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How to rename multiple files in Windows with PowerRename

With the free PowerRename tool, you can rename a bunch of files in one single move based on a specific naming scheme.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
Woman typing on laptop.
Shutterstock / Prostock-studio

You have a host of files on your computer that you want to rename all in one shot, and all according to a certain pattern. Windows does let you rename multiple files by applying the same name followed by sequential numbers. But to add more punch to your file renaming, Microsoft offers a PowerToys tool called PowerRename.

Accessible from the right-click context menu in File Explorer, the PowerRename command can rename files through the use of variables. Simply select the files you wish to rename, trigger the command, and then choose the filename string and variables that you want to use.

If you just need to add sequential numbers to a group of files, that's already easy enough to do directly in Windows. Open File Explorer, select the files you want to rename, and then press F2. The last file in the list is selected. Type the name you wish to use and press Enter. All the files you selected are given the same name with successive numbers in parentheses.

But PowerRename can do that and more. If you don't already have PowerToys on your PC, download and install the PowerToysSetup.exe file from the program's GitHub page. PowerToys and its programs work the same in both Windows 10 and 11. 

Also: How to use the free PowerToys FancyZones in Windows and why you should

How to rename multiple files in Windows with PowerRename

1. Enable PowerRename

Open the PowerToys Settings window by double-clicking its System Tray icon. Select the entry for PowerRename. Turn on the switch for Enable PowerRename if it's off.

PowerToys Setting window.
Screenshot by Lance Whitney

2. Click Show PowerRename and set it to Default and extended context menu

Next, click the dropdown menu for Show PowerRename in and set it to Default and extended context menu. This ensures that the command is available in the context menu in Windows 10 and both of the context menus in Windows 11. Leave the box for Hide icon in context menu unchecked.

Show PowerRename in the context menus of File Explorer.
Screenshot by Lance Whitney

3. Turn on options for searching and replacing filenames

To receive suggestions for names when searching for and replacing the existing filenames, make sure the switch is turned on for Enable auto-complete for the search and replace fields. To control the number of suggestions you can receive when searching for and replacing filenames, set the number for Maximum number of items. If unsure, leave the default value at 10.

To see the last strings used for a search and replace, turn on the switch for Show recently used strings. Finally, if you think you'll need more than just the regular expressions used for search and replace, turn on the switch for Use Boost library. Otherwise, leave this off; you can always turn it on if and when necessary.

Options to turn on in PowerRename.

Finishing configuring PowerRename.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney

4. Open File Explorer and select files you want to change

Now that you've checked the settings and changed any from their defaults, it's time to take PowerRename for a spin. Open File Explorer. Select several files whose names you want to change. Photos imported from your phone are a good option since they're given generic designations that you'll likely want to switch to more meaningful names. Right-click anywhere on the selection and select PowerRename from the context menu.

In the right pane, confirm the files you wish to rename and make sure each one is checked. 

PowerRename option in the context menu.

Select PowerRename from the context menu.

5. Set up your search and replace strings

Next, it's time to set up your search and replace strings. For this one, I'm going to use an actual example. My wife and I recently took a trip to London where I took hundreds of photos. At the end of the trip, I had a bunch of photos with generic names that I wished to rename. For the first part of this process, I wanted to rename each one Trip to London but then add a sequential number at the end of each filename, starting with one and going from there.

The files initially all had names of IMG_ followed by a four-digit number and then JPG as the extension, e.g., IMG_1001, IMG_1002, etc. In the Search field, I typed IMG_. In PowerRename, the . symbol is used as a variable representing a single character. So I then typed four dots after the IMG_ as in IMG_.... and then nothing for the extension as I wanted to leave JPG as is.

IMG and JPG files in PowerRename.

Create the search string.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney

6. Select Enumerate Items

In the Replace field, I typed Trip to London. I then clicked the Enumerate Items button as that tells PowerRename to add a sequential number in parentheses to the filename, as in Trip to London (1), Trip to London (2), and so on. Clicking Apply then performs the rename.

IMG and JPG files in PowerRename.

Create the replace string.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney

7. Indicate the date each photo was taken

The true strength of PowerRename lies in its support for variables. For the second part of this process, I wanted to indicate the date each photo was taken. This required using variables, specifically a $ followed by the string for the type of date.

With PowerRename variables, the month is represented by the letter M, the date by the letter D, and the year by the letter Y. The number of times you use the letter determines the exact format. In this case, I wanted to use the two-digit value for the month, the two-digit value for the date, and the four-digit value for the year. So, I typed the replace string as Trip to London-$MM-$DD-$YYYY.

IMG and JPG files in PowerRename with renamed files.

Finish the replace string.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney

8. Click Apply if all looks good

As a helping hand, PowerRename previews the new names in the Renamed column so you can see whether your syntax is correct. If all looks good, click the Apply button, and the files are renamed. The new names appear in the Original column to indicate that the files have been renamed. Ultimately, my photos had their new names, the full date, and the sequential numbers. Mission accomplished.

If you need more powerful and flexible file renaming, then you might prefer a third-party utility. I've used Sherrod Computer's File Renamer program, which comes in both free and paid flavors, and provides a variety of renaming options. But if your file renaming needs are relatively basic, PowerRename is a useful and convenient tool.

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