Back in the day, opening a folder on your PC’s or Mac’s desktop always opened a brand-new folder window, even if the folder you were opening was sitting in another folder.

Mac open folders in new window setting

Want to make folders on your Mac open in a new windows? Just change a key Finder setting.

In recent years, though, folder windows have started acting like browser windows—meaning that if you open a folder within a folder, the contents of the folder you opened will appear in the same folder window, and you’ll need to click a “Back” button to return to the previous, “parent” folder.

Sure, the new method does a better job of keeping your desktop neat and tidy, but what if you want to go back to the old way of opening folders—you know, with a window for every folder, perfect for dragging files from one folder to another?

Here’s how…

For Mac:

  • Click the desktop, open the Finder menu in the top-left corner of the screen, then select Preferences.
  • Under the General tab, check the box next to “Always open folders in a new window.”

Update [10/25/13]: As a (very irate) reader has pointed out, “Mavericks,” the just-released version of Mac OS X, has changed this setting; the checkbox now only lets you determine whether new folders open as tabs or within the same window. If there’s another way to open a folder as a brand-new window under Mavericks, let us know.

Windows open folder in new window setting

You’ll need to dig into the Windows Control Panel to make folders open in their own windows.

For Windows 7 and 8:

  • Open the Control Panel (from the Start menu in Windows 7, or just type Control Panel from the Windows 8 Start screen to find it using search), click the Appearance and Personalization heading, then click Folder Options.
  • Make sure the General tab is selected in the Folder Options window, then click the circular “radio” button next to “Open each folder in its own window.”
  • Click the Apply button.

Click here for more Windows tips, or click here for more help with your Mac.