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How to reveal hidden files in Windows

How to reveal hidden files in Windows

In an effort 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. The average user doesn't know the difference, at least not until there is a problem.

What happens when you need to access these files?

Whether you're trying to troubleshoot a Windows issue, 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 Windows will depend on which operating system you are currently using. Let's talk about the steps for each system.

If you're using 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.

If you're using 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

If you're using 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, simply follow the same steps above, per your operating system, and simply make the opposite selection to Hide Hidden Files, Folders, and Drives.

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 toggle it off.

>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.

More tricks you can do with Windows

Windows is so commonplace, many of us don’t realize that it has special features that boost your computer’s speed, stream media to multiple devices, share content with your family, and customizations to make it your own. Windows has come a long way in the past 30 years, and the number of handy tricks may surprise you. Here are 16 Windows 10 tricks you'll wish you knew sooner.

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