This web page provides an installer for the Microsoft Windows File Manager
("WinFile") that will specifically run on the Windows Vista and Windows 7
platforms (perhaps others).
It has been tested and verified to work properly on the 32 and 64 bit versions of each.
Introduction - Why are we here?
This installer was originally designed to run on the Microsoft Windows Vista platform.
It also runs on Windows 7 (currently without the ACL edit feature - this will hopefully be
It might work on other later versions as well, but this is more by accident rather
The intention of this installer is to provide WinFile.exe for use on the Windows Vista
and later operating systems, with minimal modifications required to get it working.
WinFile (and related support files) was produced by Microsoft but targeted for a different
version of the operating system.
This installer consists of WinFile.exe plus required
support files necessary to make WinFile work with Windows Vista/Windows 7 (plus some documentation
and related files). There are no advertisers or sponsors. There are no cookies.
There are no “visit this site to use it” conditions. Your email address is not required.
There are no additional things that have to be installed on your computer to use
This installer’s contents comprise Microsoft files from previous versions of the operating
system which are modified according to details described at:
Thanks to David Schneider (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org)
for determining the details necessary to get WinFile to run on these platforms.
Having said all that, this software is provided “as is” with no warranties or guarantees
provided or implied.
The original file functionality was provided by Microsoft, which may or may not support
it, or even acknowledge its existence.
WinFile was the main file manager application for several operating systems. Various
16 bit version were shipped with Windows 3.1, 95, 98, and ME. Various 32 bit versions
were shipped with Windows NT 3.1, 3.5, 3.51, and 4.0.
The 32 bit version was usable on Windows 2000 and Windows XP by simply copying the
executable and support files to the newer operating system.
This process does not work starting with Vista, some say intentionally.
The 32 bit WinFile version correctly handled long file names, NTFS file systems,
ACL editing and properly supported post-2000 year dates (none of which were available
with the 16 bit version). Windows Explorer provided similar functionality and became
the advertised and supported means of handling files from user interaction as of
Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0.
WinFile is credited to Microsoft developers Chris Kuzak (sp?) and
Ian Ellison-Taylor, described in an online video at:
Why use WinFile?
If WinFile is such an old fashioned interface, why use it? Here are a few reasons,
which completely comprise a personal point of view. In general, WinFile is
a precise, accurate razor sharp tool that gives detailed information without fluff.
Explorer on the other hand, is like coloring with crayons. One is a "grown
up" tool. The other "hides" things that it doesn't think you can handle and
doesn't tell the whole truth.
- The left side and right side track each other correctly, and the visual cues on
the left unambiguously display where you are on the right. Explorer doesn’t do this
properly. In Explorer, you can drill down to a specific file in a directory, which
is then displayed on the right. You can then seemingly navigate to a different directory
on the left, which is not updated on the right. As a software developer, with many
situations of similar directory structure, I have manipulated or deleted the wrong
files with this serious Explorer UI defect. Never a problem with WinFile.
- Ability to sort by file extension. WinFile will sort files by name, by file extension
(described as “by type” but it is really “by extension”), by size or by date. Sort
by file extension is useful in folders with a large number of files where you are
looking for a file(s) with a particular extension but don’t know or care what “type”
the file extension is. This is also useful in folders where multiple file extensions
map to the same “type”. With Explorer, Microsoft determines the “type” from the
extension, then sorts by the “type”. To me, this is aberrant behavior akin to sorting
a list of numbers alphabetically.
- WinFile remembers how you want to sort the files and folders in a window. If you
navigate somewhere, sort by some criteria, close the app and restart, your sort
options are still there!
- WinFile remembers window size and placement characteristics when you close the
application. More recent programs from Microsoft seem to want you to do a lot of
window resizing and moving around, ... and then lose track of the changes you made.
This is very important to anyone with repetitive stress issues.
- WinFile remembers file and folder selections. Select a file. Close the app. Open
it. Hey there it is! Explorer always opens at the top level of the file system hierarchy
and requires you to drill down to your file(s) of interest every time you open the
- All WinFile functions such as searching, sorting, file movement and other processing
require fewer mouse clicks to perform the task. This is very important to anyone
with repetitive stress issues.
- There are a lot of things in Explorer that require you to shift back and forth
from keyboard to mouse and back again. WinFile requires far fewer changes in interaction
type. This is very important to anyone with repetitive stress issues.
- Keyboard shortcuts are more intuitive and work better in WinFile. Compress a file
or folder? On WinFile: Alt-F-S (or menu File -> Compress). On Vista Explorer:
Alt-F-R, which opens “Properties”. On the “General” tab, hit the tab key twice,
hit “Enter” (or Alt-D), on the “Advanced Attributes”, Alt-C, Enter. Ha ha ha ha.
- Microsoft has added folder customizations in Explorer and, in my opinion, has
gone way too far with them. There are times when I want to order the MP3 files in
my music folder by something other than name and might be interested in seeing the
creation date or file size. Microsoft has gone to a lot of effort to hide this information
from you. WinFile bypasses all this nonsense and gets this information back.
- WinFile navigation just navigates. Looking at something in a folder does not leave
droppings in your file system such as desktop.ini or Thumbs.db.
- WinFile tells you the truth about your file system. Several files and folders
have alternate names such as "Recycle Bin" or "Temporary Internet Files" which Explorer
will lie to you about. WinFile tells the truth and gives you the real file names.
- WinFile provides full support for "8.3" names. If the short names are enabled
on a file system, WinFile will cheerfully display both the long name of a file or
folder as well as the short "8.3" name (if you want - you can customize this away).
- Winfile makes it easier to process a number of files as a batch, such as with a
rename of the filename or extension.
To change the extension of a number of files, select them in the right pane,
select Alt-F-N (or menu File -> Rename).
Type "*.xyz" in the edit control, and files now have extension ".xyz".
Renaming filename is similar.
There is no analog for this in Explorer.
- There is more rounding and imprecision with Explorer, whereas WinFile gives full
precision in its measurements. A file reported to be of size 24 bytes in WinFile
will show up as "1K" in Explorer.
- It is easier to open files with a non-assigned application in WinFile, because
WinFile has its own "mini-Run" command.
If you want to look at an executable in Notepad for example, select "filename.exe",
then menu File -> Run, Home, type "notepad " (so that the "Command Line:" edit
control shows "notepad filename.exe"), hit "Enter".
The result is that Notepad will open "filename.exe".
This is much harder to do in Explorer.
- File associations are much easier to modify, delete, reassign in WinFile.
A minor disadvantage is that Microsoft made the dialog tiny such that just about
any changes require scrolling in the itty bitty controls.
- WinFile is more error tolerant and typically lets you do more of what you want
when errors occur. If you attempt to perform an operation on a large number
of files (eg. move, delete, rename, ...), and a problem is encountered with one
of the files, WinFile is better than Explorer for figuring out what to do.
Explorer seems to look for reasons to terminate the request.
Why should we not use WinFile?
Alas, it is not perfect. There are several things that Explorer does better:
- Starting with Windows XP, drag and drop from WinFile to some applications does
not work where it does from Explorer.
- Starting with Windows Vista, there seem to be some file types that do not open
correctly with a double click.
- Although WinFile persistently remembers navigation details from instance to instance
(see above), Explorer has several shortcuts that you can use as starting points
(eg. "Documents" folder, "My Pictures", "Music" etc.). WinFile would not
need these as much as Explorer, but they would be nice to have.
- WinFile was designed as a single-instance app. While you can open multiple views
of a drive in WinFile, you can only have one instance of the whole program (with
some exceptions involving race conditions and trickery). You can have any number
of multiple instances of Explorer open simultaneously.
- When you delete a file in WinFile, it is deleted. There is no visit to the recycle
bin. Delete a file – it is gone. Advantage or disadvantage? You decide...
- If you are not an Administrator, settings are not recorded properly under Vista.
This seems to be because the settings are stored in <systemdirectory>\winfile.ini,
which is a file protection problem. I am working on a solution for it. This worked
fine (for me) with Windows 2000 and Windows XP.
Known Issues with the Installer
There are several known issues with this version of the installer. I may
or may not work on fixes for any or all of them.
- This installer is only intended to work on Windows Vista and later.
If you want to install it on another operating system such as Windows 2000, Windows XP etc., you will
need to get the files as described on David’s webpage (above). I may change
this in the future, so stay tuned.
- This version of the installer does not yet support the "ACL Edit" option with Windows 7.
This feature is available by following the directions on David's webpage (above).
I intend to add this; I just haven't gotten around to it yet.
- As mentioned above, preferences, settings and selections for non-Administrator
users do not get saved as well as desired.
I am trying to figure out how to get this to work properly.
- The help file is in the old ‘*.hlp’ format, which is also not supported.
Depending on options and settings on Vista and later, the help file may not open for you.
More details are available at
Knowledge Base Article 917607.
[Microsoft keeps moving their articles. If this URL doesn't work, go to
Microsoft and search for "download winhlp32.exe".]
- 2008/12/16 version 1.0 - Initial release, without ACL option.
- 2009/01/31 version 1.1 - Updated release notes, added logic for ACL option.
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