How to Change File Explorer Default Start Folder in Windows 10

The Windows 10 File Explorer opens to Quick access by default. Quick access is a section where you can place shortcuts to your favorite folders. It also displays recently viewed files and frequently used folders. If you’re not a fan of the Quick access feature and want File Explorer to default to “This PC”, Downloads or any other custom folder by default, this post tells you how to do it.

Open File Explorer to This PC or Quick access

  1. Start File Explorer, and click the File menu.
  2. Click Folder and search options
  3. In the Folder Options dialog that opens, select This PC from the drop-down box, and click OK.
    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.


Open File Explorer to the Downloads folder by default

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

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

Launch the Registry Editor (regedit.exe) and go to the above key:

open file explorer to downloads folder



Set the LaunchTo value data to 3 and exit the Registry Editor.

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 v1903.


Open File Explorer to Any folder of your choice

To make File Explorer start to a custom folder location other than the three options, use the registry edit and script method described in the article How to Change WinKey + E and File Explorer Shortcut Target in Windows 10


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About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for 10 consecutive years from 2003 to 2012.

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