As technology advances, patience diminishes.
I finally started to search for the underlying reason why Windows would churn for 10+ seconds whenever I clicked the Downloads folder. Yeah, there’s a bunch of unused stuff in there I clean out maybe every leap year, but why on Earth would it take SO LONG to display references to files in one particular folder?
The reason is because Windows is trying to do what it thinks is best. My Downloads folder had taken on the identity of a “Pictures” folder, so the optimization settings were set to “Pictures”. Sure, there are a few photos in there, but the majority of files are random setup executables, MSIs, zip archives, PDFs, and extracted folders. My best guess is that the first handful of things that were downloaded were image/photo files of some sort, which determined the folder’s fate as a “Pictures” folder.
Whatever Windows tries to do when a folder is set as optimized for “Pictures” causes it to hang while loading for what seems an eternity. Fortunately, there’s a really simple fix.
I found the fix on a very appropriately named article, How to Fix a Slow-Opening Windows Downloads Folder. You just open up the folder properties and change optimization from Pictures to General items. Ideally Microsoft will either fix the poorly performing algorithm, or have it adjust to folder contents and/or performance. If this has plagued you in the past, at least the fix exists, is quick, and memorable.