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How to show hidden files on your computer

Did you know that lurking deep within your computer are files and folders that you are not meant to see? These files are concealed for a practical reason – they are critical pieces of your operating system, and modifying or deleting them could lead to disastrous results.

To prevent you from deleting or modifying files that you really shouldn’t alter without the proper knowledge, Windows has hidden these files from view by default.

Normally, average users shouldn’t concern themselves too much with hidden files and folders. However, when a problem occurs, there may be a need to get to these files to fix the issue.

Important: As I mentioned earlier, editing, deleting or modifying hidden files and folders may break your operating system, rendering it unusable. Please proceed with caution when working with these files.

How to un-hide hidden files

Whether you’re trying to troubleshoot your computer, or simply need to edit or delete one of these hidden files, it’s surprisingly easy to access them when you need to.

The process for viewing hidden files on your computer will depend on which operating system you are currently using. Let’s talk about the steps for each system.

MacOS:

  1. Open your Mac’s Launchpad (click the rocket icon on your dock)

2.  Go to the Other folder

3.  Open the Terminal App

4. On the Terminal window, copy and paste this command:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -bool true

killall Finder

5. Press Enter

Windows 7, 8, or 10:

  1. Go into your Control Panel and click on Appearance and Personalization. **Alternatively, if you’re using Windows 8 or 10, you can simply type Folder into the search box on the taskbar and select Show Hidden Files and Folders. Then skip ahead to step 3.**
  2. Click File Explorer Option or Folder Options
  3. Go to the View tab
  4. Under Advanced Settings, look for Hidden Files and Folders
  5. Make your selection to Show Hidden Files, Folders, and Drives
  6. Click OK

Hidden Files 3
Tip: You can test your preference update by searching the C: drive for a folder named ProgramData. If it appears, then your hidden files are visible, and if not, they are hidden.

Windows Vista:

  1. Click Start and open the Control Panel
  2. Go to Appearance and Personalization and click on Folder Options
  3. Go to the View tab
  4. Under Advanced Settings look for Hidden Files and Folders
  5. Make your selection to Show Hidden Files, Folders, and Drives
  6. Click Apply and then click OK

Tip: You can test your preference update by searching the C: drive for a folder named ProgramData. If it appears, then your hidden files are visible, and if not, they are hidden.
Hidden Files 1

Windows XP:

  1. Under the Start Menu, click on My Computer
  2. Click on the Tools menu and select Folder Options
  3. Go to the View tab
  4. Under Advanced Settings look for Hidden Files and Folders
  5. Make your selection to Show Hidden Files, Folders, and Drives
  6. Click Apply and then click OK

Tip: You can test your preference update by opening the C: drive and looking to see if there are a variety of folders starting with $NtUninstallKB. If so, then your hidden files are visible, and if not, they are hidden.

What if I want to re-hide hidden files?

If at any point, you want to re-hide the files in Windows, simply follow the same steps above, per your operating system, and simply make the opposite selection to Hide Hidden Files, Folders, and Drives.

To re-hide the files in MacOS, enter this command on the Terminal window instead:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -bool false

killall Finder

What if I want to hide one of my own files?

Hiding any file or folder is an even simpler process. Simply right-click the file or folder and select Properties. You can then toggle the Hidden attribute on or off. In Windows 8 and 10, you can even use the Hide Selected Items button on the ribbon to make the process even faster.

What about protected operating system files?

Some of the files hidden by Windows have an extra layer of protection. These files will remain hidden even when you follow the steps above to show hidden files and folders.

Before revealing these files, it’s important to note that making changes to them, or deleting them, could cause serious damage to your operating system.

If you’re confident that you know what you’re doing, and you need to view these highly protected files, there is a way to do so.

Simply follow the same steps listed above except, instead of looking for the Show Hidden Files selection, you’ll need to locate the Hide Protected Operating System Files selection and uncheck it.

 

When doing so, you’ll be prompted with a warning and you’ll be required to click Yes to continue. You can then click OK to save your settings. Of course, you can always follow the same steps to toggle this setting back on (and you should) once you no longer need access to these files.

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