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How to Fix Vista's Explorer Folder Template Forgetfulness

written by: Lamar Stonecypher•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 8/14/2009

If Windows Vista is confused and is showing your documents in a multimedia folder and your music in a documents folder, we've been there, too. This article will show you how, step-by-step, to tame Vista's template folder forgetfulness until, we hope, Microsoft finally fixes the problem for good.

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    Vista was the first version of Windows to introduce the concept of folder templates. The noble notion involved was that an Explorer folder could automatically change itself to the most logical presentation for the type of files in the folder. For example, if the folder contained music files, the view should include items like Name, Artist, Album, Genre, and Rating. A folder for videos or photos should include Name, Date Taken, Tags, Size, and Rating.

    Five folder templates are in Vista: All Folders, Documents, Contacts, Pictures and Video, and Music.

    There are also many problems with folder templates in Vista. One is that the wrong template is often selected, for no apparent reason, and attempts to correct it don’t “stick." Other than incorrectly guessing which folder template to use, Vista can change the template from one folder opening to the next. Even worse, the settings provided in “Customize this folder" and “Also apply this template to all subfolders" often don’t have an effect at all on newly created down-stream folders.

    I found this very annoying and tried several different techniques being discussed online. What I settled on was a two pronged approach.

    1. Set all folder settings back to the first run condition by editing the Windows Registry and optionally turning off automatic folder content detection completely.

    2. Set initial folder settings in the Control Panel applet and then check and or set the top-level views for each type of folder manually.

    Does this sound like something that interests you? If so, are you ready to dive in? Let’s go.

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    Part One: Edit the Registry

    Create a Restore Point

    In Vista, it’s a good idea to set a restore point, or go-back-to point, before doing maintenance that may affect the stability of your PC. Here’s the fastest way to create a restore point in Vista.

    1. Press the Windows button and type in “systempropertiesprotection"

    2. If User Access Control is active, click “Continue."

    3. Click “Create."

    4. Enter a meaningful name for your restore point.

    5. Click “Create" again and watch as it creates the restore point.

    6. Click OK to close the System Properties dialog.

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    Edit the Registry

    1. Start the Registry editor by clicking the Windows button and entering “regedit"

    2. If User Access Control is active, click “Continue."

    3. Navigate to

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell

    In the left pane, click on “Shell" to expand the list if necessary, and then click on “Bags" Then press Delete on your keyboard and confirm the deletion.

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    In the left-hand pane, click on “BagMRU." Then press Delete on your keyboard and confirm the deletion.

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    4. Navigate to


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    In the left-hand pane, click on “BagMRU." Then press Delete on your keyboard and confirm the deletion.

    Then do the same for “Bags."

    5. Navigate to


    which should be right below “Shell."

    Expand the list if necessary. If “BagMRU" or “Bags" are listed here, click them, press Delete, and confirm the deletion.

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    Decision Time – Turn Off Automatic Folder Detection?

    Do you want to completely turn off Vista’s automatic detection of contents and selection of folder templates? If you do this, whatever setting you give a folder will stick and will not change. For example, if you decide to do this and you have a folder full of documents and place one image file in the folder that you intend to include in a document, Vista will not automatically change the view to a multimedia view. In fact, all new folders will start with “All files" selected (Name, Date Modified, Type, Size) by default.

    I have tried it both ways. Sometimes it’s nice to have Vista guess which template to use, and sometimes the selection is simply irrational. I don’t have a recommendation either way about this, but I have elected to set up my own PC this way. Here’s what’s involved.

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    1. In Regedit, navigate to

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell

    In the left-hand pane, right-click on “Shell" and click “New," then “Key."

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    Type in “Bags" and press Enter.

    2. Right-click “Bags," click “New," then “Key."

    Type in “AllFolders" (one word) and press Enter.

    3. Right-click “AllForders," click “New," then “Key."

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    Type in “Shell" and press Enter.

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    4. With “Shell" highlighted in the left-hand pane, click an empty area in the right-hand pane.

    Select “New," then “String Value."

    Type “FolderType" (one word) and press Enter.

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    5. In the right-hand pane, right-click “FolderType" and click “Modify."

    Type in "NotSpecified" (one word) and click OK.

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    A reboot is needed at this point. Please exit Regedit and restart your PC to save your changes. Continue to the second page next.

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    Discover Windows articles and technology reviews, such as this 2-page article entitled How to Tame Vista's Explorer Folder Template Willies at, a writers community that provides information and insight into how science and technology interacts with and impacts our work, our play, our lives.How to Tame Vista's Explorer Folder Template Willies, Windows articles
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    Part Two: Create Initial Folder Settings and Check Some Folders

    At this point, we’ve restarted the computer and avoided the temptation to check a bunch of folders. Right? Let’s continue.

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    Create the Initial Settings

    1. Press the Windows button and click on “Control Panel."

    2. Double-click “Folder Options."

    3. In the “Folder Options" dialog, click the “View" tab.

    4. Go through the “Files and Folders" list under “Advanced Settings", picking the options you prefer.

    5. Click OK to close the dialog and save your changes.

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    Now Let’s Check and Set Some Folders

    Press the Windows button and select “Music." You probably want this be a multimedia view (Pictures and Video). If it’s not showing Name, Artist, Album, Genre, and Rating in the top columns, which it won’t be if you turned off automatic detection in the Registry, right-click an open area in the folder and select “Customize this folder." It should open on the “Customize" tab. Click “All Items" and select either “Music Details" or “Music Icons," whichever you prefer. Click “Also apply this template to all subfolders." This will make all folders downstream of your main music folder inherit the same view. Then click “OK" to close the dialog and save your settings.

    Do the same for your other top-level folders: Documents and Pictures.

    If a link to the Contacts folder is not visible, press the Windows key and type in “Contacts." Then press Enter.

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    I implemented these changes on my Vista PC two weeks ago. Since that time, Vista has not forgotten a folder setting once. There are some reports online about portions of this technique not working or not working for long for some users. We may find that we need further tweaking, but I’ve tried to present this in as much detail as possible. Hopefully, Windows Update will bring us all the proper fix some day. Until then, you have Bright Hub and writers like me who love to write about solving computer problems in your corner.

    Thanks for reading this

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