Windows Explorer and that Green Bar

You might run in to this annoyance in newer versions of Windows: you open a My Computer or Windows Explorer window, then navigate to a folder. But Explorer becomes unresponsive, and a green bar slowly makes its way across the address bar:

(image via TechSpot)

The green bar might take anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of hours to complete its journey across the address bar, and Explorer won’t respond until it does.

What gives?

It’s a design decision made by Microsoft. Windows wants to “customize” folders which are predominantly populated by one type of file. So if you have a folder full of MP3s, Windows will read the metadata from each one and display the artist, song name, album name, etc. of each file, along with the file name. Or the dimensions of photographs and videos. It’s a bunch of information that’s sometimes helpful for most folks, but only rarely. And when you have a folder full of 11,000 pictures or 3,000 MP3s, it’s going to take Windows a long time to read all that data, which is why Explorer becomes unresponsive,

The worst thing is, it seems to happen at random. I have a downloads folder (not the official “Downloads” folder, but a different one I created). 99% of the time, Explorer will cheerfully open that folder with no problem. But sometimes – like, once every 4-6 months or so – it will choke, and I’ll get the green bar.

The fastest way to “fix” this is to open Task Manager (CTRL+SHIFT+ESC), end the EXPLORER.EXE process, and then click File > New Task, type EXPLORER.EXE and press ENTER. This restarts the shell and fixes the problem 99% of the time.

But for a more permanent fix, you need to turn off customization for that folder. In Explorer, right-click the problematic folder and choose “Properties”. Click the “Customize” tab and look for the “Optimize this folder for:” drop-down box near the top of the window. Change the setting from “Music”, “Videos”, “Documents”, or “Pictures” to “General Items”. Make sure the “Also apply this template to all subfolders” box is checked, then click “OK”.

You may revert back at any time by repeating the process and changing it back to “Music”, “Videos”, “Documents”, or “Pictures”.

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