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Fix File Explorer Lag In Windows 11

June 28, 2022

File Explorer problems are among the worst nightmares for any Windows user. This is because you will lose precious time as you will not be able to access the files you need to get things done on time. Some users have reported the Windows 11 File Explorer lag every time they launch it, which prevents them from accessing files. Even users running the operating system on high-end systems have complained about the problem.

In this article, you will find different ways to fix Windows 11 File Explorer lagging issues.

Index of contents

  1. Why Does Windows 11 File Explorer Lag Occur?
  2. How can I fix File Explorer lag in Windows 11
    1. Update Windows
    2. Restart File Explorer
    3. Clean junk files
    4. Defrag your hard drive
    5. Activate Classic File Explorer

Why Does Windows 11 File Explorer Lag Occur?

Given the Windows 11 is the newest operating system microsoft, bugs and glitches here and there are expected. After all, the company is still rolling out essential updates to fine-tune the operating system, release promised features, and fix issues.

That said, other underlying issues could be at play. They include temporary files, a heavily fragmented hard drive, malware, and the new File Explorer ribbon menu.

Fortunately, the solutions in this article have proven to be effective in fixing the problem.

How can I fix File Explorer lag in Windows 11

Now, I invite you to follow the below methods one after another to make your File Explorer work as it should.

Update Windows

Updating your Windows 11 operating system is essential. Since the operating system is still in its infancy, Microsoft will continue to roll out updates and hotfixes to fix specific issues. The File Explorer lagging issue could be one of those issues that the company has logged as a bug and fixed in a released update.

So, head over to the Windows Update client to do the necessary. If you need a guide, we’ve got you covered. Follow these steps:

  • go to the menu Start and click the icon Setting.
  • click on Windows Update in the upper right corner of the Settings window.

  • When the Windows Update interface appears, click the button Search updates.

After the client finds and downloads any available updates, allow it to restart your computer and complete the installation. Note that you may need to click Discharge and install if an optional cumulative update is available. While this is likely a feature update, it might resolve the File Explorer issue.

Restart File Explorer

For many, restarting File Explorer solved the problem forever. Sometimes the entire Windows UI crashes for some reason and restarting File Explorer via Task Manager solves the problem. This is what you need to do:

  • Play the keyboard combo Ctrl + Shift + Esc to start Task Manager. You can also right-click the taskbar or the Start button and click Task Manager.
  • Once Task Manager opens, click More information if you can’t see your tabs.
  • Now, right-click on the Windows Explorer entry in the Processes tab and click on Restart.

Clean junk files

Many system and third-party applications create temporary files that they only use for a while. For example, the Windows Update client saves update files in the SoftwareDistribution folder, and after a while they are no longer needed.

These temporary files accumulate over time and affect system performance. That’s because they clog up your hard drive and take a toll on your CPU every time your computer indexes your files.

This could be the reason why your File Explorer keeps lagging. Clearing temporary files should fix the problem for good. You can use the built-in disk cleanup tool to quickly remove these files. Follow these steps:

  • Press the keyboard combo Windows logo + R.
  • After the Run dialog window opens, type “cleanmgr.exe” and touch the button Enter on your keyboard.

  • The Disk Cleanup tool will ask you to select your drive if it has more than one volume or partition.
  • Select the drive you are wiping and click OK.

File Explorer Lag

  • The utility will compile and display all temporary files on your computer in categories.
  • You must select each of the files you want to delete and click the OK button. If you’re going to dig deeper, you can also remove temporary system files by clicking the “Clean system files“.

You can also go through the Settings window to delete temporary files:

  • Press the logo Windows and the buttons on the keyboard I at the same time.
  • After Settings appears, scroll down and click on Storage.

  • Windows will automatically calculate your temporary files once the storage interface appears.
  • click on Temporary files.

  • Go to System > Storage > Temporary Files.
  • You will find different categories of temporary files. Carefully select the ones you want to delete and click the Delete Files button.

Unfortunately, manually cleaning your registry is difficult and dangerous even with advanced technical knowledge.

Defrag your hard drive

If you’re using a hard drive, it may be highly fragmented. This happens when the information in the file is scattered across the disk.

Your CPU uses additional processing power to locate files and retrieve them from the drive. Unfortunately, this can cause File Explorer to lag every time you try to access specific files.

This particular issue was an issue in previous versions of Windows, and it’s no surprise to see it in Windows 11. After all, the issue is related to hard drives rather than operating systems.

Defragmenting your hard drive will eliminate the problem in this case. Here’s how to do it:

  • Open the search window by clicking the magnifying glass on the taskbar. You can also tap the logo keyboard shortcut Windows + S.
  • Write Control Panel in the search box and open Control Panel.
  • click on Security system after the Control Panel opens.

  • Scroll down to Windows Tools once the System and Security window appears and click “Dfragment and optimize your drives“.

  • Once the Optimize Drives window appears, select your primary volume and click Analyze.

Note: The current status may not accurately indicate the status of your drive. If your hard drive is fragmented by 10% or more, you should defragment it.

  • Click the Optimize button to start the process.

  • The process may take a while depending on how badly your drive is fragmented.
  • To prevent this problem from happening in the future, let Windows optimize your drive regularly. You can choose to do it monthly or weekly. Go to the section Scheduled optimization in the Optimize drives window and click the Change settings button to do so.
  • You can also install a solid state drive to avoid the headache of fragmentation.

Activate Classic File Explorer

While the revamped ribbon menu in Windows 11 is a breath of fresh air, going back to the old UI might resolve the lags you’re experiencing.

The process involves adding a new string to the system registry. It’s a complex and technical process, so make sure you know what you’re doing. A single error in the system registry could destabilize your operating system. So, if you don’t know Registry Editor, find someone knowledgeable to help you.

Also, it would be wise to back up your system registry. This way, you can restore the current settings if something goes wrong. Follow these steps:

  • Open the search box, type “registry editor” and click Registry Editor.
  • You can also open the dialog Run (Win + R), to write “regedit” and press the Enter key.
  • Click Yes on the pop-up window UAC.
  • Once Registry Editor opens, click File >> Export.

  • Select All in the Export Range section of the Export Log File dialog. Then choose a folder, enter a filename, and click Save.

  • If the need ever arises to restore the registry, open Registry Editor and click File >> Importthen find the backup file you just saved and double-click it.

Now, follow this guide to restore Classic File Explorer:

  • Go to the left pane of Registry Editor and navigate to the following key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE >> SOFTWARE >> Microsoft >> Windows >> CurrentVersion >> Shell Extensions

  • Right-click Shell Extensions and click New >> Key in the context menu.
  • Rename the new key to “locked“.
  • Then select the Locked key.
  • Go to the right side of the window (where you’ll find the default string value), right-click in the empty area, and select New >> String Value.

  • Rename the new string {e2bf9676-5f8f-435c-97eb-11607a5bedf7}.

  • Now, close Registry Editor and restart your computer.
  • You can always go back to the new interface by removing the chain.

This is how to fix Windows 11 File Explorer lagging issues. If the issue persists despite all your efforts, try running your antivirus program to find and remove the malware. If the problem doesn’t go away, consider restarting your PC.