How to Browse and Open Folders and Files with Google Chrome

Everyone knows that you can use Google Chrome to browse websites. But like any browser, you can also use it to browse folders and files on your local device, just like Windows Explorer or Finder. Chrome has a full-featured navigation system that lets you explore all the storage devices connected to your computer, tablet or smartphone – it will even open basic text and image files directly from the browser without any extensions.

You can open a file stored on your local hard drive in Chrome using several different methods:

  • Drag and drop the file from its folder into Chrome. Wait until you see a green plus sign prior to releasing the file.
  • Press Ctrl+O (Cmd+O on Mac) and double-click the appropriate file.
  • Type “file:///c:/” in the address bar and press enter. (Replace c: with the drive letter of the drive you want to explore.) This will open a window called Index of C:, which is an index of all of the files on your computer. From there, you can browse through the folders on your hard drive, much the same as you can in File Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac).

Using this file browser, you can open basic text files, PDFs and images in Google Chrome. Click a file in one of those formats to open them in a Chrome tab. If you click a file that Chrome doesn’t know how to open, it will instead “download” it to your designated downloads directory.

Open Any Local File From Chrome

The problem, though, is that using the methods listed above only allow you to open a limited range of file formats. Audio files, for example, cannot be opened using this method. Local Explorer is a Chrome extension that enables you to open any file on your computer with its default software package.

Click here to open the Local Explorer extension page in the Chrome Web Store. To install Local Explorer, click Add to Chrome in the upper right corner. On the popup, click Add extension.

You’ll need to download an additional program, LocalExplorer-Setup.exe and run it. (You can get this program either directly after you’ve installed the extension or by right-clicking the Local Explorer button on your extensions toolbar and select Options to open Local Explorer Settings. Clicking Install now will download the Integration Module as a zip folder. Double-click the zip folder to decompress it, then open the Integration Module setup from the unzipped folder.


Next, type chrome://extensions into the address bar and hit enter. Scroll down to the Local Explorer – File Manager, and click Details. Then, toggle the “Allow access to file URLs” button.

Now when you click to open a file in the Index of  tab, the External Protocol Request window below will open. Press the Launch Application button to open the file in its default software package.

chrome index3

Clicking folders you’re exploring in Chrome will also open them in File Explorer, so long as you have selected “Use Local Explorer to open folders.” Right-click the extension’s button and click “Options” to select that option. If it isn’t selected, click its check box and press the “Save Settings” button. Then click a folder in Chrome’s file browser and press the “Launch Application” button as before to open it in File Explorer.

You can now open any file or folder directly from Google Chrome using Local Explorer. You’ll never need to open File Explorer as you can open all files with Chrome. The extension considerably enhances Chrome’s file browser. However, note that this extension does not work on Chromebooks, or any machines running a Linux-based OS. In addition, the reason this feature is not built-in to Chrome is for security reasons. Be careful when opening files if you are not sure of their origination, and proceed at your own risk.

Browsing files in Google Chrome isn’t the only thing you can do with your browser. There are a lot of things you can do in Chrome that many people just don’t know about. For example, there are Chrome extensions to change your IP address. You can also disable extensions altogether in Chrome, or change your perceived location in Chrome. Read this tutorial to learn how to remove all your saved passwords in Chrome, or this one to learn how to enable dark mode in Chrome.

Do you have suggestions or tips on using Chrome to explore the local machine’s file system? Share them with us in the comments section!

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