How to quickly open multiple windows for the same app in Windows

Sometimes you need to open multiple windows of the same app and work with them in parallel. For example, you may need to have two or three windows of Microsoft Word opened so that you can create multiple documents. Or, you may need to open several File Explorer instances, so that it is easier to transfer files from one location to the other. Opening multiple windows is the same as running multiple instances of the same application. Let’s see how this is done in all modern versions of Windows:

NOTE: This tutorial works for Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. However, there are a few minor differences between these versions of Windows, which are explained below.

SHIFT+click or Middle click+click to open multiple instances of the same desktop app

First, open the desktop application that you want to run in multiple instances/windows. It doesn’t matter how you start it: from the desktop, the Start Menu or the Start screen (in Windows 8.1), the taskbar or the Command Prompt. Once opened, you see its icon on the taskbar.

Press and hold the SHIFT key on your keyboard and click on its taskbar icon. One click opens a new instance. Two clicks opens two new instances and so on. If you have a mouse on which you can use the scroll wheel as a middle click button, you can do a middle click on the application icon from the taskbar and get the same result. Here’s how things look in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1:

Windows, apps, instances, multiple, windows

You can see that for each new instance of the Microsoft Word app that we have opened, a new rectangle is added to its icon on the taskbar.

In Windows 10, there’s one minor difference: the app icon from the taskbar gets only one additional rectangle displayed, after you open the second instance of the same app. You can open as many instances as you wish, yet you will still see only two rectangles on its taskbar icon. For example, in the screenshot below, we have four File Explorer windows opened but we see only two rectangles on its taskbar icon.

Windows, apps, instances, multiple, windows

This tip doesn’t work for all Windows apps

The tip above works for desktop applications that are designed to run in multiple instances. Some apps can’t do that. Some well known examples are Skype, most games for Windows, antivirus apps, Dropbox, OneDrive or Windows Media Player. Also, all modern apps from the Windows Store, including the Store itself can’t run in multiple instances at the same time.

How to open multiple instances of the same app with administrative permissions

In case you need to open multiple windows of the same desktop app, but with administrative permissions (the same as making a right-click -> Run as administrator), the procedure is the same, with one minor difference: press and hold the CTRL + SHIFT keys on your keyboard and click on the taskbar icon of the app that you want to run as admin, in multiple instances. This will also trigger an UAC prompt and you must press Yes in order for the new app instance to be allowed to run.

Windows, apps, instances, multiple, windows

Obviously, if you want to run the first instance of the app as admin, you need to start it by right-clicking on its shortcut and selecting “Run as administrator”.

More tips about the using the taskbar productively, in Windows

The tip shared in this guide was also included in a broader collection of tips we published a while ago. If you are interested in how to use the taskbar productively, on your Windows computers and devices, read this article: 9 Tips That Help You Use The Windows Taskbar More Productively. If you have other useful tips to share, don’t hesitate to do so, using the comments below.

About the Author: Ciprian Adrian Rusen
I love technology and I work in IT for more than a decade. I am the co-founder of Digital Citizen and its chief editor. Alongside my work as an editor, I am also an author. I have written and published 7 books, most of them about Microsoft products and technologies. They are translated into more than 12 languages. In 2014, I have been recognized by Microsoft for my technical expertise and involvement in the community with the title of Microsoft MVP - Windows Consumer Expert.