File Explorer does not Highlight Files or Folders in Windows 10

When you select one or multiple files or folders in File Explorer, the selection may not be highlighted although the status bar may report the number of items selected. This can be very annoying when you want to open a file using File Explorer or during copy operations.

File Explorer does not Highlight Files

While there is no official fix for this problem, upgrading to Windows 10 v1809 or higher version may silently correct the issue. This article has some additional workarounds for the File Explorer highlight selection issue.

File Explorer does not Highlight Selected Files or Folders in Windows 10

In some systems, the File Explorer selection highlighting may stop working when you change the display scaling to 125% or the other way around. While other users have observed that the problem happens after a remote desktop session using different display scaling than the desktop.

Also, this sometimes happens after Windows 10 installs new updates or hardware drivers. Other users have stated that this issue occurs only when the computer wakes up from sleep or hibernation mode. Everything points out to the graphics subsystem or drivers.

See if one or more of the following workarounds or fixes help.

Update your graphics driver

This is not a workaround, but a solution. Some users have fixed this issue once for all by updating their graphics drivers from the manufacturer’s website. Also, make sure you have the latest build/version and the latest cumulative update installed.

OEMs such as Dell include the SupportAssist tool which periodically checks for drivers updates and BIOS updates from Dell servers. This way one need not go to the manufacturer’s site to find the relevant updates for their computer model. Likewise, other OEMs may have such health checkup tools installed. Check it out on yours.

It’s always a best practice to get the device drivers from the manufacturer rather than Windows Update.

Restart the Explorer shell

Right-click Taskbar → click Task Manager → Processes → right-click Windows Explorer under Apps → click Restart.

File Explorer does not Highlight Selected Files

This restarts the explorer shell cleanly. For more information on that topic, see How to Restart Explorer Cleanly in Windows 10?

Toggle the Personalization color setting

  1. Click Start → Settings → Personalization → Colors → select a new color.
  2. Press WinKey + D to hide the desktop
  3. Press WinKey + D to show the desktop
  4. Select the original color in the Colors settings.

Files should now be highlighted upon selection.

Toggle the background picture selection

  1. Click Start → Settings → Personalization → Background → select Solid color.
  2. Check if that fixes the File Explorer selection highlight problem.
  3. Switch back to the original background picture.

Toggle the High Contrast mode on and off

  • Press left Alt + left Shift + Print Screen.

    A pop-up shows up asking Do you want to turn on high contrast mode?

  • Click Yes to turn on high contrast mode.
  • Once high contrast mode is enabled again, select items in a folder and see if they’re highlighted.
  • Disable High contrast mode by pressing left Alt + left Shift + Print Screen

Alternatively, to toggle the high contrast mode via Settings:

  1. Click Start → Settings → Personalization → Colors → click High contrast settings
  2. Click Turn on high contrast
  3. Click Turn off high contrast to toggle it off.

Start folder windows in separate Explorer.exe process

Open a folder in a new explorer.exe process instance. To do so, create a shortcut to the folder with explorer.exe prefix, such as:

explorer.exe c:\windows\system32

This starts the folder in its own process. Note that this spawns new explorer.exe instances as you can see in Task Manager.

File Explorer does not Highlight Files

Perform a Full Shutdown & Restart

  1. Right-click Start, and click Run.
  2. Type the following command and click OK:
    shutdown /r /f /t 0
  3. Wait for a few minutes as complete shutdown takes more time than the usual shutdown. The regular shutdown via the Start menu does a hybrid shutdown due to the Fast Startup feature. The shutdown command-line bypasses Fast Startup, and the system restarts automatically.

Disable Fast Startup

If restarting the system using the shutdown.exe command helps you work around the file explorer selection highlighting issue every time, try disabling Fast Startup.

  1. Right-click Start, click Run.
  2. Type powercfg.cpl click OK to open Power Options
  3. Click Choose what the power buttons do in the left pane.
  4. Click Change settings that are currently unavailable
  5. Under Shutdown settings, disable Turn on Fast startup.
  6. Click Save Changes
  7. Restart the computer.

Start Windows clean — without third-party programs and services

Do a clean boot. You can disable unnecessary startup programs via Task Manager’s Startup tab. And, using msconfig.exe you can disable non-Microsoft services in a single click.

File Explorer does not Highlight Files

  1. Open msconfig.exe → Services → enable Hide all Microsoft services
  2. Take a screenshot of the above window using Win + PrintScreen
  3. Click Disable all → OK.
  4. After restarting the system, see if the selection highlighting issue is fixed in File Explorer. If so, enable a set of 3rd party services again to test and reboot. Repeat the procedure until you narrow down the offending service.
  5. Similarly, do the same for startup entries, via Task Manager → Startup tab.

If you’re a Windows SysInternals fan, you can use the Autoruns tool for performing a clean boot troubleshooting. See article Clean Boot Windows Using the Autoruns Utility for more information.

Repair Windows 10 using SFC and DISM

Open an admin Command Prompt window and run:

sfc /scannow

The above System File Checker (Sfc.exe) command-line verifies and replaces any corrupt system files. If SFC is unable to repair corrupted files, run the DISM tool. For more information, check out the article Repair Windows 10 Using DISM and SFC

Hope one of the above workarounds or fixes helped you resolve the issue of File Explorer not highlighting the selected items in Windows 10.

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Ramesh Srinivasan is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a consecutive ten-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award in the Windows Shell/Desktop Experience category, from 2003 to 2012. He loves to troubleshoot and write about Windows. Ramesh founded in 2005.

5 thoughts on “File Explorer does not Highlight Files or Folders in Windows 10”

  1. Thank you so much! I was surprised when you said that it may disappear when display settings are 125%, because then I remembered that I actually DID change it!

  2. The file explorer not highlighting the selected files issue was resolved with the help of your article.

    Thanks a bunch!


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