How to preview files and images without opening them on Windows 11

Yes, you can preview files without opening them on File Explorer, and in this guide, you will learn how on Windows 11.

Windows 11 fire preview
Windows 11 fire preview

On Windows 11, you can preview files and images without having to open them with their corresponding app, and in this guide, you will learn how.

If you ever use macOS, you know you can select a file and press the “spacebar” key to preview it, but this is not a feature on Windows 11. However, you can add a similar feature using the Peek tool available with PowerToys.

This guide will teach you the steps to preview files without opening them from File Explorer on Windows 11.

How to preview files using Peek from PowerToys

To preview images and files without opening them on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open PowerToys on Windows 11.

    Quick note: You can use these instructions to install PowerToys on your computer.
  2. Click on Peek.

  3. Turn on the Enable Peek toggle switch.

    PowerToys enable Peek

  4. (Optional) Under the “Activation” section, click the Edit (pen) button and create a new keyboard shortcut to use Peek.

  5. Open File Explorer.

  6. Open the location with files and images to preview.

  7. Select the file or image and preview the contents using the “Ctrl + Spacebar” keyboard shortcut.

    Windows 11 image preview

Once you complete the steps, you will be able to preview files without opening them.

While in the preview, you can use the “left” and “right” (or “up” and “down”) arrow keys to keep previewing files in the folder location. On the top-right, you will find an option to open the file with a compatible application. For instance, if you preview an image, you will notice the option to open it with the Photos app. If you preview a text file, the option will offer to open it with Notepad.

If you use the “Pin” button on the top-right, then the tool will remember the size of the window and position on the screen for future previews.

In addition to Peek, PowerToys includes a slew of tools that can make Windows 11 even more useful, such as Hosts File Editor, File locksmith, FancyZones, Color Picker, and more. Microsoft periodically updates the app with more functionalities.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and About.me.