Best Free File Manager

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Introduction

A file manager provides a convenient way for 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 give 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 and Synchronize, FTP support, File viewer, File sorting, File splitter, Filtered view, Keyboard shortcuts, Easy access to system folders and more.

So here are top 5 products that I've found after months of testing. Their interface, features and customization are among the best and curated accordingly in each of the products.

 

Rated Products

FreeCommander XE  

An elegant and user friendly file manager with a huge set of features, powerful searching function and great customization.


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free
Great interface, Searching inside archives, Plain and 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.
Read full review...

Unreal Commander  

A file manager comes close to the look and feel of Total Commander with a powerful filter system.


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free
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.
Read full review...

Nomad.NET  

A portable and powerful file manager written using .NET technology with a simplified and clean user interface.


Our Rating: 
4.5
License: Free
Clean interface, Powerful search function, Workspace support, Extensive toolbar customization, Packer with encryption support.
Probably not in development anymore, No multi-rename or history support.
Read full review...

Multi Commander  

A great file manager with a vast array of features in its arsenal for power users.


Our Rating: 
4.5
License: Free
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.
Read full review...

Master Commander  

A portable, no frills, simple yet advanced file manager for daily use.


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Best suited for beginners, Huge feature set: Digital signature, Create ISO, Convert codepages, Download & process manager.
No extensive customization capabilities, Less powerful features.
Read full review...

More File Managers

Honourable Mentions

If you aren't satisfied with any of the best products curated above, it doesn't hurt to know more options listed below.

Nexus File  Rating 8 of 10

  • Modern interface - Probably the most modern and stylish 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 hierarchical representing 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.

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.

xplorer2lite  Rating 7 of 10

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

Better Explorer  Rating 6 of 10

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

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.

 

Notes

File managers that were written as 32-bit applications will generally work on 64-bit Windows, but functionality will be limited in three 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 no full access to the control panel.

 

Related Products and Links

 

Editor

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.

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Average: 4 (108 votes)

Comments

I am looking for a program to help organize my folders. They are already organized, but there are thousands of VB6 folders.
I am 75 so my memory is crap.
I am looking for a Bookmark manager where I can have a tree on the left, which I break up into Categories, and sub categories.
If any of you have rolled your sleeves up, and fully utilized Firefox's web bookmarks(Favorites), you will find it is pretty close to perfect. (I was a senior analyst in IT for 20 years, and I could not come up with a better favorite manager if my life depended on it).
If I could find something similar to organize my (file manager) folder bookmarks, I would be a very happy (old) man.
I just tried Explorer++'s Bookmarks, but it is too restrictive (difficult to create sub folders, and to correct them).
If anyone knows of a file manager that has a decent bookmark manager built in, that would be ideal.
(I assume that any standalone Bookmark manager, would be opening up Windows Explorer, which shortens my life every time I use it).

Thanks,
Rob

FreeCommander can do this. Just click on the "heart" shaped folder icon to the top right of one of the dual panes, and then click on "Favorites tree"

You may also try Clover. I suggest using the stable English version (v3) at Softpedia. http://www.softpedia.com/get/Tweak/System-Tweak/Clover-EJIE.shtml 

The beta version (v3.3x) has a Chinese language installer even though the program is in English. 

I very much like Q-Dir but when I downloaded the latest version from the website - softwareok.com - that your mention links to Q-Dir came with an unwanted payload, the trojan Clavior.C!cl. Perhaps not a safe site to link to...

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 -
http://www.softpedia.com/get/File-managers/XYplorerFree.shtml
http://www.softpedia.com/get/PORTABLE-SOFTWARE/System/File-management/Portable-XYplorerFree.shtml

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.
http://www.softpedia.com/get/File-managers/EF-Commander-Free.shtml
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 -
http://www.tenforums.com/network-sharing/14473-cannot-access-shared-network-drive-6.html#post815079

Rob
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: http://sourceforge.net/projects/dragonflynavigator/

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.

Regards.

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 -
http://www.xyplorer.com/free.php

Rob

My Commander:

http://myco.yonan.ro/

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.

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