How to Show Hidden Files in Windows

Why are some files hidden?

The answer is pretty straight forward. Hidden files and folders constitute those that, if altered, could have a major effect on the way your system performs. Hence, when Windows is first installed, it hides these elements to keep anyone from accidentally deleting, renaming or moving files that the operating system relies on.

Why would I need to see hidden files?

All in all it’s a good policy, but occasionally, computer repair calls for making the exact types of changes they want to guard against. To accommodate actual IT repair, Windows makes it easy to view the hidden files and folders if you want. You just have to adjust the Folder Options in Windows Explorer.

Not to be confused with the web browser called Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer is a program installed on every Windows system. It constitutes the folder hierarchy you see whenever you click (My) Computer. We’ve all used it; it allows us to navigate down the hierarchy from disk to folder to folder, etc.

How to do it…

To show hidden files, just start by opening up Windows explorer. You can just go to My Documents if you want; any open Windows will do.

» In Windows XP, click the menu heading labeled Tools, then select “Folder Options.

» In Win Vista and 7, click the menu heading labeled Organize, then select Folder and Search Options.

» When the Folder Options window appears, click on the View Tab

» In the Advanced Settings pane, you can scroll through a series of options that determine how information in your computer is displayed. Locate the “Hidden Files and Folders” radio buttons and select: “Show Hidden files folders and drives.”

By the way, if you prefer to either see or not see the files extensions, you can adjust that here by checking or unchecking the box labeled “Hide extensions for known file types.” File extensions are the three-letter designation that follows a file name like.exe,.doc,.xls,.jpg,.mov, etc. Most users like seeing them, but remember, if you opt to see the file extensions then you can change a file’s type by just relabeling the file extension. Having them hidden prevents this.

» Click Apply, then OK and you’re done.

Now you’ll see folders appearing where you hadn’t before, often they’ll look faded. This indicates that this is a system folder that would otherwise be hidden.

By showing hidden files you’ll gain a new perspective on the inner workings of a system. For example you may see more files like “desktop.ini” and various “.bat” files. These coordinate the icons within Windows Explorer. Don’t delete these; just ignore them. They tell your computer how to display items in such a way that you can recognize them.