How-To Geek

Stupid Geek Tricks: Using 7-Zip as a Blazing Fast File Browser

One of the most irritating things in Windows is the file browsing experience… it’s slow, buggy, and never wants to stay in “Details” mode. If you are already using the awesome 7-Zip utility, you have a powerful alternative file manager at your disposal.

In case you’re wondering, 7-Zip is our file archiving utility of choice around here. It’s awesome.

Using 7-Zip File Manager

You can quickly find the 7-Zip File Manager under the start menu by just typing “7” into the search box.

Open 7-Zip 

The default view is a simple details view, that doesn’t go out of whack every time you browse into another folder. It just works. You can even browse down into any archive (zip, rar, iso, etc) file as if it was a folder.

7-Zip Default View

Using the View menu, you can enable a dual pane mode, so you can drag/drop files back and forth between the panes.

7-Zip Dual Pane 

For quickly accessing folders, you can setup Favorites that even have hotkeys associated to them… makes finding that deeply nested folder a breeze.

7-Zip Favorites

Inside the options panel are a couple of really useful options that aren’t enabled by default: You can show the real file icons the same way Explorer does, enable the regular explorer system menu, and set full row selection.

7-Zip Settings

Ever browse to a folder, but then forget which one it was? Using the Alt+F12 shortcut key (or through the View menu) you can bring up the Folders History dialog, which saves everywhere that you browsed. Very useful!

7-Zip History 

The context menu for files already has powerful capabilities embedded… we already have a hack to add the Copy To / Move To options to Explorer, but it’s something that should just be there in the first place.


You’ll notice in the screenshot that there’s also a very useful option to create a new folder with a hotkey… something you can only do in Explorer with a plugin.

Create a Shortcut to Open a Specific Folder in 7-Zip

You can also setup an icon to open up 7-Zip already set to a specific folder. Just right-click anywhere and choose New \ Shortcut from the menu.

New Shortcut 

Use the Browse button to navigate down to the following path (adjusting if you installed elsewhere).

“C:\Program Files\7-Zip\7zFM.exe”

Create Shortcut

Make sure to include the full path in quotes, and then pass in the path that you want to open as a parameter (with a space between). In the example above, the shortcut will open the C:\ folder.

Now you should have an icon that will open 7-Zip directly to the C: drive.

7-Zip Icon

It’s simple, easy, and useful… it’s a Stupid Geek Trick. Got any tricks of your own? Share them in the comments.

Download 7-Zip from

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 03/24/09

Comments (18)

  1. Jeff

    Fantastic idea!
    I once dug deep into the web to find a way to make the details view a system wide default and never did uncover anything half as good as 7z.

  2. Albert

    Woah, this can replace my windows explorer lol.

  3. BrianA

    Thanks for pointing this out – it’s fast and easy. I’ve been using 7-Zip as a compression utility but this never occurred to me. After trying other file managers such as Zabkat Explorer2, but finding them far too complex for my needs, this is just right.

  4. Bill

    The only thing it’s missing is the ability to use your “send to” options.

  5. Steve

    I am actually embarrassed that I never thought of this before. This really does work so very well.

  6. Bojan K.

    I wasn’t aware of this feature of 7-Zip and although I am impressed with just how snappy it is (reminds me of the days of using the abandoned Turbo Navigator) I doubt it can replace my Windows Explorer replacement of choice – FreeCommander. Its navigation through folders is a bit clunky and requires way too many steps to get me where I want. The feature it sorely misses is moving back and forward through history using standard keyboard shortcuts – ALT+left or right arrow. And if it had such feature, customizable shortcuts would come really handy.

    I like the ability to delete individual entries in history, but the whole ALT+F12 process of moving through it is too slow, too restricted by the fixed size window and because of that almost gruelling compared to FreeCommander’s ALT+down arrow.

    The missing breadcrumb feature is also a big minus.

    My main reason for using the option to switch panes in FC is to toggle between sorting the files and folders by name (in right pane) and date modified (in left pane). That can be done in 7-Zip by switching views with CTRL+F keys, but the omission of indicator on the selected column completely baffles me. I just don’t understand how any of the developers didn’t notice that or, much worse, deemed it as such an unimportant detail that it’s not even worth the trouble implementing it. But I guess they are mostly focused on the primary nature of the program (archiving) and not its functionality as a file manager. Which is a shame, cause this could be a great light-weight alternative.

    So, as it is now – capable, extremely fast, but also too unpolished – I highly doubt 7zFM will replace FreeCommander on my computer. But I can see myself using it on other people’s computers, if by some chance I don’t have my USB stick on me.

  7. KBPrez

    What a great tool this is! THANKS Geeks!!!!!

  8. Jeffs3rd

    That’s pretty cool. 7-zip is the archive manager of choice around here as well. Never would have thought of it as a file browser. Another cool tip from HTG!

  9. Brazilianboiii

    Too bad you can’t search the web using it :/

  10. Caitlin

    My favorite part about using 7-zip as a file explorer, is being able to open zipped files to an editor and then when I save & close the file, 7-zip updates the archive – no unzipping & rezipping necessary.

  11. Randy

    I like Xplorer2 better:
    It is more powerful, even the “lite” version:
    tabs, customizable toolbar, etc

  12. Hoax Buster

    For Windows Think about the excellent QTTabBar, free too, and compatible XP and Vista (Not 7 yet).

    Windows Xplorer will be fitted with tabbar, launcher, favorites… And some plugins are available…

    Excellent ! Terific !

  13. End User

    Pretty cool little app. One little change I made was in the shortcut replace C:\ on the end with Computer\. That way it opens up showing all your drives and not just the C: drive.

  14. Viv

    Is it possible to make all folders open using 7 zip explorer instead of Windows Explorer?

  15. Carby

    Now that you can’t do “explorer /separate” anymore I use 7-zip at work as an elevated-rights file explorer so I can browse UNC paths on restricted access machines.

  16. Metrotek

    I created a shortcut and it works fine. I just need to learn how to use 7 Zip, I don’t even know where I got it but it came up with a 7 just like you said it would.

    My path was:

    C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\7-Zip

    I have a drop down toolbar I created at the top of my screen so I moved the file/folder from desktop to the toobar.
    You guys are really smart and a lot of fun too.Thank you for all of the cool stuff you turn us onto.

  17. Bruno Giordano

    Hi there, theres a cool package for 7-Zip icons called 7-Zip FK.

    7-Zip 9.20 FK by fukayama-couple on deviantART

  18. HOGAT

    You guys should seriously consider moving to Ubuntu Linux. I suppose the 7-zip codes are shared with the file browser in Ubuntu, with more powerful functions. At least the user experience is borrowed from Ubuntu, exactly the same, just more powerful at OS level. You can have multiple tabs just like current browsers.

    But this is just one of the pleasant surprises of Linux.

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