Windows 11 is getting a big File Explorer upgrade — here's what's new

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Microsoft is constantly tweaking Windows 11 but one area of the operating system that has been neglected in recent updates is File Explorer. Fortunately, it looks like change is coming as the latest Windows 11 preview build appears to have confirmed this important pillar of the OS is getting some well-timed upgrades. 

Windows 11 testers are currently combing through the latest preview version of the popular operating system, and sharing their finding across social media. One such tester is PhantomOfEarth (and relayed by our sister site TechRadar). This user managed to uncover a potential File Explorer redesign by utilizing ViVeTool, a program that enables deeper Windows configuration. 

This new look appears to be at a pretty early stage of its development. Nevertheless, there’s still a lot to like here. Some of the immediately apparent upgrades include redesigned icons, a prominent recommended files section and a suite of flashy animations. Overall, Microsoft doesn’t appear to be entirely revamping File Explorer but is instead giving it a well-earned refresh.

As mentioned, this new look File Explorer is currently in pre-testing and is only accessible by diving deeper into the OS's preview build 23419. This does mean that all these changes could be tweaked or scrapped entirely without ever coming to a consumer build of Windows 11. However, this sneak peek serves as a promising glimpse into the future.

Another big File Explorer change that was discovered last month is an integrated Photo Gallery. Again, this is a new feature that can only be found with the help of ViveTool, but it suggests that soon you’ll be able to properly browse multiple images at just a glance in File Explorer. 

Between this Photo Gallery upgrade and the additional tweaks unearthed in the latest preview build, it appears that Microsft is working towards the goal of streamlining File Explorer and making it as user-friendly as possible. When, or even if, these new features will be rolled out to all Windows 11 users is unclear, but hopefully it’s not too long before they are implemented in the operating system. 

Improvements to File Explorer are not the only changes to Windows 11 in the pipeline. Earlier this week Microsoft confirmed it’s improving how the OS handles default apps, and a recent rumor suggests the tech giant is keen to reintroduce a recommended websites feature that was previously spotted in a January test build. Although the latter appears to be a tool designed to serve users with unwanted ads. 

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Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.