Problem: Microsoft has made it utterly impossible to keep using "File Explorer" (the file manager built into Windows) by adding an unremovable button in the top-right corner, precisely underneath the "X", designed to trick you into opening their obnoxious Edge browser (ignoring the "default browser") and making illegal Bing search queries on the user's behalf, without their consent and sharply against their will.
I'm embarrassed to tell you how many hours, days, weeks and months at this point of my life I have spent on this issue alone, searching helplessly and repeatedly for any solution and simply not finding any. This has affected me very deeply, and no, I cannot "just ignore it". It is designed to be accidentally clicked on, and that happens constantly to me. It's impossible to avoid it unless you use your computer at turtle speed and ignore 30+ years of muscle memory training. And even if that were possible, the psychological effect alone is like constantly being spat in the face.
I have gone through all the public lists of so-called "File Explorer replacements" or "File Explorer alternatives". They are all one or more of these:
Payware. This is unacceptable -- I've already paid dearly for my OS, both in money and in time/suffering, and won't also pay some third party to be able to use it. Furthermore, it's not just about the money but also about not being able to hand them my information for privacy reasons.
Very bloated. I have no interest in all this clutter, all these pointless features and the insecure network capabilities that they present as selling points. There is nothing missing from File Explorer -- only that unwanted extra button.
Unpolished. Is really the only way to use a computer these days to use some shoddy third-party project which might disappear tomorrow or start serving ads/malware at any moment? This is a genuine fear backed up by long experience of using things like this in the past, only to find that they "sold out".
The "best" option I've found myself is probably "Altap Salamander", but on its website, it cryptically says:
Thanks to the merge Altap with Fine company now free of charge.
I don't know what to make of that, but it sounds like they have been sold to some "Fine company", and that is very worrying. "Weird company" plus "free of charge" usually equals "bad things". I haven't dared to try that one after reading that, but maybe some of you use it and can vouch for it?
It's got to the point where, in spite of all my efforts to fight my own computer to resemble something I want and can use, I no longer want to open File Explorer even one more time. I'm getting desperate for real. I expected there to be at least one proper "Norton Commander"-like FOSS application or something along those lines, but this doesn't seem to be the case?