View SharePoint files in File Explorer

The View in File Explorer command (in the modern SharePoint experience) is no longer recommended. 

Whether you're using Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or another browser, we recommend Sync. Sync is a faster and more reliable method for putting SharePoint files into folders that you can see in File Explorer. 

The Sync command is available just above your document library:

Screenshot showing Sync button on a SharePoint library.

For info about the Open with Explorer command, read Copy or move library files by using Open with Explorer. 

How to sync SharePoint files and folders

Watch a 90-second video about the basics of using Sync on your SharePoint files and folders.

For more detailed instructions, see Sync SharePoint and Teams files with your computer.

What's the difference between Sync and View in File Explorer?

Both Sync and View in File Explorer connect a SharePoint library with a folder on your desktop, but there is a difference:

  • The View in File Explorer command uses a temporary folder that opens in File Explorer. That folder only lasts until you close it and the content is saved to SharePoint. So using View in File Explorer gives you one-time access to the SharePoint library by way of your desktop folders.

  • Sync uses the OneDrive sync app to create a more permanent folder that you can use on a daily basis. All content that you add to, edit, or remove from either the online SharePoint library or the desktop folder automatically syncs with the other location. For example, once you sync a library, you can save directly from Word or Excel to the desktop folder, and everything is automatically uploaded to the SharePoint library. If you save something to the desktop folder while you're working offline, Sync will update the SharePoint library as soon as you're back online.

    For more info on Sync, see Sync SharePoint and Teams files with your computer.

Select a heading below to open it and see the detailed information.  

Note: Your version history is not copied when you use File Explorer. Only the latest or published versions of documents are copied or moved. If you must have versioning information included when you move a file from one library to another, use the Move to command. For more info, see Why doesn't File Explorer copy or move my versioning info?

File Explorer is the Windows file management system you use on the Windows desktop. You can open SharePoint libraries in File Explorer, and move or copy files and folders from your desktop folders to SharePoint. You can also open multiple SharePoint libraries in File Explorer, and copy or move folders between them.

Note: If you have Check out required enabled, you may need to temporarily disable it to download multiple files. For more info, see Set up a library to require check-out of files.

  1. In SharePoint in Microsoft 365, open the document library with the file or folders you want to move or copy.

  2. Select the View menu and then select View in File Explorer.
    All documents menu with Open in File Explorer highlighted

    Note:  View in File Explorer works for a modern library in Microsoft Edge, or Internet Explorer 10 or 11. If the command isn't there, you're likely in the classic SharePoint experience, in which case read Copy or move library files by using Open with Explorer.

  3. In addition to opening in File Explorer, SharePoint may also open the library in another tab in Classic SharePoint mode. You can ignore or close this library window.

  4. You may get a pop-up asking if you'd rather sync the library. This is up to you. When you open a library in File Explorer, the folder on your desktop is temporary. If you use sync, you'll get a persistent folder that stays in sync with the document library. For more info, see Sync SharePoint files with the OneDrive sync app.

  5. If you get an Internet Explorer Security dialog, select Allow. You can also select the Do not show me the warning for this program again checkbox.

  6. Open the destination document folder, and repeat step 2.

  7. Now that you have both document libraries open in File Explorer—the source and the destination—you can copy or move files and folders between them.

    Arrange the two windows so you can copy or move between them. You can display both on the screen with these steps:

    • Select the source window, and press the Windows key Windows 10 start button + Left arrow. The window should dock to the left side of the screen.

    • Repeat this with the destination window but press Windows key Windows 10 start button + Right arrow to dock it to the right side of the screen. Both windows should now be visible.

      Placing Explorer folders side by side

    You can also just resize the windows and overlap them.

    Overlapping folders in Windows
  8. Do one of the following:

    • To copy, select the folders and files in the source, right-click, and select Copy, or press Ctrl+C to copy.

      Right click, select copy
    • To move, select the folders and files in the source, right-click and select Cut, or press Ctrl+X to cut.

      Right click and select cut to move a file

      If you're moving files, you can also select and drag the files from one File Explorer window to another, rather than using cut and paste.

    Note: If your library uses versioning, you only get the published or the most current documents. You can't move or copy previous versions. For more info, see Why doesn't File Explorer copy or move my versioning info?

  9. In the destination folder, right-click and select Paste, or press Ctrl+V.

    Right click and select Paste

    Note: If you don't see Paste, return to the source folder, highlight the files and folders you want, right-click and select Cut or Copy.

    copying files between two File Explorer windows
  10. When you've copied or moved all the files you want, close both File Explorer windows. Any file or folder changes you've made are automatically uploaded to SharePoint.

  11. Return to the destination library in SharePoint. If the new files, folders, or changes haven't appeared yet, refresh the page.

    Empty library

    Before copying files

    Library with files copied from file explorer

    After copying files

In addition to using View in File Explorer, you can also sync the library with your desktop. When you sync, you get a persistent copy of the SharePoint library on your desktop. You can save files directly to the synced folder, and they are automatically uploaded in the SharePoint library it's synced to.

You can sync either or both your source and destination libraries and work between them as well. For more info, see Sync SharePoint files with the OneDrive sync app.

To learn how to upload files, see Upload files and folders to a document library

If Internet Explorer is your browser, you should consider switching to Microsoft Edge or another modern browser.   

Note:  Microsoft 365 apps and services will not support Internet Explorer 11 starting August 17, 2021. Learn more. Please note that Internet Explorer 11 will remain a supported browser. Internet Explorer 11 is a component of the Windows operating system and follows the Lifecycle Policy for the product on which it is installed. 

If you must have versioning information included when you move a file from one SharePoint library to another, use the Move to command. For more details, read on.

Versioning is part of a SharePoint library. The versions and tracking is stored in the SharePoint data itself, and not in the files. Rather than overwrite older files when you check in a new version, SharePoint stores the older files as well as the newer ones, and differentiates between them with version numbers. The files are still separate, and are tracked in the library, but the versions are only in the SharePoint library.

Versioning storage diagram

FileExplorer works with files which contain only the metadata that's needed for that single file, such as modified date or author. When you copy using File Explorer, it can only copy or move files and their immediate info. The additional information and other files in SharePoint aren't included.

If you're using SharePoint, the Move to command does move the versioning history, as it is working inside the library. Move to retains versioning because only one copy of the file and structure exists. When SharePoint moves a file between folders or libraries with Move To, it includes versions and tracking information.

The SharePoint Copy to command, however, only copies the latest file. This prevents splitting the history between two locations. You can make updates to either file, but the changes are only reflected on that file.

If you're copying files to keep a backup, and want to preserve the versioning, consider using a SharePoint server based backup rather than manually copying. That way if something happens to your current files, the backup of SharePoint can be retrieved. See Best practices for backing up and restoring in SharePoint Server.

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