Make Navigation Pane Expand to Open Folder in Windows 10

The Navigation pane is a special area on the left of File Explorer which shows the folders and system places like This PC, Network, Libraries and so on. You can make it automatically expand to the open folder, so it will show the full directory tree.


The user is not allowed to customize the Navigation Pane because the user interface lacks the required options, but this is possible with a hack. See this article:

Add custom folders or Control Panel applets to Navigation Pane in File Explorer

By default, the Navigation pane doesn't not automatically expand to the current open folder when you browse folders in the right pane. Here are a number of way to change this behavior.

To make the navigation pane expand to the open folder in Windows 10, do the following.

  1. Open This PC in File Explorer.
  2. Enable the navigation pane if required.
  3. Right click the empty space on the left to open the context menu.
  4. Enable the option Expand to current folder. This will enable the complete folder tree on the left. See the following screenshot.Nav Pane Expand To Current Folder Option

You are done.

There are two alternative methods to enable the options mentioned above. Instead of the context menu, you can use the Ribbon user interface.

Make Navigation Pane Expand to Open Folder using the Ribbon

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Go to the View tab of the Ribbon. In the menu of the "Navigation pane" button, you'll find the commands "Show all folders" and "Expand to open folder" as shown below.

Nav Pane Ribbon Button Options

You are done.

Alternatively, the same options can be enabled via the File Explorer options dialog.

Using File Explorer options

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Go to the View tab of the Ribbon.
  3. Click on the Options button is on the View tab of the Ribbon.
  4. On the View tab of the window, you will find the appropriate check boxes. See the following screenshot.Folder Options Nav Pane

Note: If you disabled the Ribbon, press Alt+T on your keyboard to open the Tools menu and then open File Explorer Options.

Make the navigation pane show all folders with a Registry tweak

Both options mentioned above can be enabled or disabled with a simple Registry tweak. Here is how it can be done.

  1. Open the Registry Editor app.
  2. Go to the following Registry key.

    See how to go to a Registry key with one click.

  3. To make Explorer automatically expand to the currently opened folder, create or modify the "NavPaneExpandToCurrentFolder" 32-bit DWORD value and set it to 1. A value data of 0 will disable the feature.Nav Pane Tweaks
  4. To make the changes done by the Registry tweak take effect, you need to sign out and sign in to your user account.

Note: Even if you are running 64-bit Windows you must still create a 32-bit DWORD value.

That's it.

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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.

3 thoughts on “Make Navigation Pane Expand to Open Folder in Windows 10”

  1. I was a senior Analyst in IT for 20 years.
    I witnessed often, the resultant projects when management would allow programmers to own projects (no Analyst). The results were never pretty.
    I reckon MS got rid of their analysts a decade ago.
    The best way to Make Windows Explorer (aka File Manager aka ? ? ? ) manageable, is to NOT USE IT.
    Get XYPlorerFree or XYPlorer purchased, or Directory Opus purchased, instead.
    Once you get used to DO, you will be a happy man

  2. Thank you – this answered my question perfectly and it was the first link I tried, which is so rare with MS questions!

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