Many of us already know that you can pin programs to the taskbar, making it very easy to have one-click access to the programs you use most. What some of us might not know is that it's also possible to pin folders to the taskbar for the same ease of access. Let's see how that is done.
How to Pin a Folder to the Taskbar (Windows 7 & Windows 8)
You can't just right-click on a folder in Windows Explorer or File Explorer and choose "Pin to taskbar" as you do with programs, but the process is still not difficult.
First, you will need to create a shortcut to your chosen folder on the Desktop. For both Windows 7 and Windows 8, right-click or long-press on the empty space on the Desktop, then select New and then Shortcut.
Click or tap Browse and go to the folder you want, select it and click or tap OK.
This will put the full path of the folder into the Location field, in the Create Shortcut wizard.
Before you click Next, you will need to insert the word explorer, followed by a space (the space is important; without it, this procedure will not work) before the folder's path.
You'll then be asked to supply a name for this shortcut. Type in whatever you want and click Finish. The folder shortcut will show up on your Desktop.
From there, it's a simple matter to drag and drop the shortcut to the taskbar. Or, if you prefer, you can right-click on the shortcut and choose "Pin to taskbar" from the menu that pops up.
If you only want to pin the folder to the Start screen (in Windows 8), change the icon (recommended) and then right-click and choose "Pin to Start".
Switch back to the Start screen and there you have it.
Once your folder shortcut is pinned, you can delete it from your Desktop. Doing this won't affect the taskbar or the Start screen folder at all.
NOTE: Since the folder icon looks a lot like the Windows/File Explorer icon, you'll probably want to change it to something else. You'll need to do this before you pin. Please see the instructions for this, in another section below.
How to Pin a Start Menu Folder in Windows 7
This is for Windows 7, since Windows 8 doesn't have a Start Menu and you can pin any folder you like to the Start screen by following the instructions above.
Open the Start Menu and navigate to the folder you want to pin. To make a folder shortcut you will need to hold down the Shift key, right-click on the folder you want to pin to the taskbar, and choose "Copy as path".
Then create a Desktop shortcut as you did before, but just press Ctrl-V to paste the path you copied. As before, add the word explorer, change the icon if you like, click Finish and you've got your new shortcut. Pin it to the taskbar as shared in the section above.
How to Change the Icons of Your Folder Shortcuts
In both Windows 7 and Windows 8, right-click on your new shortcut, choose Properties, then the Shortcut tab, and select Change Icon.
Windows' first choice of icons (stored with File/Windows Explorer itself) is pretty limited.
For more icon choices, in Windows 7 change the icon path to "SystemRoot%\system32\SHELL32.dll" and in Windows 8 to "%windir\%system32\imageres.dll" and you'll have a much wider selection. The icon set is the same in both operating systems.
You may also want to check our Windows 8 icon collection here: Download the Windows 8 Logo & Other Windows 8 Icons.
NOTE: In Windows 7, if you happen to have Windows Explorer and your new folder shortcut open at the same time, because of the way the shortcut is created, it shows up stacked with the Windows Explorer icon on the taskbar. This is another good reason to change the icon. You can hover over the icon stack and pick the one you want. Windows 8 works a little differently. If you open your shortcut folder and then try to open File Explorer from the taskbar, you'll see that the File Explorer icon is already illuminated because that's what's on your screen. If you open File Explorer first and then open your folder shortcut, you'll get the two stacked icons like in Windows 7 and two separate instances of File Explorer will open--one the default window and one for your shortcut.
Pinning a folder is not difficult, as you can see. If you follow the steps exactly as I've outlined above, you'll have your favorite folders pinned in no time, for much easier access. I know there are other icon sets out there. If you've got a favorite source for good icons, please share it in the comments below.