Best Free File Manager

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Introduction

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're 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.

 

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

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. 

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 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.

Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

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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Comments

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

Rob

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.

"... Konvertor is a fast and reliable two-panel, multi-tabs file manager for Windows. It has an intuitive interface, offers viewers for all popular file formats as well as uncommon and very rare ones ..." (now free): http://www.konvertor.net/index.html

"Konvertor" contains viruses, according to Panda free AV, which even made me reboot my computer to clean them.

I downloaded that file from the Konvertor website above without issue. I installed it. When I clicked on the Desktop shortcut, I got a Windows error, can't access. When I closed that message, the shortcut disappeared. Panda said nothing. I figured it was a Permissions thing. So I went to the program folder, and didn't see Konvertor.exe, as I guessed, but there was Kconvert.exe so I ran it. Same thing, no access, file disappeared, except Panda popped up and said "Virus", reboot. So I tried to uninstall, same thing. Panda has these three files in quarantine (I scrubbed the rest):

KonvertorFM.exe
Kconvert.exe
uninstall_konvertor.exe

It looks to me that whatever system error you have with your Windows installation has triggered a false alert from Panda, especially as Panda finds nothing wrong with the downloaded file. The separate components appear to be fine too. MC - Site Manager.
https://www.reasoncoresecurity.com/kconvert.exe-aed52b959f1f9aa5a0922b97...
https://www.herdprotect.com/konvertorfm.exe-1a365126a6fd2f38b2c4df636f07...
https://www.herdprotect.com/signer-logipole-75456c4b92aaad95efb97ecd5036...

I thought it was the other way around, Panda quarantined them so Windows couldn't access them. Anyhow, I've never had this problem before, and I just installed and ran a few of the other file managers here without issue. Thanks for those reports. It looks like it's been a few months since those files were scanned. I don't know if these files are newer. Anyway, do with this information what you will, I just hope nobody gets burned! And I very much appreciate your help, and all the Gizmo's gang!

I tried Freecommander XE. While its first impression was good, browsing the network is unbearably slow. There are more people on their forum complaining about it. Unreal Commander is faster browsing the network, but for some files it just took about a minute before a network copy action was started (for very small .docx files).

Network browsing does not seems to be the strength of free file managers :(

I just needed simple, resource light file manager with tabbed interface and bookmarks toolbar for favorite folders (like in internet browsers). For my needs Explorer++ was exactly what I needed. It worked great in Windows XP, but on newer Windows OS versions bookmarks toolbar doesn't show bookmarked folders. It's a known bug reported about a year ago and still not solved.

So, I tried several programs suggested here that are still updated. Finally I decided for XYplorerFree. It has attractive interface which is also very, very customizable (can add/remove all toolbar commands). Has both tabbed interface and dual pane (you can also open multiple tabs in each pane). It doesn't have bookmarked folders toolbar which I would like, but there is toolbar icon that opens bookmarked folders as a drop down menu. Everything considered XYplorerFree gets my vote.

I probably have been the biggest 'singer of praises' for that program.
If I were sent to Mars, and could only take one file manager, that would be the one
(If I were sent to Hell, they would give me Windows Explorer)

It is remarkable that it is free, as all of the multitude of features are included in the free version (Except Search)
(If I were sent to Hell, I bet they would make me use Windows Search)

Rob

The Master Commander website now comes up with something in Polish. Looks as though it could be finished?

You can still get the last version.
Here is the website (not in English)
[Details removed as per site rules. Links to English language sites only]

I gave up on free Explorer++ (and I had made two donations) after 3 years where navigation pane bug (reported by many to the developer) was never fixed. Navigation pane did not refresh when folder or files renamed, moved or deleted. I finally opted for .... a commercial file manager, that works.
- except its file-contents find is soooo sloooww and complex to setup each search.

I would like to replace another commercial files manager called "Windows Explorer" by Microsoft (also a commercial enterprise) with a file manager that I can ...
1. select a file or folder and add it to a favorites list on the file-manager UI, just like we could with commercial Windows XP. Default "Favourites" folder on commercial Windows Explorer is, for me absolutely useless, especially if I am at the bottom of the tree and have to scroll to the top to find default 'Favorites" folder

2. find file contents (anywhere in any drive NTSF/FAT32) without having to tweak settings to search in system folders , because Windows Explorer does not search an entire drive, without tweaking and then indexing slows PC performance considerably.
Free "Everything" finds absolutely anything, but it is not always convenient to open 'Everything" to do a file search

3. each drive displayed on the file manager UI to simply jump to different drives without having to collapse the navigation tree to find the drive.
With 6 drives on a PC selecting another drive (in WinExp) is antiquated.

Thank you :)
... just removed my tongue from cheek !

Have you tried XYPlorerFree ?
www.xyplorer.com/free.php
Everyone should try it, as it is brilliant
Try out your other needs to see if it can handle them.
The Search is brilliant, and does not pre-index
That is the only feature disabled in the free version.

Rob

Thanks crombierob for your suggestion "XYPlorerFree"
The features list at http://www.xyplorer.com/features.php ... is a little overwhelming with a lot of in-house jargon, but I found the screen shots promising.

As a dinosaur from the last Ice age I find picture graphics very annoying (I am an AutoCad addin & Excel addin developer) -- I like simplicity (less bloat and more screen real estate).

I will give XYPlorerFree a trial and join the forum to clear up my critical needs that are only available in the PRO version ... regx searches, search for JPG file editable properties, content searches are crucial, and the big one "drives bar". The screen shots do not show a drives bar.
Hopefully my trial and XYP forum will clear up my concerns.

What I do LIKE is XYPs (promise of) portability ...
- I detest my registry being filled with "guff"
- if XYP is truly portable ... I am in ... makes image restoration so much easier.

When I have played with XYP for a while I will feed back here

yes truly portable.
I have dozens of copies in their own folders, for different categories of use by me.
I am 'a bit of an old woman' so I avoid running more than one of them at a time
I am a VB6 programmer, and I avoid dependencies (things that need installing), like the plague.
I don't use the Registry (use Settings.ini instead)
His program is written with VB6, and has no dependencies (no need to install). And I note he too has a Settings.ini in the Data sub folder.
Most of my programs do not need installing, but I am awed by the fact that he has achieved the same goal, with such a feature rich program.

Win8 file manager can't search for files reliably, it misses files all the time. I want a file manager that DOES NOT USE the win8 file explorer.

The above file managers are alternatives to the Windows file manager. The top 5 uses their own explorer.

Thanks, that's what I wanted to know, it wasn't obvious to me.

I'm looking for a file manager that could sort .torrents by their tracker addresses in the column section. Normally torrent clients have this feature, but they require adding .torrents which I don't want to. Any recommendations would be appreciated.

Not sure about this, why don't you try adding Torrent_wdx plugin provided by Total Commander on FreeCommander or Unreal Commander?

It is a very helpful plugin, of course not for sorting, but for searching .torrents by their trackers. Thank you very much indeed.

Thanks
But what about multi windows in ET?
Regards

I'm very surprised that the really best windows file manager is not in this list...

2 panels is a very very poor display ....

I (webmaster) use at least 80 different workspaces with each 8 panels

So try ACBrowser free edition that is really the best windows file manager in the world at this moment for me
http://www.konradp.com/products/acbplus/free_index.htm

But if you know a file manager able to manage more than 2 panels ... and 8 or 10 if you know... tell me because I'm very interested....

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