In Windows 10, Microsoft has replaced the Favorites view in File Explorer with a new Quick Access view that also automatically highlights recently and frequently accessed files and folders. Many users will find this annoying—and I certainly do. But you can fortunately reverse this behavior and cause Quick Access to work more like Favorites.
Note: This tip is derived from Windows 10 Field Guide, my upcoming e-book about Microsoft’s new operating system.
In Windows 8.1, File Explorer includes a handy Favorites section in the Navigation pane on the left. You can use this section to access frequently-needed folder locations, like Desktop and Downloads. And you can add your own shortcuts. I often add locations for the books I’m working on and my article series, for example.
In Windows 10, Favorites has been replaced by Quick Access, which provides a superset of the former’s functionality. At first blush—and when you first install Windows 10—it looks and works much like Favorites.
But Quick Access works quite a bit differently than did Favorites in Windows 8.1.
First, and most annoyingly, Quick Access is the default view in Windows 10. This marks a bizarre return to the document-centric user experiences I just wrote about in my Windows 95 retrospective. In Windows 10 Technical Preview 2 Tip: Configure File Explorer to Open to the This PC View, I explained how you can reverse that change.
Second, Quick Access contains more special shortcuts—called pins, or pinned items—than did Favorites. In addition to Desktop and Downloads, your Documents and Pictures folders are pinned here as well. This is a big deal, since you can easily unpin items you don’t want: just right-click the item you wish to remove in Quick Access and choose “Unpin from Quick access” from the pop-up menu that appears.
Finally, Quick Access changes over time. As you access files and folder locations on your PC and local network, these locations will appear in Quick Access. If you view Quick Access in File Explorer, you will see sections for both Frequent folders and Recent files, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Odder still, the Quick Access section in the Navigation pane will start to change over time to: Windows will automatically pin folders that you regularly access to the list.
You can of course unpin these folders if you don’t want them there. But you may simply want to disable this functionality, as I do. And in doing so, you can make Quick Access work just like Favorites did in Windows 8.1.
To change how Quick Access works, display the File Explorer ribbon, navigate to View, and then select Options and then Change folder and search options. The Folder Options window opens.
In the Privacy section at the bottom of the General tab, you will see two options, both of which are enabled by default. To prevent folders from automatically showing up in the Quick Access section in the File Explorer Navigation pane, uncheck “Show frequently use folders in Quick access.”
You can also disable the display of recently used files in the Quick Access view with the first option. This isn’t as necessary, especially if you configure File Explorer to display This PC by default. If you’re lucky, you’ll never need to see the Quick Access view again.