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

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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

*"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."*

So, which (more up to date) ones have 64 bit versions? As I have Vista x64 & don't want to be deflected to SysWOW64.

Midnight Commander is a free cross-platform orthodox file manager and a clone of Norton Commander. Features include the ability work with common archive formats as if they were simply another directory, and to function as an FTP client. Midnight Commander also includes an builtin editor/viewer, features include syntax highlighting for many languages, macros, code snippets, simple integration with external tools, automatic indentation, mouse support, clipboard and the ability to work in both ASCII and hex modes. Midnight Commander can also rename groups of files, move files to a different directory at the same time as it renames them. It lets the user specify the original and resulting file names using wildcard characters: http://sourceforge.net/projects/mcwin32/

Edit (I can't find the "delete post" option)

MultiCommander: beautiful interface (don't be fooled by screen caps from its web page), lots of functionality, and Check Boxes! Yay!

Sorry, xplorer2 lite. After aprox. a decade, I bid you farewell!

You didn't have to edit the post. Anyway I was going to suggest MultiCommander too. It has the ability to select via check boxes. But most advanced file managers now include a right-click select feature by default, which is very useful. These include Master Commander, MultiCommander and Unreal Commander and all of them has performed extremely well in my first series of tests. This article is pending a major update, please be patient.

Is it free? I could only see some trials.

Whoops I meant that as a response to the Free Commander recommendation :-)

Yeah absolutely. That's why it's named as "Free"Commander. :)

Hi,

I'm searching a way, that works on XP, Vista, 7 and 8, to open a specific folder with the navigation pane only showing/permitting to browse the subfolders of that folder. In other words, I want all folders and hard drives to be hidden, except the one I open and its subfolders.

Is there a file manager that can do this ?

Thanks !

That depends on how you customize the program. Try MultiCommander or Master Commander

Hi,

I got Windows 8 a couple of months ago and (with the use of third party programs) got my start button and dvd playing back.

Now I want to find a replacement for the new Ribbon like File Explorer. I've tried to make it my friend but I yearn for the good old Windows 7 or earlier days.

Which of these free file managers are most like that of Windows Explorer in Windows 7 please?

I'm old and I do things automatically which is why I "fixed" Office as well :-)

Ta very much.

Paul

Thanks for that. Will give it a try.

Pity there isn't a registry fix or batch file around that can do it :-)

Actually, if I could just get the Windows 7 Windows Explorer to work in Windows 8 that would be the nicest option :-)

"... Saladin is an open source dual-pane file manager for Windows which merges the capabilities of Windows Explorer with the well known and easy to use orthodox user interface ...": http://saladin.mimec.org/ "... Necromancer's Dos Navigator is a clone of the famous "Norton Commander". It uses an easy to use and learn text-mode interface, is highly customizable, and has a lot of features ..." (It looks like that NDN is not developed anymore): http://ndn.muxe.com/

Thanks for that :-)

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