How to force Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) to preserve default folder layout settings on all user and shell folders

System Requirements:

  • Windows Vista SP1
  • Windows Server 2008

The Problem:

Infuriatingly, with the release of Windows Vista, we took a step backwards to a bug that was fixed with the release of Windows XP SP2 on XP. The dreaded shell folders ‘Bags’ bug was back, and this time it was intentionally trying to annoy us.

Unlike in XP where the system would get confused by overwriting folder settings, in Vista we now have a form of ‘auto intelligence’ to contend with that is supposed to look at the contents of folders to determine if they contain say pictures or videos and display fields that the user may find useful with respect to any available meta data. OK, I can see that this may be a valuable feature to a lot of people, me personally, I’m not interested. The problem is that the auto intelligence is about as intelligent as a toaster at discovering file folder types.

All too often you come back to the folder view to be presented with nothing other than folder name – no type, size, date or any of the other meta tag fields.Even more irritating is the persistence on the operating system in displaying “tile” view.

Personally, I cannot be dealing with “tile” view. I need my details view or I’m just not a happy bunny. Will Vista retain it? No, of course not. No amount of “Set Default” clicking will change it. Although you can get it to cooperate for user folders for a time, none of the shell folders will retain the settings and will always default back to “Tile” view. So you may be thinking, OK, I can live with that.

Wrong! You can’t live with that either. Invariably most access to the user file system goes by way of a shell folder, be it through ‘Computer’, ‘Network’ etc. Open the recycle bin or any other shell folder and the ‘Bags’ become contaminated with an entry for Tile view and within a few short weeks (even days or hours) you start to get user folders appearing polluted with tile view again in a completely nonsensical fashion.

More Information:

There is a well documented standard fix on the web for this, and it does help to extend the time that Tiles view will re-contaminate your shell folders.

It is worth noting at this point that if you like the auto folder detection, and do not want all of your folders to appear in default view – or some other set of customisation’s, then you shouldn’t be following this guide.

The standard approach reads something like this:

  1. Open regedit
  2. Go to (creating the hierarchy if parts of it doesn’t exist):
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell \Bags\AllFolders\Shell
  3. Create a new REG_SZ (String) named:
  4. Set the value of FolderType to:
  5. Restart and be happy

What this is doing is supposedly turning off the Windows Vista folder discovery part of the equation, so that it will not try and analyse what is in the folder you are opening and try and be clever in displaying the correct meta data. What this doesn’t do is fix “Tile” View.

Fixing “Tile View” (for good)

The following steps will outline how to prevent Vista from displaying a Windows Explorer layout that you do not want to see (hopefully). For system administrators it is deployable using the standard tools.

  1. Close all Windows Explorer instances
  2. Open Computer, then open your C Drive and leave the Windows at the root of the disk
  3. Open Regedit
  4. Navigate to:
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell
  5. Delete the key:
  6. Navigate to:
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Bags
  7. Here you will see a lot of numbered sub-keys. Delete them, all of them. Once you are done press F5 and ensure that none have come back while you were doing all of that, if so delete them as well.
  8. Navigate to (creating the hierarchy if parts of it doesn’t exist):
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell \Bags\AllFolders\Shell
  9. Create a new REG_SZ (String) named:
  10. Set the value of FolderType to:
  11. Return to the C Drive explorer Window, set the layout in here as desired. Hit tools > folder options and configure settings here as desired
  12. Close the explorer window: do not navigate anywhere else
  13. Return to regedit and hit F5. You should now see a sub-key called 1 beneath HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Bags. Expand to \1\Shell\{GUID-VALUE} e.g. HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Bags\1\Shell\{5C4F28B5-F869-4E84-8E60-F11DB97C5CC7}
  14. Export the GUID key to the desktop
  15. Open the export in notepad
  16. Find the line:
    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Bags\1\Shell\{YOUR-GUID}]
  17. Replace the 1 in that string with AllFolders e.g.:
    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Bags\1\Shell\{5C4F28B5-F869-4E84-8E60-F11DB97C5CC7}]-becomes-

    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Bags\AllFolders\Shell\{5C4F28B5-F869-4E84-8E60-F11DB97C5CC7}]

  18. Save the reg file and import it by double clicking the .reg file
  19. Return to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell delete BagMRU again if it exists
  20. Return to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Bags and delete and numeric sub keys (including 1) – do not delete the AllFolders sub-key!

If you managed to follow all of that, then when you open explorer, every instance – including shell folders – should now appear as you defined in step 11.