File Manager (Windows)

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The "File Manager" is also a development API for the Mac OS
A screenshot of File Manager on Windows NT 3.5 displaying a folder and the contents of drive C:

File Manager is a file manager program bundled with releases of Microsoft Windows between 1990 and 1999.[1] It was a single-instance graphical interface, replacing the command-line interface of MS-DOS, to manage files (copy, move, open, delete, search, etc.). Although File Manager was included in Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 and some later versions, Windows Explorer was introduced and used as the primary file manager, with file management via a 2-pane view different from File Manager's, and a single-pane view obtained by clicking a "My Computer" icon.


The program's interface showed a list of directories on the left hand panel, and a list of the current directory's contents on the right hand panel. File Manager allowed a user to create, rename, move, print, copy, search for, and delete files and directories, as well as to set permissions (attributes) such as archive, read-only, hidden or system, and to associate file types with programs. Also available were tools to label and format disks, manage folders for file sharing and to connect and disconnect from a network drive. On Windows NT systems it was also possible to set ACLs on files and folders on NTFS partitions through the shell32 security configuration dialog (also used by Explorer and other Windows file managers). On NTFS drives, individual files or entire folders could be compressed or expanded.

The Windows NT version of File Manager allows users to change directories, files, local, network and user permissions.

From Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 onward, File Manager was superseded by Windows Explorer. However, the WINFILE.EXE program file was still included with Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows Me (16-bit executable), and Windows NT 4.0 (32-bit executable). The last 32-bit WINFILE.EXE build (4.0.1381.318) was distributed as part of Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 6a (SP6a). The last 16-bit WINFILE.EXE build (4.90.3000) was distributed as part of Windows Me operating system. All versions of File Manager are available at this page.

Ian Ellison-Taylor was the shell developer on the Windows 3.1 team responsible for File Manager and Print Manager.[2]



The original version of File Manager was a 16-bit program that supported the 8.3 file names that were in use at the time.

It did not support the extended file names that became available in Windows 95 - including long file names and file names containing spaces. Instead, it would display only the first six characters followed by a 'tilde' character "~" and a number, usually 1. More numbers (2, 3, and so on) were added after the 'tilde' if more than one file name with same first characters existed in the same directory.

The 16-bit version distributed with Windows 3.1x and Windows for Workgroups 3.1x installations had a Y2K issue due to lexicographic correlation between date representation and the ASCII character set; colons and semicolons replaced what should have been '2000'. Microsoft issued corrected binaries for all Windows 3.1x environments.[when?][3]

Windows NT[edit]

File Manager was completely rewritten as a 32-bit application for Windows NT. This new version correctly handled long file names as well as NTFS file systems. It was included with Windows NT 3.1, 3.5, 3.51, and 4.0. It is possible to run File Manager on Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 by extracting a copy of the WINFILE.EXE program file from a Windows NT 4.0 Installation or CD-ROM, or by downloading and extracting the file from Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 6a (SP6a).

File Manager cannot run natively under Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 or Windows 7 because these operating systems do not include COMMCTRL.DLL and other necessary resources (Dynamic Link Libraries). However, it is possible to create a modified version that will run on Vista, Server 2008 and 7 using manual instructions available.[4] This functionality (plus related help and support files) is packaged into an MSI installer[5] and into an IEAK installer.[6]

Undocumented Features[edit]

WINFILE.EXE configured as an orthodox file manager

The 16-bit File manager cannot be configured as an orthodox file manager with two panels side-by-side using options in the menu, but with two directory windows open, if the user holds down the SHIFT key and selects WINDOW->TILE VERTICALLY the windows will form two identically-sized panels as shown.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Microsoft (2006-03-07). "Windows Desktop Products History". Windows History. Microsoft. Retrieved 2006-08-19. 
  2. ^ Microsoft (2007-02-20). "Dr Sneath and Ian Ellison-Taylor: Windows History". Microsoft. Retrieved 2007-03-10. 
  3. ^ Microsoft (2006-08-22). "File Manager Shows Garbled Date for Year 2000 or Later". Microsoft Help and Support. Microsoft. Retrieved 2006-08-18. 
  4. ^ Windows File Manager revived- How to run it under Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows Server
  5. ^ Reviving Windows File Manager- Installer for WinFile.exe for Windows Vista and Windows 7 Operating Systems
  6. ^ File Manager (FM)
  7. ^ Livingston, Brian (1993). More WIndows 3.1 Secrets. San Matao, CA: UDG Books Worldwide, Inc. ISBN 1-56884-019-5. 

External links[edit]