Opening an Office 365 Sharepoint Library with Windows Explorer

There are many times we are asked about Windows Explorer functionality in SharePoint. Users of Office 365 are often using the SharePoint Document Library within Office 365 to replace the servers they were using for years. When they used their servers, they enjoyed the ability of keeping documents in nested files with multi-level hierarchies. SharePoint has a great interface which allows easy viewing, searching for, and changing of document properties, but the interface fails in some critical areas of functionality that businesses still need, including copying files to a backup folder on a local computer and to move documents in and out of folders by dragging and dropping.

In order to avoid losing this functionality, SharePoint gives you the ability to open up the files and folders in Windows Explorer. The way of doing this is easy when you know how but very difficult if you do not, due to the small size of the button that opens your SharePoint library in Windows Explorer.

Open a SharePoint Library in Windows Explorer

The following illustrations show you in a narrow view and a wide view, how to locate the button.

The Narrow View of the Button

The wide view. Click to expand to larger sizes.

Backing Up Files

To back up files, put your cursor in the Windows Explorer window of your SharePoint and then click <Ctrl> and <A>, which is the command to select all files. Then you click <Ctrl> and <C>, which is the command to copy the selected file or files. Navigate your cursor to select the folder on the local machine where you want the backup. In the new window, click <Ctrl> and <V>, which is the command for the paste function, which will then finish copying the file or files to your destination folders.

Moving Files and folders in Windows Explorer

Moving files and folders is the same drag and drop function as it is in Windows Explorer. Because the actual moving of the files and folders can take some time, careful planning and decisive work is more effective than having to spend a great deal of time correcting mistakes.

What is Missing from the Local Server Experience?

Because SharePoint can open in Windows Explorer, it retains all of the functionality of legacy local servers while adding significant new capability. Some say that the intuitive qualities are lost, but in our experience users eventually find the new experience to be intuitive once they get used to the added features and functionality and gain the comfort of experience.

Granular Security for Windows Explorer and Related Features

In SharePoint on Microsoft Office 365, administrators have the option of shutting down access to large portions of the menu, preventing the opening of the SharePoint Library in Windows Explorer by site members who are not administrators. Administrators still retain all of the original functionality: the dashboard is grayed-out as it is for the site members but the buttons still function as expected.


This article is now more than a decade old. Microsoft still offers these technologies, and the techniques described in this article still work today. Microsoft has, of course, improved their offering with new innovations, stability, and security. We have been working hard here at the Web and I for all that time as well. We have been getting better and better since 2007! See how our experience can work for you. Give us a call at +1 516 469-02249 and get started with a free consultation now!

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