Adding Folder Shortcuts to the Windows Taskbar

Straight road runs between wiggly waterways

Windows doesn’t readily allow you to add folder shortcuts to the taskbar – but it can be done

It is useful to be able to drag desktop shortcuts onto the taskbar so that they are easily found whether or not the desktop is being displayed.

If, however, you have desktop shortcuts that are shortcuts to folders, then it doesn’t work. Dragging the folder shortcut to the taskbar simply creates another shortcut to File Explorer. By the way, File Explorer was known as Windows Explorer in earlier versions of Windows.

What we have to do instead is to create a desktop shortcut that opens File Explorer with the special instruction that explicitly states that File Explorer is to open the folder of your choice. Since that shortcut explicitly opens a program (File Explorer), you can drag it onto the taskbar, where it will perform exactly like other taskbar shortcuts that open programs – ie it will open the program File Explorer at the folder specified in the “special instruction”. If that’s a bit difficult to follow, please just trust me and carry on…

Here’s how to add folder shortcuts to the taskbar:

  • Right-click on an “empty” part of the desktop (ie somewhere other than on top of an existing shortcut)
  • Left-click on “New” and then left-click on “Shortcut”
  • Left-click on “Browse” and locate the folder for which you would like to create the shortcut
  • Click on the lefthand end of the folder name as it now appears in the box and add the text “explorer” (without the quotes) and then a space (as illustrated below)
  • Click on the “Next” button
  • (Optionally) rename the shortcut to the name of the folder. Note, though, that you can not include “special characters” in the name of a shortcut, so you can not rename the shortcut to the full “pathname” of the folder (such as “d:\downloads”). You have to settle for something simpler (like “Downloads”)
  • Click on the “Finish” button
  • Drag the shortcut down onto the taskbar

Folder Shortcut
However, before taking the last step above, you might like to change the icon of the shortcut. If you don’t, your new folder-specific Explorer shortcut will just have the default Explorer icon. This makes it indistinguishable from the normal, default, File Explorer shortcut that has always been present on the taskbar.

To change the icon of a shortcut:

  • Right-click on the shortcut
  • Left-click on “Properties”
  • Left-click on the “Shortcut” tab at the top of the dialogue box that has now opened
  • Left-click on the “Change Icon” button
  • Left-click on a desired icon and then click on “OK” twice to close both the open dialogue boxes
Lady smiling at computer screen
Computing is more enjoyable when you find quicker ways of doing things

You can now now drag the shortcut onto the taskbar.

If you want to get even more clever with it, you can choose from a much bigger range of available icons for your shortcut. After clicking on the “Change Icon” button (above), if you click on the “Browse” button, you can select any “.exe” or “.dll” file on your computer to see if it has icons in it that you can use. Not all dll files have icons, so just try another if you select one that doesn’t have any. Possibly the largest selection of icons are in the file C:\Windows\System32\shell32.dll. Changing the icon of a shortcut in this way won’t affect the functionality of the shortcut and it won’t affect the dll or exe file from which you “lifted” the icon.

I think you will find that this method of creating a taskbar shortcut for folders works in Windows 7, 8, and 10, and 11.

For more on getting the most out of the Windows taskbar, have a look at this Microsoft page.