Best Free File Manager


In a Hurry?

  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide



A File Manager provides a convienient way for the end users to work with file systems and perform various operations on files and folders such as create, edit, rename, copy, delete, modify file attributes, compare folders etc. While Windows Explorer provides a fair amount of simple file management activities, a dedicated file manager helps you to keep things unsophisticated and gives you various tools out of the box to manage a large number of files at  a time. File managers gives you faster and easier management of files and folders on your PC.

The various special features that I'm looking forward to in a file manager are Dual panes, Tabbed interface, Bookmarks, History, Archive handling, Advanced File Search, MultiRename, Folder Size Enumeration, Folder Compare & Synchronize, FTP support, File viewer, File sorting, File splitter, Filtered view, Keyboard shortcuts, Easy access to system folders and more.



So here's the top 5 products that I found after months of testing, that combines the best of interface, features and customizability among all the file managers out there. Since these top 5 products include most of these features mentioned in the introduction, I won't go in detail about them in each review.

FreeCommander XE Rating 10 of 10

   By: Marek Jasinski

FreeCommander XE is the top pick for this year. FCXE has an elegant and user friendly UI. With a 2 pane interface and shortcuts available along the vertical and horizontal toolbars, there’s a lot to love here. The file manager provides one touch access to most of the system directories, desktop items, start menu and control panel items. Different layout as well as column profiles can be configured and individually saved.

FreeCommander by default makes use of Windows explorer for file operations, and the same can be done using built-in facilities too. FCXE boasts a huge feature set and a few are to come along the way, like FTP client, File Splitting and Content plugins (.wdx). File searching function is extremely powerful, you can even search within the archives too. It also provides a plain view for files and folders, where instead of the files being nested inside different folders they are all shown in a single view.

The customizability provided by FCXE is immense. Starting from the toolbar, nearly every button and bar can be customized according to your wish. There’s also immense keyboard customization support where shortcuts can be provided for each and every function. You could backup and restore all the customized settings at will. It also includes a desktop snapshot feature.

InterfaceRating 10 of 10

FeaturesRating 9 of 10

CustomizationRating 10 of 10

Unreal Commander Rating 10 of 10

   By: Max Diesel

If any file manager comes close to the look and feel of Total Commander (TC), it’s Unreal Commander. There’s the usual 3 different view styles:- List, Details and Thumbnails. There’s a powerful filter system to filter the items that you want to view. Panels can be arranged horizontally or vertically and a quick view panel is available. UC packs multiple visual styles with different color categories for files as well as fonts for interface elements. Themes and button bars can be downloaded/configured as well since it supports TC extensions. The file manager also also supports background pictures.

Selection can be made in Norton Commander mode or Windows standard mode. Various settings that have been made are saved on exit. Quick searches can be done for files from the main window. The built-in FTP client is really powerful, data ports can be protected using SSL/TLS and connection can be made anonymously. With background picture support you could skin the file manager according to your tastes. 

Although Universal Viewer is being used as internal viewer for various files, this can be customized to include any viewer that you find suitable. Same is the case with file editor. Just like Total Commander, you can configure Lister plugins (.WLX), Packer plugins (.WCX) and Content plugins (.WDX). Settings that have made can be stored as different ini files for Main settings, Visual styles, FTP connections etc or to the registry.

Note: Unreal Commander is donationware, meaning a nag screen will pop up (only once during each system restart) to donate for the product if you like. Also you’ll have to register the product with a free license key. 

InterfaceRating 9 of 10

FeaturesRating 10 of 10

CustomizationRating 10 of 10

NOMAD.NET Rating 9 of 10

   By: Eugene Sichkar

Nomad.Net is the successor to Nomad and this time completely re-written in .Net programming language. This file manager has a simplified and clean interface. The tabs unlike other managers are not panel based and hence provides ample space. You may use tree view like Windows explorer, and the layouts can be customized for future use. The breadcrumb folder toolstrip let’s you view a wealth of information.

The file manager gives importance to multithreading, so lengthy file operations can make good use of multi-core CPU’s. The file manager also houses a powerful search engine with complex search rules as well as a strong filtering system. A unique feature is the ability to customize individual folders view and options and make it to remember them. You may also lock the folders to prevent changing it. Nomad.Net not only allows you to bookmark your favourite folders, but even your FTP sites and searches. The program has a wipe function and allows to clean free spaces.

Nomad has extensive toolbar customization capabilities along with keyboard mapping support for almost every function. Although the file manager allows full internal support for a long list of archive types, it also supports WCX plugins to view, create and edit archives. 

InterfaceRating 10 of 10

FeaturesRating 8 of 10

CustomizationRating 8 of 10

MultiCommander Rating 9 of 10

   By: Mathias Svensson

A great file manager for power users is MultiCommander. You could control the look and feel of MultiCommander on startup, and choose between Commander Styled, which is optimized for keyboard or Windows explorer Styled compatibility. In addition you could choose from multiple look’ n’feel profiles for mouse, keyboard, color and overall settings. Various tips are provided during launch to ease you into the functionalities of the file manager. You’re greeted with unique button panel at the lower portion of the file manager for various functions that makes it all the more convenient to use.

MultiCommander has a vast array of features in it’s arsenal. The multi-view feature let’s you browse folders on one panel and the contents are immediately available on the other. You could configure viewers, editors, launchers to use for different file types. Various plugins are available that expands the file system, file operations such as auto-sort, auto-unpack and support application extensions expands the file manger with various new tools. Also for the ultimate geeks, you could tweak the read/write strategies used and also set to keep broken/unfinished files. Accessing windows registry right within the manager and quick access to Control Panel is a pretty neat feature. Moreover certain useful Audio, Video and Picture tools are also available.

The file manager is a powerhouse of customizability enhancing the file navigation experience. The multi-update feature automatically updates MultiCommander to the latest version so it saves you the trouble of manual updation. The buttons available on the panel can be configured to execute various external programs, activate functions inside MultiCommand, call scripts etc.

InterfaceRating 7 of 10

FeaturesRating 8 of 10

CustomizationRating 9 of 10

Master Commander Rating 9 of 10

   By: Andrzej Stefanczyk      

Master Commander will please all average users. There are no extensive customization options, the program is simple and straight forward but powerful enough. A tabbed interface with optional tree view is provided for each of the 2 panels. A useful history and bookmark manager is provided to manage tasks and files with ease and keyboard shortcuts for most basic file operations is visible at the bottom.

Out of the box, Master Commander packs in the most features than any other. A text editor with syntax highlighting most programming languages as well as a hex editor for modifying files is provided. Among the features rarely seen in any other file managers include, support for creating ISO images as well as verify & sign digital signatures for files. It also packs in a CD-DVD burner, process manager and a download manager. One feature that’s certainly missing is clickable crumbbars.

Customizability is not the strong point of Master Commander. For instance, the toolbar cannot be customized and there aren’t any keyboard shortctuts that could be defined. Although, the font and color for text and background elements are available to play with according to users wishes. You could also define background images for the list view. This is a no frills, simple yet advanced get-go file manager for daily use. 

InterfaceRating 9 of 10

FeaturesRating 10 of 10

CustomizationRating 6 of 10

More File Managers

Although the best are listed above, it doesn't hurt to know more options out there, if you aren't satisfied with the any of the above. 

Nexus File Rating 8 of 10

  • Modern interface - Probably the most modern and sytlish interface that I've seen. 
  • Work Folder - If you set a folder as an work folder. you can go to that folder with shortcut key right away. Also copy/move/extract files/folders to an work folder with only two step keyboard shortcut.
  • Innovative Folder Tree - The hierarchial represeting let's you see all the sub-contents at a glance. 
  • Colors - You can customize colors for file listings and folder free. Different colors for various file types lets you to easily distinguish files at a glance.

Home | Download | Portable | Release Notes | FAQ | Forum

wxCommander Rating 8 of 10

  • Advanced Built-in text editor - One of the best text editors I've seen, with syntax highlighting. 
  • Shortcut menus for USB flash drives - Makes starting applications very easy right from your USB drive.
  • Portable - No installation or uninstallation required. 
  • Linux styled interface may not please everyone. 

Home | Download | Release Notes | Plugins | Contact

xplorer2lite Rating 7 of 10

  • Multifunctional address bar - Specifying folder names and visual filters and for running windows applications.
  • Autocompletion - Paths and other frequently typed information.
  • Dockable Thumbnail bar - To preview images, html and office applications.
  • No hotkey cusomization and uses windows search. 
  • Free version limited. See feature comparison

Home | Download | Support | FAQ

Better Explorer Rating 6 of 10

  • Ribbon sytled tabbed explorer for Win 7 & 8
  • Drive usage analysis chart
  • Conditional selecting - filtering, searching, selecting. 
  • Is just an enhancement to the Windows 8 explorer

Home | Download | Release Notes

R.I.P File Managers

These file managers were once great, but are no longer developed. They continue to work on latest versions of Windows, but won't be featured in the main review.

Not Recommended

These file managers were tested but falls short in features and overall usability. They are either too simple or too restricted in features for daily use. 


Other File Managers to be reviewed:

These File Mangers were brought up in the user comments section. I'm currently reviewing them or have finished reviewing and waiting to be listed in the main article during the next review update. Please be patient. 



File managers that were written as 32-bit applications will generally work on 64-bit Windows, but functionality will be limited in two ways:

  • Shell extensions (i.e., file context menu entries) of 64 bit applications won't appear in a 32 bit file manager.
  • 32-bit file managers will not be able to access the "system32" directory of a 64 bit Windows installation, they will be deflected to the "sysWOW64" directory instead.
  • 32-bit programs have not full access to the control panel.


Dec 27 2013
More file managers added
Dec 23 2013 Major Update to the article (New top pick)


Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:


Quick Selection Guide

FreeCommander XE

Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Great interface, Searching inside archives, Plain/structureless view, Extensive toolbar and keyboard shortcuts, Quick starter workspace, Backup & Restore, Desktop screenshot.
Missing certain features that are yet to be added: FTP client, Layout, Content plugins, File splitting.
5.5 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.

Unreal Commander

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Universal viewer, Exact Total Commander clone, Powerful File splitter and FTP client, Support for WLX, WCX, WDX plugins, Password keeper.
Requires registration with free license key, confusing interface icons
6.7 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.


Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Clean interface, Powerful search function, Workspace support, Extensive toolbar customization, Packer with encryption support.
Probably not in development anymore, No Multirename or history support.
3.3 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.

Master Commander

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Best suited for beginners, Huge feature set: Digital signature, Create ISO, Convert codepages, Download & process manager
No extensive customization capabilities, Less powerful features.
4.6 MB
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.


Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Different look n feel setups, Button panels, Extensive customization options, Powerful file operations, Mapping file keys, Language editor.
Best for power users, Less powerful viewer.
7.8 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.


This software category is maintained by volunteer editor George.J. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or questions they might have by clicking here.



file manager, windows explorer, file explorer, free software, freeware.


Please rate this article: 

Your rating: None
Average: 4 (104 votes)


No images are being displayed on this page..all are broken

Thanks Av_Crazy for highlighting the issue. The broken images have now been restored.

Note that the free edition of XYplorer has been discontinued as of 10-Jan-2017.

Softpedia still has the free version available.
Here are their links -

If any of you have not tried XYPlorerFree, do yourself a favor and download it whilst it is still available.
It is a gem

FreeCommander XE is currently at version 2016.715 (a new beta version has also been released).

EF Commander older FREE version is still available from Softpedia.
All of my previous frustrations with file sharing between win XP and more recent Win OS's, have been solved by that (zippy light reliable) program.
For those having problems with file sharing between Win OS's you may care to read my post here -

PS I have the latest version of your top rated program, and just tried it to do the same router thumb drive trick, and it stuttered, stalled, nearly froze my old XP Pro PC. (mind you that was on the router test, which practically all File Managers have failed to handle on my PC)

Master Commander seems it is no longer being developed. Links are all down. Version available from other reputable download sites that I could find is version 1.1. If anyone is interested in the latest Master Commander version 1.2.787.1 feel free to contact me I have clean copy.
Personal note, if you search the web for "Master Commander 1.2.787.1" you will get a hit to many sites but the procedure to get the file might be a bit questionable most are Russian. I recommend caution, so be careful.
Disclaimer- Not all Russian sites bad or questionable.

Thanks, I've replaced the link. 

I still use, and prefer, XYPlorerFree. It is portable (No Install required), so I have a few of them, for different categories (I never run two at the same time)
However when it comes to peeping across my network, or peeping into my USB thumb drive (inserted into my router), every program I try, coughs, stutters, and often fail to 'peep'
FreeCommander XE is miles better than all the rest (of those I use) for 'peeping'

It runs fine on W10

might want to update this so that people know FreeCommander XE is not compatible with Windows 10.
I could not get it to work.

FreeCommanderXE works fine on my Windows 10 since the start.

What is suggested for 64 bit systems? Since this (Free Commander) doesn't show 64 bit applications or even all of the control panel entries, by self admission.

Dragonfly Navigator - a simple and efficient two pane file manager with job queueing:

Q-Dir all the way for quick navigation. When I need to do some advanced things like searching and multi-renaming, then either of the TotalCommander clones (FreeCommander, MultiCommander, DoubleCommander, etc etc) do the job effectively. I really like Unreal Commander, but something this review didn't mention is that when using some tools like multi-rename it forces a nag screen for a few seconds, and requires the user to prompt out of it before showing the tool. Not a huge issue, but annoying when a large portion of the time spent using the program is for renaming file/folders.

How to show Tree view in Unreal Commander ?
I downloaded it, as someone here mentioned it is faster at viewing networked folders
By default it has two panes (which I detest)
I cannot find how to get it to view in the way God (Bill Gates) intended.
Windows Explorer is mostly a pain, but they got the view correct (single pane with Tree on the left)

crombie...what you might like is explorer plus plus (++) its very much like windows explorer but tabbed if needed and easily customizable. and also very familiar. and free. been using it for years with no problems.

Earlier I was using Power Desk file manager ( free version) and it was really good. Now I do not see free version of this utility ( from Avanquest).
I happen to try and immediately fell in love with the free version of XYplorer. Truly a fabulous product. Request a review of this gem of a software. I have no doubts whatsoever that XYplorer will find its deserved place in Gizmo's list of best free file manager.


PP Chaukimath

I find XYplorer to have to absolute worst search function of any product on earth. It is a most cumbersome and confusing mess. So when I use XYplorer, I have to run WinExplorer along with it when I need to do a search. WinExplorer search is its ONLY redeemable quality and runs circles around other file managers for speed and ease of use. That's why I continue my LONG search for a file manager that is actually usable all by itself.

F3 in XyPlorerFree works pretty fast.

Appreciate the feedback [if not your weird letter about russians] but XYPlorerFree is commercial software, a trial.

There is no need to fear Scot's bearing gifts.
Here is a wee (FREE) gift for you -


My Commander:

If you're just looking for a way around Windows Explorer's fixed black and white interface [glare, boredom], i have bad news for you. NONE of the apps on this page fix that.
Nexus comes nearest: with tweaking you can get any color combo you like. The catch? No desktop link that i could find, and its help [as usual!] is online only and NON-SEARCHABLE [doh!].
But that's trivial compared to all of their common omission: none of them even touch individual folder appearances. So while you can tweak Nexus to your taste, when you click on a folder from within it, you're back to black and white Microsh*t. Sigh.
CAN ANYBODY SHARE A WAY TO MODIFY THE COLORS OF INDIVIDUAL FOLDERS? [and please, don't tell me about Themes- few offer this particular feature, and those that do... well, i've never managed to get them to actually work... the whole approach is a real mess.]

August 2015 postscript: Found one. A43 probably won't please the Power Users as it looks simpler. And its top menu bar is fixed white. But its twin panes are easily color and font customizable. That sounds simple but it's a feature most coders can't be bothered to include. Anyway- if you get sore eyes easily, A43 is probably about as eye-friendly as it gets.
There is a major cavet, probably on all these file managers. If you start globally, say with A43 and drill down to an individual folder, it'll appear in A43 [colored how you like], but if you reach an individual folder through something like RocketDock, or Launchy, or Search, you'll get the old black and white Windows Explorer window, even if A43 [or?] is still running. Less than perfect but that's Windows.

XYPlorerFree allows you to color the background of the Tree, and also the List
You also have a fair bit of choice on colors for folder names and background color

I just tested your two top picks: Unreal Commander and FreeCommander XE and they don't even come close to the power of Xplorer2lite.

I've used it for years and it is by far the best file manager I've ever tested (and I've tested dozens).

This article needs more rigor.

xyplorer2lite is a restrictive freeware, many features are only available in the pro version. I've reviewed it in this article. 

Have you tried XYPlorerFree ?
If you give that a try, I will update my Xplorer2lite, and give it a fresh look at


January 2014 seems like a long time ago. Can we get this entire article updated? You guys do good work and I'd be very interested in an update on all available free file managers. :) And your link above for the category editor, George, does not work. He must have backed out.

PS. I don't like the little "New Article" popups in the lower right corner when I visit the site. No big deal, just irritating.