How to manage tabs on File Explorer for Windows 11

Here's everything you need to know to make the most out of tabs on File Explorer.

Tabs on File Explorer
Tabs on File Explorer

Windows 11 includes an updated version of File Explorer with tabs that work similarly to how tabs work in web browsers.

The idea of the feature is simple. Instead of having multiple instances of File Explorer, you can now use one instance of the app to navigate multiple folders and drive locations. Also, you can create new or close open tabs, and the feature works in dark mode.

This guide will teach you the easy steps to get started with tabs on File Explorer for Windows 11.

How to use tabs on File Explorer

On Windows 11 22H2 and higher releases, tabs should be enabled automatically. If not, you can use these steps to enable the feature on your computer.

Create new tabs

To create a new tab on File Explorer for Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Click the “new tab” button next to the current tab.

    File Explorer open new tab button

  2. Click the middle button of the mouse while hovering over a folder.

  3. Right-click a folder and select the “Open in new tab” option.

    Folder context menu with open new tab option

  4. Use the “Ctrl + T” keyboard shortcut.

You can also use the right-click and middle button options to open locations from the left navigation bar.

You can also use the “Ctrl + N” keyboard shortcut, but the action is the same as the “Windows key + E” action, which opens a new instance of File Explorer.

Close open tabs

To close tabs on File Explorer, use these steps:

  1. Click the Close (X) button in the tab.

    File Explorer close tab button

  2. Click the middle button of the mouse while hovering over the tab.

  3. Right-click the tab and select the “Close tab” option.

    File Explorer tab context menu

  4. Right-click the tab and select the “Close other tabs” option to close all the tabs except the one you right-clicked on.

  5. Right-click the tab and select the “Close tabs to the right” option to close those tabs on the right, leaving those tabs on the left open.

  6. Use the “Ctrl + W” keyboard shortcut to close the current tab.

If you want to close all the tabs at the same time, click the Close (X) button on File Explorer.

Browse open tabs

On File Explorer, you can navigate open tabs using these actions:

  1. Drag a tab left or right to change its position.

    File Explorer tabs re-arrange

  2. Use the “Ctrl + Tab” keyboard shortcut to cycle through the open tabs.

  3. If you have multiple tabs open, use the left and right buttons to scroll forward and backward through the tabs.

    File Explorer tab navigation buttons

  4. If you want to copy a file between folders, drag the file over the new tab and drop it in the new location. If you drag the file with the right-click, you will get the context menu with the options to copy or move the file.

    File Explorer move files between tabs

File Explorer doesn’t have the option to disable tabs, but if you want the traditional experience, you may still be able to turn off the feature using this workaround.

Windows 11 doesn’t limit the tabs you can open on File Explorer. If the application can’t show more tabs, the overflow buttons will appear on the right and left to move between tabs. 

Also, even though you can drag the tabs, you cannot drag them out of the window to start a new instance. If this is the case, you will need to open a new File Explorer instance manually. For example, using the “Windows Key + E” keyboard shortcut.

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 Email him at [email protected].