Home page
Articles for Windows, Linux, OS X
Mac tips and articles
Mac tips
Windows 8 tips and articles
Windows 7 tips and articles
Vista Tips
XP Tips
Linux tips and articles
Read the blog
Online store
Windows, Linux, OS X programs

Windows 7 tips and tweaks

Display the contents of Explorer Windows faster

If you have been using your computer for quite a long time and have added lots of files, you may have noticed that it sometimes takes several seconds for Explorer windows to display their contents. What sometimes happens is that you open a window and you get the busy mouse and a slowly advancing green bar at the top. You may even get folders that won't display at all.

This usually happens when there are lots of files in a folder and also when there is a large number of images. It can be very irritating and frustrating, but fortunately there is a solution to the problem. You just need to change some simple settings and everything is back to normal. The folder contents display where before they wouldn't and they display quickly where they were previously slow.

There are three things that cause folders to display slowly or not at all. The first is the sort order, the second is the view and the third is the optimisation.

The default sort order for the contents of folders is by name and this is the fastest way to display the contents. It is possible to sort the files in an Explorer window by the date, size or other attributes, but Explorer must read every file to all the attributes before it can sort them and when there are a lot of files it takes a long time. Names are much faster to read. Right click an empty space in the Explorer window and select Sort by, Name.

Thumbnail views of files, especially images, photos and videos, are very useful of course, but when there are a lot of files it takes a long time to generate them. A plain text listing is the fastest way to display files in Explore windows. Click the icon near the top right corner of the window until you get the list view or click the little down arrow next to it to display the menu. You can also right click an empty space in the Explorer window and select View, List.

Right click a folder in an Explorer window (not one of the special folders - Documents, Music, and so on) and select Properties and then the Customize tab. At the top is an option to optimise the folder for a particular type of content. This determines how Explorer treats the files and if you choose Pictures for example, then it will open each file, get the dimensions, create a thumbnail, get exif information stored by digital cameras and so on. This all takes time and it slows down the display of the folder contents in the window. Folders optimised for music and video are slow to display for the same reason. If you choose to optimise a folder for general items it will speed up the display.

You should be aware that these settings apply to Open and Save dialogs too and not just Explorer windows. Open and Save dialogs are like Explorer views and list view sorted by name is the fastest way to display these dialogs.

Go to Windows 7 tips index...