Best Free File Manager

toggle-button
 

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.

Back to the top of the article.

 

Please rate this article: 

Your rating: None
3.941665
Average: 3.9 (120 votes)
toggle-button

Comments

Strange. I'm using the portable version and cannot find similar problems. Although on a low-end processor I can understand when you do too much multitasking. Care to share your system configuration details?

Spec isn't the issue E7600 3.07ghz 8gb ram win7x64.

I've had this problem a couple of times ... I notice it's generally when several processes are jostling for CPU cycles but it seems to be fixed by refreshing the window or just re-opening it (without needing to restart FC).

By no means a deal breaker anyway, still my favourite : )

FreeCommander XE is out of beta and is the top pick for the year. Thanks to all for the helpful comments and suggestions. :D Merry X'Mas and Happy New Year.

That is indeed fantastic : )

I downloaded this a couple of days ago and am really chuffed to see that an annoying bug where FCXE was forgetting some options choices has been fixed now.

So happy about that, as it was really bugging me :-D

That's great news GJ. Downloading right away :D.
Installed it, and loving the new look. But, the one feature I really miss in this version, is that in the previous versions, double clicking on any empty space within the tab would take you one folder up. It was really a fast and efficient way to go up the folder list. It was a groundbreaking feature for me. I had tried and liked other file managers in past too, but because of these features and others, I always returned to Free Commander. Anyone knows if that feature is still there? I may have to write to Free Commander developers to bring that feature back, or atleast make it optional. Another feature change was that the rename now works like Windows 7/8.. it offers to just rename the file name part. There is an option in the setting however, to bring the rename popup dialogue back. I like that option more.

"Anyone knows if that feature is still there?"

Also one of my favourite features as well : ) I've looked all over for some way of having this in native Explorer too, but no luck ... it only seems to come with Explorer enhancers like QTTab and Clover.

Anyway, in FcXE it's in Settings - View - File/Folder List, then there's a drop-down selector underneath "By double cick on free space".

Awesome! Thanks a lot sicknero! I somehow missed that! :D. The news of Free Commander XE release, and finding of this feature again, made my day :D. Thanks.

I have tried a number of file managers over the years. I have found that there are 2 features that I must have. I have got to have a tool bar where I can add and remove individual buttons. Some of the file managers have far too many buttons and I end up spending too much time looking for buttons when I use it. I set up file managers with the functions I use most with buttons and use menus for less used functions. The other function I have got to have is a good search tool. I used xplorer2lite for quite a while but wanted a better search tool. I was really happy with FreeCommander until I got Windows 8 and it didn't work right. FreeCommander XE works on Win8 but you can't add and remove individual buttons on it. I tried MultiCommander but you can't configure buttons on it either.

Then I tried Double Commander which someone mentioned here on a comment and it has become my favorite file manager. It allows you to add and remove individual buttons on the tool bar and has a good search tool. It is a 2 pane file manager but does tabs also which is plus. If you try it, be aware you will need to do quite a bit of configuration to make it look the way you want. Oddly, the menus do not have functions for cut, copy or paste but you can add them to the tool bar. It looks rather bare bones but has a lot of capability underneath. They didn't even have icons for the some of the functions but I was able to add some that I got from the following web site:

http://findicons.com/

Even though Double Commander is still in beta form and has a rather low rev number (rev 0.5.7), I have found it works quire well. I might add that there are 32 and 64 bit versions available. I use the 64 bit version.

I am still open to other file managers. Does anyone know of a 2 pane file manager that allows you to add and remove individual buttons on the tool bar and also has a good search tool?

George

You can customize your toolbars (add/delete) using FreeCommander XE, Unreal Commander and Nomad.NET. These file managers also have excellent search tools. You can also use new icon packs from Total Commander and it works best on Unreal Commander.

"FreeCommander XE works on Win8 but you can't add and remove individual buttons on it."

Yes you can, you just right-click the toolbar and then open the dialogue for adding and removing buttons. It works in W7, does it not do that in 8?

When I right click on the toolbar on FreeCommander XE, I can get to the customize option but all the options are grayed out. After playing with it a bit more, I did finally manage to click on "Standard" even though it was grayed out and was able to make some changes to the toolbar. Still yet, I clicked on "Big Icons" and the icons are still so small that I can't recognize them. Note that I have a high resolution monitor so everything ends up looking smaller than on most monitors.

I guess I need to experiment with it further but I don't see a way to make the icons big enough to suit me, especially the icons on the address bar that I used to use a lot.

Thanks,

George

I was very excited about Free Commander, but I have to say that I recommend that no one use it. I installed it, it worked great, but when I right clicked on something, my firewall notified me that it was trying to connect across the internet. I blocked it, and at that point, context menu's stopped working altogether. I'm not sure why Free Commander was trying to contact a server when I right clicked, but I'm not comfortable with it, and I'm going to uninstall it.

Check the digital signature from the properties of fccontextmenu64.exe Signer: Marek (author of FreeCommander) Counter Signer: Comodo It's perfectly safe.

What file managers other than xplorer2 give the option to TURN OFF automatic branch expansion when hovering over a folder in the folder tree?

Also...are there any file managers that will let you adjust the hover time for branch expansion?

I don't understand what you mean here... By default no file manager automatically branches to it's sub-folders upon just hovering with the mouse.

"I don't understand what you mean here... By default no file manager automatically branches to it's sub-folders upon just hovering with the mouse."

Say I have a folder titled "Mopar" with eight sub folders within it. When I drag and drop a file from the right pane to the folder tree, the folder titled "Mopar" (in the left tree) will automatically open after hovering over it with the mouse for more than two seconds, revealing all sub folders. This is a nuisance in Windows Explorer. Many have complained about it. It creates a situation where one can incorrectly deposit the file in one of the eight sub folders, instead of the folder of choice, if that folder opens revealing the sub folders at the time you're dropping the file into it.

Xplorer2 allows you to turn this behavior off in Tools>Options, by unchecking "automatic branch expansion when hovering over a node". By unchecking this feature, the folder will NOT OPEN revealing the sub folders, no matter how long you hover the mouse over it. I was wondering what other file managers have this option?

Rather than dropping it into the tree, why don't you use the other pane to transfer your file?

I would be interested in seeing future reviews cover each file manager's ability to identify and aid in the removal of duplicate files. I don't expect these comprehensive file managers to match all the duplicate-file functions of dedicated programs, but I've really benefited over the years from even the limited ability of xplorer2 Lite in that area, and I've just installed MultiCommander especially to see what it offers.

You could use "Compare folders" function to find duplicate files, although dedicated duplicate finders are rare in freeware file managers.

Thanks, George, that's exactly the kind of feature that I'm referring to. While file managers aren't likely--or expected--to do the intensive duplication-tests of the dedicated programs, the ability of some of them to compare folders based on file metadata and then automatically select files in one folder that match or differ from the files in the other folder can be very helpful and fills a niche that some of the dedicated programs fail to address or address in a much less convenient and automated manner.

That sounds like a good idea.

XYplorerFree seems to be showing its age, although that might be an advantage for anyone who shares the preferences expressed by Snowman123. Using it on a Win8 box, it didn't recognize the Library "folders" and gave me a tedious hourglass when I connected a camera to a USB port. Has anyone else had that experience?

XYPlorer Free is no longer developed, I'd recommend you to use FreeCommander XE, Unreal Commander, Nomad.Net, Master Commander or MultiCommander which are coming perfect in my latest tests. This section is undergoing a major update.

Thanks, George, for the tips and the advance info on your tests. Presumably, XYPlorer Free will no longer be described as a "strong contender" in the revised reviews.

Exactly, it doesn't fall into the Top 10 place anymore. The category will be updated in a few weeks time.

For xplorer2 lite, you say:
Version: 2.1.0.2
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
This product is portable.

zabkat.com/x2lite.htm says v2.3.0.1, and says nothing about its being portable; running the downloaded exe opens the setup wizard to install the program.

I often need to manage image files in conjunction with an image editor. The preview pane in xplorer2 lite, on being resized, doesn't grow the image beyond a certain fairly small size. To closely inspect subtle changes I'm making to levels etc in the image editor, I need the image preview in xplorer2 lite to be a lot bigger, as big as it can go within the vertical or horizontal space i'm resizing the preview pane to. That's why I'm now looking at possibly changing to Multicommander

I've been using Clover:
http://ejie.me/clover-wings-for-explorer/

It replaces windows explorer and puts it like Google Chrome but with explorer.

Allows multiple tabs, same tab hotkeys of Chrome. Double click to go up in a folder, etc.

Pages