Explorer is a single-instance application, but you can find other ways to get the effect of running a separate instance

Raymond Chen

Explorer is a single-instance application, which means that if you try to elevate it, or if you try to run the 32-bit version on a 64-bit system, you don’t actually get an elevated Explorer or a 32-bit Explorer, because the second instance hands the request to the existing instance. This is a problem if, say, you have an old shell extension that works only when elevated, or is available only in the 32-bit version. Or if you want an elevated Explorer to do some administrative file management.

As we saw some time ago, you can solve this problem by creating an explorer browser control with the desired attributes. But that involves programming. Is there a way to do this without programming?

Yes, and it’s a bit of a trick: You look for some application that already creates an explorer browser control, and run that application in the way you want. If you want an elevated Explorer, then run that victim application elevated. If you want a 32-bit Explorer, then run the 32-bit version of that victim application.

My choice for the victim application is Notepad.

In other words: To get the effect of an elevated Explorer window, run Notepad elevated, then select File, then Open.

To get the effect of a 32-bit Explorer window, run the 32-bit version of Notepad (from the C:\Windows\SysWow64 directory), then select File, then Open.

You can do your file management inside this dialog box: Rename files, cut and paste them, right-click them to invoke context menu verbs. Note that you cannot launch files by double-clicking them, because the common file dialog interprets double-clicking as “Open this file”. If you want to launch a file, right-click it and then select the appropriate verb (usually Open).


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