How to Restore Classic File Explorer with Ribbon in Windows 11

Classic Ribbon In Windows 11 File Explorer

You can restore the Classic File Explorer with Ribbon in Windows 11 if you are not happy with the modern one. As of this writing, it is a matter of one Registry tweak.

Windows 11 comes with a ton of visual updates. Microsoft has made really drastic changes to the user interface of the OS.  Windows 11 comes with a new taskbar which shows apps and the start menu aligned to the screen center. The Start menu is all new as well.

The OS comes with new versions of built-in apps. You will find new colorful icons here and there, new styles of buttons and other controls. The Settings app lost its home page, and now shows its categories directly.

Finally, File Explorer lost is Ribbon UI. Instead of the Ribbon, the app includes a new toolbar with frequently used file actions. It takes less space on the screen and more touch friendly.

If you are not happy with the new look of File Explorer, you’ve come to the right place.

This post will show you how to restore the classic File Explorer look with the Ribbon in Windows 11.

💡The methods are different for various versions of Windows 11, but luckily we have solutions for all of them. To quickly find what is your Windows 11 version, press Win + R, type winver, and hit Enter. See the data shown in the "About Windows" dialog.

Restore Classic File Explorer with Ribbon in Windows 11

  1. Press Win + R and type control in the Run box to open the Control Panel.
  2. In the Control Panel window, click on the Up arrow button in the toolbar twice.
  3. Alternatively, press the Alt + Up keys, again two times.
  4. File Explorer will surprise you with the classic Ribbon toolbar.

Note: This Control Panel trick also works in all stable versions of Windows 11, including 22H2 and 21H2.

So, opening the Control Panel tool makes File Explorer fall back to its roots. It is unknown for how long Microsoft will allow using this trick. But obviously that one day it will gone from the operating system. So use it as long as it is available.

The Windows Tools folder method

Instead of opening the classic Control Panel, you can navigate to the Start Menu > All apps, and click the Windows Tools icon.

Now in the Windows Tools folder, click any folder on the left in the navigation pane.

This will immediately restore the old classic File Explorer in Windows 11.

It is obvious that loading File Explorer in this way is not convenient. So, you can use a simple launcher I have created, so it does everything above automatically.

Download the launcher

Click this link to download the launcher. Extract the ZIP archive to any folder of your choice. You will have now a file named no_tab_explorer.exe.

Double-click that file. For a brief moment you'll see the Control Panel, but then it will automatically go to the File Explorer with the classic UI.

In addition, you can try the following method. It involves a third-party app, but it is free and open source.

Using ExplorerPatcher

This method works in all stable versions of Windows 11, including 22H2 and 21H2. To restore the old classic ribbon in Windows 11 File Explorer, do the following.

  1. Download the open source ExplorerPatcher app from GitHub.
  2. Install it. The app will launch itself automatically and then restart Explorer for you.
  3. Now, right-click the taskbar, and select the Properties item added by the app to the context menu.
  4. In the Properties window, click File Explorer on the left.
  5. On the right, click on the Control Interface option.
  6. Finally, select "Windows 10 Ribbon" from the drop-down menu.
  7. Click on the Restart File Explorer link in the bottom left corner. Enjoy the classic look of File Explorer!

You are done. Another good thing about the ExplorerPatcher app is that in addition to the Ribbon, it also allows restoring the Windows 7-like command bar. You could see the option in the screenshot above. Here's a File Explorer with that setting on.

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Note: By default, ExplorerPatcher modifies the appearance of the tasbkar and brings back its classic features and look. You can further configure it, or simple disable the extra options if the Ribbon is the only thing you are looking for. Check out the guide on how to restore the classic start menu and taskbar for more details.

StartAllBack

Finally, there is one more third-party tool that worth mentioning. It is, StartAllBack, a paid utility that allows managing a lot of options and settings locked down by default in the OS. You will find it on the official website, here: https://www.startallback.com/.

Install the app, and open its settings. On the left, select Explorer. On the right, click on the preview option of the app style you prefer.

The StartAllBack app is available for $4.99.

If you are running an older version of Windows 11, i.e. version 21H2, you can avoid using third-party tools, and apply a registry tweak instead. The registry tweaks do not work in Windows 11 version 22H2 and above! The procedure is described below.

Registry Tweak to Permanently Restore Old Classic Explorer

Step 1. Open the Notepad app or any other editor of your choice.

Step 2. Paste the following text in the new document:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\CLSID\{2aa9162e-c906-4dd9-ad0b-3d24a8eef5a0}\InProcServer32]
@="-"

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\CLSID\{6480100b-5a83-4d1e-9f69-8ae5a88e9a33}\InProcServer32]
@="-"

Step 4. In Notepad's menu select File > Save as, and type "tweak.reg" as the file name including quotes. Otherwise you may get the tweak.reg.txt file instead of the REG one.

Step 5. Double-click the REG files you just saved to add this to the Registry. Press Yes in User Account Control and in regedit prompts.

Step 6. Restart your computer.

That's it! Now you have File Explorer without tabs, but with the good old classic Ribbon user interface.

How it works

The Registry tweak creates an override entry for the "File Explorer Xaml Island View Adapter" shell component that implements the new UI in File Explorer. Being added for the current user, it has a priority over the "system" one.

The newly added REG branch points the component to the non-existing file, "Windows.UI.FileExplorer.dll_". This way, File Explorer cannot load the new UI and starts with the classic user interface.

Ready-made REG files

You can save your time by downloading these REG files:

Download REG files

Extract the downloaded ZIP archive to any folder location of your choice, and double click one of the files.

  • Restore classic File Exporer.reg - modifies the Registry to launch the classic File Explorer.
  • Undo.reg - restores the modern look of the file manager.

Registry tweak for Windows 11 version 21H2 only

Note: These methods are exclusive to Windows 11 version 21H2, and do not work in version 22H2 and older.

  1. Open the Registry editor. For that, press the Win + R keys and type the regedit command in the Run box.
  2. Navigate to the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Shell Extensions\Blocked.
  3. Click on Edit > New > String value in the menu of the Registry editor.
  4. Name the newly created value {e2bf9676-5f8f-435c-97eb-11607a5bedf7} and leave its value data empty.
  5. Now, open the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Shell Extensions\Blocked, and create here the same {e2bf9676-5f8f-435c-97eb-11607a5bedf7} string value.
  6. Sign out from your user account, and sign in back. Now you have the classic File Explorer with Ribbon.

It is worth mentioning that this method has a disadvantage. If you are reading Winaero daily, you may remember that this very tweak removes the Share command from File Explorer. I don't know how things are related, but disabling the share command disables the new Explorer style and restores the ribbon. But the price you pay is the missing Share command.

If you are not happy with the missing Share command in Explorer, e.g. if you use it, we can finally offer you an alternative solution that preserves the command but disables the Ribbon.

An alternative Registry tweak

  1. Press Win + R and type regedit into the Rub box.
  2. In the Registry editor app, copy and paste the following path into its address bar: HKCU\Software\Classes\CLSID.
  3. Right-click the CLSID key (folder) and select New > Key.
  4. Name the new key you created as {d93ed569-3b3e-4bff-8355-3c44f6a52bb5}.
  5. Now, right-click the newly made {d93ed569-3b3e-4bff-8355-3c44f6a52bb5} key and again select New > Key.
  6. Rename the new key to InprocServer32.
  7. Open the "(Default)" value, i.e. double-click it.
  8. Don't enter anything into the value data dialog, but simply click OK to set it to the empty text value. It will change from (value not set) to blank.
  9. Restart File Explorer to apply changes.

For folks who do not go well with the Registry, Winaero Tweaker comes with the appropriate option.

Enable Ribbon in Windows 11 File Explorer with Winaero Tweaker

  1. Download Winaero Tweaker from here and install the app.
  2. In the left pane, select Windows 11 \ Restore ribbon.
  3. Select (check) the option on the right.
  4. Sign out from your user account when prompted.

Voila, you have restored the Ribbon. Enjoy.

I have no idea for how long this tweak will work. It may stop working right in the next Insider Preview build, so catch the moment.

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Author: Sergey Tkachenko

Sergey Tkachenko is a software developer who started Winaero back in 2011. On this blog, Sergey is writing about everything connected to Microsoft, Windows and popular software. Follow him on Telegram, Twitter, and YouTube.

18 thoughts on “How to Restore Classic File Explorer with Ribbon in Windows 11”

    1. Try to restore the classic search as well and see if it helps. There is an option for that in the latest Winaero Tweaker,

  1. No longer working for me in Build 22494. The checkbox restores the ribbon alright, but it also hides some of my drives content. The alternative option does not work at all.
    Thank you for all your hard work, Amazing program!

    1. This works fine under Build 22598. I checked it today. Does this work perfectly under Build 22593. It does not under 22581.

  2. i was able to get open shell working fine. now i cannot get rid of the search bar in side of the task bar. there is no option to remove it anymore. i could not locate it inside of the task bar items list of thing s to turn on and off.

  3. This may work for some, but my machine, which was updated from Windows 10 and I have a couple of new machines with Windows 11 which do not have the Blocked Key that you list in this command “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Shell Extensions\Blocked”
    I realize I could create the new key, but I am leery of doing that as I don’t know what effect it will have. I think I will wait for Microsoft to fix this. Or someone comes up with a script that I can run to fix the Registry Editor.

    Thank you for all of the hard work that you do!!!

  4. Enable Ribbon missing now under Windows 11 in Winaero. Version 22H2 (OS Build 22621.521) Something has changed since last update.

  5. Similar to above comment, Enable Ribbon option now missing on W11 22H2, and neither of the proposed registry tweaks do the trick either.

  6. After installing OS Build: 2261.521, the File Explorer ribbons are gone again… none of the old tweaks seem to work any more. Also in version of 1.40.0.0 of WT, I noticed the tweak to enable ribbons in File Explorer is gone. Does this mean ribbons are gone for good?

    I know the functionality is still there, because if you enter a path in Control Panel, you get your old explorer Back.

  7. For 22H2:

    StartAllBack | https://www.startallback.com/

    I don’t know how trustworthy it is, given that it’s an external program but since there are no other options I’ll try it. I managed to keep my taskbar, Windows 11 start menu and everything else the samebut still having Windows 10 style File Explorer. I think some the control panel parts are changed to Windows 7 style which I don’t mind. CPU, SSD and RAM use is not impactful.

  8. I hate the new Win Exp/File exp. After the Windows 11 update, I noticed the difference in F.E. I had success switching back to the old version using these tips, and Winaero. Adding the new key and strings will not affect your device just cut/copy and paste. I will admit I avoid Command Prompts unless I am testing on a burner. Websites have no validity that there advice is secure and accurate, like with many online apps, software etc. It is strange that Microsoft or someone changed to format for File Explorer to Windows Explorer. Guess we will not have that great layout of the old File Explorer anymore. A while ago, one day I signed in just to find, Windows Explorer had switched! I guess it could be the series of updates set to auto install, I turned that off. There are plenty of alternatives for free, or with a free trial. Yet none are what I prefer. It is stupid, the consistent alterations. The average life span of a pc varies, and there is no corner in the market to profit from using a bombardment of trendy pc trash.

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