How to start Explorer in a separate process in Windows 8.1, Windows 8 and Windows 7

By default, File Explorer (Windows Explorer) opens all its windows in a single process. That process is called explorer.exe. Explorer.exe and its associated DLLs include all of the user interface in Windows - the taskbar, the Start button and the Start menu, as well as the Start screen in Windows 8. When something goes wrong in one of Explorer's windows such as a hang or a crash, it can cause the whole Explorer.exe process to be closed and restarted. All Explorer windows will be closed immediately, and the user interface (taskbar, Start button etc) disappears and loads again. Enabling Explorer to open separate processes for the file browser can improve the stability of the Explorer shell. Additionally, it is useful to test Registry tweaks you make as they will be applied directly because every new instance of Explorer will read its settings from the registry every time you open a new window. Let's see all the ways to start Explorer in a separate process.


To make Explorer open new windows in a separate process permanently, you need to enable the appropriate setting in Folder Options inside Control Panel.
  • Open Control Panel
  • Go to the following path:
    Control Panel\Appearance and Personalization\Folder Options
  • The Folder Options window will open, switch there to the View tab.
  • Scroll down the options list until you will find the item called Launch folder windows in a separate process. Tick the checkbox.
    launch folders in a separate process
  • This will enable separate processes for all Explorer instances permanently.

    The extended context menu

    It is possible to launch a single window in a separate process from the extended context menu in Explorer.
    Press and hold down the Shift key and right click a folder in an open File Explorer window. You will see some additional items in the context menu. One of them will be Open in new process.
    open in new process context menu
    Click it and the selected folder will be opened in a separate process.

    How to start Explorer in a separate process from the command line

    The explorer.exe application supports a secret hidden command line switch /separate. When specified, it forces Explorer to run in a separate process.
    Press Win + R shortcut keys on the keyboard and type the following:

    explorer.exe /separate

    explorer separate run dialog
    This will open a new Explorer window directly in a separate process.
    That's it.

    How to check how many instances of Explorer you have running in a separate process

    Open the Task Manager app by pressing the Ctrl + Shift + Esc shortcut keys and switch to the Details tab. Click the Name column and scroll to the explorer.exe line.
    explorer task manager
    You will see all the separate instances of Explorer running in your OS.

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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.

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