Operating Systems

How to restore File Explorer to your taskbar

Did your Explorer icon go missing? Here's how to get it back.

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Left: Backup way to access File Explorer. Right: Easy way to restore File Explorer. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

I consider File Explorer an essential component of Windows, so much so that I never understood why Microsoft didn't make it a more prominent part of the OS. In fact, it was only recently that Explorer earned a long-overdue spot on the Windows taskbar.

I'm referring, of course, to the taskbar associated with the Windows desktop, which remains my preferred environment. Much as I'm not a fan of Windows 8, I do appreciate the by-default availability of File Explorer right where I can get at it.

Ah, but what happens if Explorer goes missing? That happened to me not long ago, for reasons I can't explain. (My snide explanation: because Windows!) A bit of Web research revealed I'm not alone in experiencing this mysterious disappearance.

There are, of course, plenty of other ways to access File Explorer:

  • Right-click the Start button (if you've enabled it) and choose File Explorer.
  • Press Windows-E.
  • If you're using Windows' tiled interface (a.k.a. Start Screen), just type "File," then click File Explorer when it appears.

But as a creature of habit, I'm accustomed to clicking the taskbar File Explorer icon, so I want it back. Fortunately, it's easy.

Head to the Start Screen, then type "File," exactly as I described above. (If you haven't yet upgraded to Windows 8.1, you'll need to invoke Search first.) You should see File Explorer in the list of search results. Right-click it, then choose Pin to taskbar.

Presto! When you return to the Desktop, you'll see your beloved File Explorer icon. Now just drag it to your preferred position on the taskbar.