How to Get Classic XP Style Navigation Pane Back in Windows 7 Explorer?

We all know that Windows 7 Explorer is pretty much different from XP Explorer. In most of the cases its better than XP Explorer but one thing is really missing in Windows 7 Explorer and that is the good old Navigation pane.

Windows 7 Explorer doesn't provide following 2 important features which can be found in XP Explorer:

  • Windows XP Explorer shows a tree structure of all folders in Navigation pane.
  • Windows XP Explorer Navigation pane automatically expands the content of the selected folder.

Also Windows XP Explorer Navigation pane is simple and minimal. It only shows the drives and folders list under My Computer icon where as Windows 7 Explorer shows lots of unnecessary items like Favorites, Libraries, Homegroup and Network.

Today in this tutorial, we'll learn how to get Windows XP style Navigation pane back in Windows 7 Explorer.

After following this tutorial, your Windows 7 Explorer Navigation pane will look like following screenshot:


As you can see in above screenshot, the Navigation pane looks very close to XP one. So without wasting any time, lets start the tutorial:

STEP 1: First you'll need to remove the unnecessary items from Navigation pane like Favorites, Homegroup, etc. You can follow following tutorials to remove the desired items:

STEP 2: After removing the items, right-click on empty area in Navigation pane and select "Expand to current folder" option.


That's it. Now Windows 7 Explorer Navigation pane will automatically expand content of the selected folder and will work like the good old XP Explorer.

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Posted in: Troubleshooting, Windows 7

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  • thanks for the information!

    i also have a question for you:
    i am making a program to tweak windows 7 and for that i would need to change the registry permissions pragmatically. I would probably use REGINI to do that. But if i use REGINI and do something like this:
    HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{323CA680-C24D-4099-B94D-446DD2D7249E}\ShellFolder [1]
    all the existing permissions would be erased and replaced by the one i set (in the example, Administrators Full Access). The original permissions of the exaple key include TrustedInstaller and other special permissions which cannot be accessed with REGINI.
    do you think it would be a good idea doing it that way? or should i try to use something else?
    and another question: do you know how to backup/export registry permissions?

  • VG

    ^^ Sorry to say but I have done very little testing of REGINI command so cant help much in this case.

  • I believe that the nicest part of old Windows (XP, 98, 95) Explorer wasthat it was capable to work together with My Computer. I would put both of them on screen and depending on what I was trying to do, I would use one or the other.
    In the former programs you could set My Computer to open without Navigation screen and the way that every folder you opened would open in a new window. At the same time Windows Explorer could work with navigation pane and would be opening ech folder in the same window. Wasn't it fantastic. Just try to do it with Windows 7! That program is so stupid that it cannot even remember, where and how you openned your folder last time and you have to chase it all around the screen.

  • Great tutorial

  • Unfortunately, the worst thing in Windows 7 Explorer is "nice" feature of hiding arrows denoting subdirectories which has nested subdirectories when mouse leaves the navigation pane. The second to it is lack of lines connecting the same nesting levels. If they could be selectable, then navigation in big trees (and with many branches on some levels) would be much more convenient...

  • VG

    ^^ Classic Shell can do all of your above mentioned things:

  • How can I make the Windows 7 explorer indented more? I can't tell where the contents of folders start and end. The indentation is so minimal it gives me a headache trying to read it. I don't understand why they are making the appearance worse instead of better. This is one of the reasons that I waited until the end of 2014 to switch to Windows 7, I knew it was horrible looking, as I had given a new computer with Win 7 to a relative.

  • I wish I could write something that would get to the programmers and planners at Microsoft and tell them to make Windows Explorer easier on the eyes. I am thinking about buying a substitute Start Menu & Explorer program called Classic Shell, but don't want to do that until I have my new Win 7 computer all set up. That way if I have to get rid of it by doing a system restore, I won't be eliminating all my necessary software installations that I am still working on. I think Microsoft is trying to make Windows appeal to kids instead of professionals.

  • Quote: "In most of the cases its better than XP Explorer"
    How? I cannot think of a single feature that is an improvement.
    Libraries - Yuk - a nasty cobble-up that achieves nothing.
    Favourites - Not in my case, just some recently used stuff
    I have to navigate through C:, users etc to find anything..

    Don't even get me started on the picture viewers compared to XP!

    Microsoft seem to have one forward gear and 10 reverse gears.

  • Peter you are so right. Why did they ruin the great folder hierarchy of Windows XP. I can't stand Libraries. They should of left it as My Documents with My Pictures, Music and Videos in that folder. Why didn't they leave well enough alone. And I hate where the user has to decide on thumbnail view or icon view. On XP you can have both. I don't want to give up my icons. Never again will we see a easy, simple OS that makes sense. Vista started to downfall.

  • All you need is xpexplorer, its the same thing as WindowsXP filemanager, but this one also allows you to get everything you need

  • I got rid of all that Win 7 groups junk without having to go into the Registry, but I don't recall how, now. It was just with innate settings and/or Classic Shell.

  • Brilliant!!

  • I'd really like to remove 'Networks' and I've tried the reg tweak above. There's a problem if you go to a network drive then the treeview shows only local Desktop, C: etc. Nothing relevant to where you are in the right pane. It's useless. I just want my XP explorer as it was.

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