Open File Explorer to Downloads Folder by Default in Windows 10

In Windows 10, from the General tab in Folder Options dialog you can choose between the two options: “Quick access” and “This PC” where you want the File Explorer to open to, by default.

open file explorer to downloads folder

There is also another choice (“Downloads”) you can make which Microsoft doesn’t tell you. But it requires editing the registry.

Here is how to set File Explorer to open “Downloads” folder every time you press WinKey + E or click the File Explorer Taskbar shortcut.

Open File Explorer to Downloads, This PC or Quick access

The Folder Options setting “Open File Explorer to:” is saved in the following registry key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced

Value name: LaunchTo

Data: 1, 2 or 3

  • 1 – File Explorer opens to “This PC”
  • 2 – File Explorer opens to Quick access
  • 3 – This is the undocumented stuff. If the value data is set to 3 (not configurable via Folder Options dialog), File Explorer defaults to “Downloads” folder.

Related article: Want to choose a custom default folder other than the 3 options above? Use the registry edit and script method here: How to Change WinKey + E Shortcut Target in Windows 10?

open file explorer to downloads folder

Note that after setting the value data to 3, drop-down box in the Folder Options dialog would appear like this.

open file explorer to downloads folder

One of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update insider preview builds included “Downloads” in the drop-down list, and Microsoft removed the option in the subsequent releases. However, the registry edit still works in v1607 RTM.

About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and has a vast experience in the ITeS industry — delivering support for Microsoft's consumer products. He has been a Microsoft MVP [2003 to 2012] who contributes to various Windows support forums.