How to Try Windows 11’s New File Explorer Tabs Before It Comes Out

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Windows users believe their OS has a superior file management system to macOS’ Finder. While that assertion is up for debate, one file management feature Mac users can hold above Windows is Finder tabs: These tabs allow you to quickly switch between file windows as you would sites in a web browser, a convenient and efficient thing you can’t do in Windows. At least, until now.

Apple introduced tabs to Finder back in 2013 with the release of Mac OS X Mavericks. Now, Microsoft didn’t ignore this feature for the better part of a decade: The company tested tabs for File Explorer about four years ago, but ultimately decided against implementing it into its OS. However, in March, the Verge reported that Microsoft was indeed reviving the feature for a future version of Windows 11. While it’s not an official feature yet, it is available to some Windows users, with more hopefully on the way.

The company is currently testing File Explorer tabs as part of the Windows Insider Preview. This latest version, Build 25136, makes File Explorer look a bit more like a web browser: When you open a new window, you’ll see its active tab in the top left, next to a (+) you can click to open another tab. If you’re someone who works through multiple File Explorer windows at once, this tab system is definitely a game-changer, and makes moving files and switching windows a breeze.

Unfortunately, Microsoft hasn’t fully rolled out File Explorer tabs to those in the Insider Preview program—the company wants to gather feedback before releasing it to more testers, with no timeline on when that would be. That said, the best way to try to get in on the new feature right now is to enroll your computer in the Windows Insider Preview.

A word of caution, however: Enrolling in the Insider Preview is asking Microsoft to update your computer with unfinished software. You’ll be able to take advantage of new features before other Windows users, but at the risk of inheriting bugs or other issues. You should consider enrolling in the Insider Preview on a device other than your primary computer, or by using a virtual machine to protect your main data. Of course, nothing’s stopping you from enrolling your computer as it is now±it’s just important to understand the risks.

How to enroll your computer in the Windows Insider Preview

With that in mind, here’s how you can enroll: Go to Start > Settings > Windows Update > Windows Insider Program, then click “Get started.” Choose “Link an account,” click your Microsoft account, then click one of the three Insider channels to choose from. Microsoft recommends Beta Channel, but Dev Channel is your best bet for getting File Explorer tabs early. Keep in mind, though, this channel has the greatest risk for bugs and other software issues.

Once you’ve made your choice, click “Continue,” then “Continue” again. Finally, click “Restart now,” wait for your PC to reboot; go back to Start > Settings > Windows Update > Update now to install the latest software. If you don’t see these tabs right away, hang tight: Hopefully Microsoft will roll the feature out your PC as soon as possible.

[The Verge]

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