Sometimes you wish Microsoft would let customers decide when to delete a feature. Reader Dan Baechlin depends on Windows Explorer's ability to retain the selection of multiple files after changing the sort order. The feature has been removed from the version of Explorer in Windows 7 and 8. As Dan explains:
My job requires the ability to highlight multiple files or folders in a directory, and to retain that highlighting while re-sorting them by different fields (modification dates, thematically-based titles, etc.) Windows provided that feature -- until version 7. My work unit indexes, manages, and compares policy documents that undergo many revisions. The highlighting function is essential to that task. But now my agency is required to adopt Windows 7. My unit is struggling to avoid that as long as possible, but can't do so forever. Please help.
Ramesh Srinivasan devised a Registry tweak that disables the Full Row Select option in Windows 7 and 8 Explorer windows, and that has the side-effect of preserving multifile selections when re-sorting from Name to Size, Date modified, or some other category. Ramesh describes the process on the WinHelpOnline blog.
Follow these three steps to return the ability to preserve multifile selections when changing the sort type in the versions of Explorer in Windows 7 and 8.
Step one: Create a restore point
Whenever you change your Registry settings you're taking a chance that the alteration will have unintended consequences. By setting a restore point before you begin you're ensuring that the change can be undone. (Note that you'll also be backing up the specific Registry keys that will be deleted, but it can't hurt to have a backup for your backup.)
To create a restore point in Windows 7, click the Start button or press the Windows key, right-click Computer, and choose Properties. Click System Protection in the left pane, enter an administrator password if you're prompted to, select the System Protection tab, and click Create. Enter a description of the restore point, such as "Explorer tweak," and click Create.
In Windows 8 you create a restore point by pressing the Windows key, typing "create a restore point," clicking Settings under the search box, and choosing "Create a restore point" in the main window. Enter an administrator password if you're prompted to, click the Create button under the System Protection tab, provide a description of the restore point, such as "Explorer tweak," and click Create.
Step two: Change two Registry keys
Open the Registry Editor by pressing the Windows key, typing regedit, and pressing Enter. Navigate in the left pane to this key:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Classes \ Local Settings \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ Shell \ Bags
Right-click Bags in the left pane, choose Export, select a convenient location for the key backup, and save it as a .reg file. Then right-click the Bags key again and choose Delete.
Next, navigate in the Registry's left pane to this key, which should be directly above the Bags key:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Classes \ Local Settings \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ Shell \ BagMRU
Export the key by right-clicking it, choosing Export, and selecting a handy location for the backup .reg file, and then delete it by right-clicking the key again and choosing Delete.
Step three: Download and apply the disablefullrowselect.reg file
Ramesh Srinivasan's w7-fullrowsel.zip file includes the disablefullrowselect.reg file that changes the behavior of Explorer in Windows 7 and 8 to allow you to select one field in Details view rather than the entry's entire row. After you download the .zip file, open it and double-click disablefullrowselect.reg to add that key to the Registry.
Your revised Registry entry will appear as shown in the screen below:
To apply the change to Explorer, either restart your system or terminate and restart the Explorer.exe process. A quick way to reset Explorer.exe in Windows 7 is to press and hold the Ctrl and Shift keys while right-clicking any blank area on the Start menu, and then choose Exit Explorer. As Ramesh explains on the WinHelpOnline blog, the Start menu, taskbar, and desktop will close.
To end the Explorer.exe process in Windows 8, press Ctrl-Shift-Esc to open Task Manager, scroll to Windows Explorer in the "Windows processes" section under the Processes tab, select Windows Explorer, and click the Restart button.
To restart Explorer.exe in Windows 7 and 8, press Ctrl-Shift-Esc to open Task Manager, click File > New Task (Run...) in Win7 or File > Run new task in Win8, type explorer.exe, and press Enter.
Bonus tip: Enable the file-selection check box
By default, Windows 7 and 8 hide the check box that lets you select a file by clicking the box that appears to the left of entries in Explorer's Details, List, and Small cons views, and in the top-left corner of the file icons in other Explorer views. Many people find the check boxes make it easier to select items.
To show the check boxes in Explorer in Windows 7, open an Explorer window, click Organize > File and search options, choose the View tab, and scroll to and select "Use check boxes to select items." To see check boxes for items in Windows 8's File Explorer, open an Explorer window, choose the View tab, and check "Item check boxes" in the "Show/hide" section of the ribbon.