Why Windows File Explorer Isn’t Showing The Left Pane

Windows File Explorer provides a unique, simple way to navigate through your computer. The left pane holds all the menus you need to navigate File Explorer, but sometimes, it doesn’t appear. Without the left pane, you’ll have to go through all sorts of search menus to get to the desired file.

1. Enable the Navigation Pane

How to enable the Navigation Pane in Windows File Explorer.
How to enable the Navigation Pane in the Windows 11 File Explorer

Enabling the navigation pane will return the left pane in File Explorer. Here’s how you can quickly check the box. 

  1. Click the Windows start icon or use the search bar (depending on your Windows OS version).
  2. Type File Explorer, then click the file icon to open the menu.
  3. Click on the View tab at the top of File Explorer, then check the navigation pane box.

Before adding it to the menu, preview the pane in the top-left corner. This option lets you see what Windows File Explorer will look like with or without the navigation pane.

2. Uninstall Incompatible Apps

Getting a third-party app will change your Windows File Explorer menu. Remember these tips when you’re looking for additional file storage options. 

  • Opt for cloud storage or a USB hard drive to connect to your computer.
  • Check the program’s Terms & Conditions and compatibility page to know if it affects Windows OS.
  • Don’t get a third-party file storage app if it has bad reviews or isn’t registered in the app store.

If you think this might happen to your Windows computer, uninstall the app (after transferring everything to the cloud or a separate hard drive), restart your PC, and look for the navigation menu. If it shows up, you’re good to go. If not, head to the next solution.

3. Update the Video Drivers

Updating your video drivers is as easy as it’s ever been. Try one of these two solutions.

  1. Click on the search bar at the bottom of your Windows computer, then type video driver update. This action will bring you to the Microsoft website in the search engine. You can download the latest version of your video drivers from the page or by contacting support. Once you download the update, restart your computer.
  2. Type Device Manager in your search bar at the bottom of the page, then click Sound & Video. You’ll be able to update your video drivers from this menu. You can also type Updates to check all the updates available for your computer. This option will prevent long-term issues, including a hidden navigation pane.

4. Adjust Advanced System Settings for Best Appearance

Changing your system’s advanced settings is an excellent way to activate the left pane in Windows File Explorer. Follow these steps for the best results. 

  1. Access the settings menu through the bottom search bar or start menu (depending on your Windows OS version).
  2. Go to the system settings menu to determine how you want to view the PC’s layout.
  3. Look for the About section, then choose Advanced Settings (you can also type Advanced Settings at the top of the menu).
  4. Choose Performance under System Properties, then check the box that says, Adjust for best appearance.

When you’re done, restart your computer and open Windows File Explorer. Look for the left pane after checking the navigation box, as mentioned earlier in the post.

5. Scan for and Remove Malware

If you think your computer’s malware is causing problems with Windows File Explorer’s left pane, follow these steps. 

  1. Use Windows Defender to scan for malware and remove it. Defender comes stock on all Microsoft devices. Type it into the search bar, then run the advanced scan to remove all the malware on your computer. Doing so will also let you narrow down your probable causes.
  2. Avoid connecting your computer to public WiFi. You’ll get a lot of hackers and viruses when using the public internet, so it’s best to stay away from it. Most smartphones include mobile internet hotspots that you can use.
  3. Stay away from websites that don’t have the lock icon in the search bar (if you’re using Google Chrome or Firefox). The lock icon (or having HTTPS) is a surefire way to know that the website is safe to use.

6. Update Your OS

Updating your operating system makes everything work as Windows intended. Here’s how to scan for updates and ensure your OS is current. 

  1. Go to the Settings menu through the bottom search bar or the start menu at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Type Updates in the upper menu bar.
  3. Scan for current updates, then click Update if applicable.

Note: After updating its drivers and operating system, you must restart your computer. This restart allows the update to be complete. Failure to restart the computer will prevent you from reaping the benefits of the update.

7. Adjust View Settings to ‘Compact View’

If the navigation pane correction didn’t work, try this method. 

  1. Open Windows File Explorer through the Search or Start menu.
  2. Click View at the top of the page, then choose Compact View.
  3. Selection the Navigation Pane box under the Compact View menu.

Close Windows File Explorer when you finish this process, then open it again. The Navigation Pane (the left pane) should show up now. 

8. Restart and Clean Your PC

Restarting your computer might be the only thing you need to do to fix this problem. 

You should restart your computer once every few days, at least. Restarting your computer once every few months can take a toll on the hardware, directly affecting the software.

If this issue continues after restarting your computer, I suggest turning it off and leaving it alone for a few hours. It needs time to cool down

You should take this time to unplug the computer and remove debris from the CPU, fans, and other components. If you haven’t turned it off in a while, there’s a good chance that you haven’t cleaned the moving parts.

When you’re done, plug in the PC, turn it on, and look for the navigation pane.

How To Prevent Windows File Explorer Left Pane Issues

Follow these guidelines to prevent Windows File Explorer’s left pane from going away or messing up. 

  • Keep your computer updated, and don’t forget to restart it weekly. This step includes your video drivers, too. Updating your operating system and other programs will prevent Windows File Explorer issues and incompatibilities. It can also stop your computer from overheating or not working properly.
  • Run a malware scan weekly to prevent PC software problems. Malware scans are incredibly easy, especially when using Windows Defender. You can also try other products, such as Norton Antivirus. Another option is to set your malware scans to happen automatically so you don’t have to worry about stopping your work.
  • Avoid third-party file apps (stick to File Explorer or cloud services). Google Cloud, Verizon Cloud, and other trustworthy cloud services offer excellent file storage. Using an untrusted third-party application can bring viruses and cause compatibility issues with Windows File Explorer.
  • Don’t access questionable websites, much less download anything from them. They’re often filled with malware that can wreak havoc on your computer. Furthermore, they can make it difficult to look through File Explorer (not to mention the fact that it can strip or read all of your PC files).
  • Consider opening a guest account if other people want to use the computer. This suggestion prevents other people from messing with your preferred PC settings. Start your computer, then click ‘Guest’ instead of typing your password into the Windows opening screen. You can set guest admin options from your main account.

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