close the Properties dialog box.

Select the new shortcut in File Explorer and press Ctrl+C to copy it. Then, navigate to the following folder.

C:\Users\Lori\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned\TaskBar

Before pasting the custom File Explorer shortcut into this folder, we recommend you copy and paste the original shortcut into another location so you have a backup of the shortcut. You may want to return to using the default startup folder, in which case you can just copy and paste the original shortcut to the above folder.

Press Ctrl+V to paste the new shortcut in the Taskbar folder. The following dialog box displays to make sure you want to replace the file already in the folder. Click “Replace the file in the destination” to continue.

Now, when you click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, File Explorer opens to the folder you chose.

Note that if you delete the folder you used to create the custom shortcut, the following dialog box displays when you click the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar. To undelete the folder, click the “Restore” button. The folder is moved from the Recycle Bin back to its original location.

Windows Explorer in Windows 7

When you click on the Windows Explorer icon on the Windows 7 Taskbar, it opens to the Libraries view by default. You might not use the Libraries feature, or maybe you want to set it to a different location that you use more often.

To change the startup folder for Windows Explorer on the Taskbar, we’re going to modify the shortcut on the Taskbar. Open Windows Explorer, navigate to the folder you want to use, and select and copy the path from path box. This makes it easier to add the correct path to the shortcut.

Now, we’ll change the properties of the Windows Explorer shortcut on the Taskbar. To do this, right-click on the Windows Explorer shortcut on the Taskbar. Then, right-click on the ‘Windows Explorer” option on the popup menu and select “Properties” from the popup menu.

Make sure the “Shortcut” tab is active on the Properties dialog box. Put the cursor at the end of the text in the “Target” box and press Ctrl+V to paste the path you copied.

NOTE: If the path you copied has any spaces in it, enclose the entire path in double quotes.

Now, when you click on the Windows Explorer icon on the Taskbar, File Explorer opens to the folder you chose.

If the folder you added to the Windows Explorer icon on the Taskbar in Windows 7 doesn’t exist (maybe you moved or deleted it), the startup folder defaults to My Documents.


To restore the Windows 10 File Explorer icon to its default startup folder, simply copy the original shortcut that you backed up back to the C:\Users\Lori\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned\TaskBar folder. In Windows 7, you can restore the default startup folder in Windows Explorer to its default by opening the properties of the shortcut on the Taskbar again and deleting the path you added in the Target box.

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 05/17/10

Comments (22)

  1. Phoenix

    just love this post.

    just last week i unsuccessfully was searching google for this tip.. Thanks a lot..

    howtogeek is very helpful

  2. Strodtbeck

    don’t forget to add your shortcut keys :)

    I simply make a separate partition for everything that is not the OS and add that shortcut to the start menu with shortcut keys that open to that drive/partition (“HOME”) where everything is. That way I can keep a clean backup of the OS and never have to worry about my separate partition with all my stuff on it.

  3. socalgal

    Not a routine commenter, but man I love this site! At the weekend I was moaning having so many damn useless defaults in WIndows, and the Explorer -> Libraries default was one of them. Many thanks. While not a newbie, I’m also not so confident/stupid as to meddle routinely with the registry, and of course there are other ways of getting to the same place. But still – one less click is one click further away from carpal tunnel.

  4. greenlink

    just a little heads up, you don’t need to put in a big long string just to have it open “my documents”. i have my target set to “C:\Users\[user name]\Documents”.

  5. Matthew Lucas

    Instead of using C:\users\[username]\Documents
    just use %userprofile%\documents
    it is easier and is harder to break if you make changes to your account’s name or the like

  6. Jiyongred

    What about Win+E? This is great for those who click to open Windows Explorer, but it’d be nice if there was a way to do this for the Win+E shortcut. Does anyone know if there is?

  7. Bob

    Your article is very useful as ever.

    But I did not have an explorer icon or anything like it visible
    anywhere.

    So I had to figure out how to get an explorer icon at all
    BEFORE I could even start with your instructions.

    Many users like me may have the same problem.

    Please add the step of making an explorer icon!!!!

  8. Dan

    I also use a easier naming convention those the tip says, mine opens to my computer and I have “%windir%\explorer.exe shell:MyComputerFolder” under target. Now how do I get the libraries and user files to open collapsed?

  9. Josh

    Like Jiyongred, I too would like to know how to change to which folder Win+E opens. Any ideas? It’s my most common way of opening explorer (although the Jumplists on the taskbar are proving to be quite handy).

  10. Bruce

    don’t forget to add your shortcut keys :)

    I simply make a separate partition for everything that is not the OS and add that shortcut to the start menu with shortcut keys that open to that drive/partition (“HOME”) where everything is. That way I can keep a clean backup of the OS and never have to worry about my separate partition with all my stuff on it.

  11. Xeogin

    I usually open Explorer by right-clicking the Start Menu/Pearl. Is there anyway to make this work for that? I’ve changed all the other shortcuts to Explorer and they work fine, but it’s pretty useless if it’s not what I normally use anyway.

  12. Fishel

    I want my startup folder to be ” my files” on disk D. I changed it to d:\ my files. It works great but I can no longer add folders to the explorer folder list in the task bar. Any ideas how to get it to work.

    Thanks

  13. Linda F

    Thank you thank you thank you thank you!

    I love Windows 7, but the fact that Windows Explorer opened to Libraries and I had to click click click just to get to My Documents was driving me out of my mind.

    I figured if anybody knew how to change it, you would. And you did!

  14. Brad

    When I do this (I use the “My Computer” version), folders names in Windows Explorer that contain ‘.’ chars have the end trimmed as though the “file extension” is hidden. The system is set to not hide file extensions, and normal files show correctly. i.e. “textfile.txt” displays as “textfile.txt”, but “my.folder” displays as “my”

    Ideas?

  15. cybersans

    this kind of “shortcut” caused your explorer.exe process remain in your task manager and never terminated. if you open & close windows explorer with that shortcut about 30 times, you will see 31 explorer.exe process in your task manager. see your task manager to check whether it is correct or not

  16. Sri

    If you want to open specific drive, you can use

    %windir%\explorer.exe D:\

    which opens D: Drive.

  17. JNow

    I was able to figure out changing the location and used C:\Users\[user name]\Documents same as greenlink, but what I wanted was the navigation pane (left side column) to expand to the same folder. I finally found how to do it, for anyone interested.

    In Windows Explorer go to “Folder Options”menu up top, then “Folder and search options in the menu that opens up. Scroll down to “Navigation pane”, make sure both “Show all folders” and “Automatically expand to current folder” are checked.

  18. plooger

    The GUID method seems to leave the navigation pane confused. (i.e. the targeted folder is NOT highlighted in the left nav pane; explorer seems to, instead, highlight the ‘Favorites’ branch at the top of the pane)

  19. rwilcher

    This has bugged me for a while. Glad you squashed this one 8^)

  20. rwilcher

    This has bugged me forever. Glad you sqaushed it 8^)

  21. rwilcher

    Is there something like this for the Dreaded Visto O.S ?

  22. Barry Rabichow

    I’d like Windows Explorer to startup with the “desktop” folder. Is there a GUID for that?

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