How to switch File Explorer to WinAppSDK on Windows 11

Microsoft teases the update during the WinUI community call.

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Key notes

  • Microsoft plans to massively upgrade File Explorer to Windows App SDK.
  • The integration could mean a lot of things: a better WinUI3, new API access, and more.
  • However, it may take a while for the plan to arrive to testers on the Insiders program.

Microsoft seemingly confirmed the weeks-old rumor that File Explorer would go WinAppSDK.

As confirmed by Windows enthusiast @PhantomOnEarth, the new ecosystem is living inside Windows 11’s recent Insider Build 25309. With a few registry tweaks, you can activate the new update.

NOTE: WASDK File Explorer is now simpler to enable in 25309 now that it’s rolling out. The registry edit you needed to make in 25300 is no longer required. If you want to be safe also run: vivetool /enable /id:40731912 vivetool /enable /id:41969252 vivetool /enable /id:42922424

However, another Windows watcher Albacore (@thebookisclosed) seemingly turned down the information. While many news outlets reported that the feature is living inside Build 25309, he spotted that it was actually inside Build 22621, which was released back in May 2022.

During a WinUI community call in February 2023, Microsoft may suggest its first wide step to integrate the file manager with its 365 products.

That means, for the first time in history, the tech giant could be moving File Explorer to WinAppSDK, the same base that built apps like PowerToys and Phone Link. While it’s not an entirely new ecosystem or a bare replacement, the latest SDK is here to enhance users’ experience by serving as a much modernized supporting library for standard APIs and WinUI 3.  

During the hour-long virtual conference where the update was teased, insiders said that the new File Explorer could have easy access to WinUI 3 features.

The question is: when will the update come and what can we expect?

When will Windows 11’s File Explorer update arrive?

The WinAppSDK-based Explorer is here in the Windows Insider Program, featuring a pizza icon in the toolbar to differentiate it from the Windows SDK version. Many believe that general availability will begin to roll out sometime this year.

With its full integration with 365 products, it’s safe to expect personalized toolbars, buttons, properties windows, and pop-up window designs that could bring those products’ features even more alive, and with a much better Recommended files feed experience. 

However, the news has been met with quite a polarizing recipient considering that the declarative language XAML is relatively slower than the traditional Win32 UIs, which already is plagued by performance issues for several users.

One user voices their concern,

It’s going to be extremely slow and buggy (like everything based on winui 3) and definitely pushed out to all users before it’s 100% ready, or even 60% ready. After a few months of patches it will become bearable but never better than the old app. FWIW it does look sleek and stylish.

How to activate WinAppSDK-powered File Explorer?

1. Make sure to join the Windows Insider Program and have the latest Windows 11 Insider Build installed in your system. If not, head over Settings Windows Update Install all.

2. Head over to GitHub to download the latest version of ViVeTool.

3. Once downloaded, click Extract all, select the location where you want to extract it by clicking Browse, then hit Extract. In this case, we extract it at C:\Users\WindowsReport\Documents\Tools\ViVeTool-v0.3.2.

4. Hit 🪟 on your keyboard, then type “cmd” and right-click on Command Prompt -> Run as administrator.

5. Type in cd + the directory where we extracted ViVeTool. In this case, it’s at C:\Users\WindowsReport\Documents\Tools\ViVeTool-v0.3.2, then hit Enter.

6. Type the following command then hit Enter.

vivetool /enable /id:40729001

7. Reboot the computer.

In the meantime, it’s still worth noting that being an insider-only feature that isn’t out for primetime yet, you may be running into some performance problems here and there, so, patience is a virtue.

Are you excited about this upcoming feature? Let us know in the comments!

More about the topics: File Explorer