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How to view hidden files in Windows

Knowing how to uncover a hidden file may sound like a contradiction of sorts, but it’s also the kind of basic computing knowledge everyone should have in their tool belt. Similar to encrypting and password protecting a folder, hiding important documents and data from prying eyes is a simple and viable way to ensure your private data stays that way: private. However, hiding your stuff is one thing, but it can be beyond inconvenient when troubleshooting Windows errors or merely trying to delete said folder to free up memory on your hard drive. And though you can quickly hide a file or folder from within each item’s respective property settings, viewing them requires administrative privileges and access to Window’s main control panel.

Here’s our guide on how to view hidden files in Windows, whether you’re running  the latest version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system or an earlier incarnation. Also, check out our guide on how to password protect a folder.

Skip ahead to how to view hidden files in Windows 7 (and earlier).

Windows 8 (and later)

Step 1: Navigate to the Folder settings Swipe in from the right-hand side of the screen, or move your cursor to the upper-right corner of the screen, and click or tap Search. Afterward, type “Control Panel” in the search field, select Control Panel the from the results and click or tap the green Appearance and Personalization option located on the right-hand side prior to selecting the blue Show hidden files and folders option below the Folder Options section. 

Windows 8 view hidden files

 

Step 2: Enable viewing of hidden folders  Click or tap the View tab at the top of the resulting window and check the bubble directly left of Show hidden files, folders, and drives, beneath the Hidden files and folders section. If desired, check the bubbles directly left of Hide extensions for known file types or Hide protected operating system files (Recommended) to view other hidden file and folder elements. When finished, click or tap the Apply button in the bottom-right corner.

 

File display options

 

Windows 7 (and earlier)

Step 1: Navigate to the Folder settings — Click the Start button in the Windows taskbar and select Control Panel from the right-hand side of the resulting drop-down menu. Afterward, click the green Appearance and Personalization option located on the right-hand side, followed by the blue Show hidden files and folders option beneath the Folders Options section.

Show hidden files and folders

 

Step 2: Enable viewing of hidden folders  Click the View tab at the top of the window and click the bubble directly to the left of Show hidden files, folders and drives within the Hidden files and folders section. If desired, check the bubbles directly to the left of Hide extensions for known file types or Hide protected operating system files (Recommended) to view other hidden file and folder elements. When finished, click or tap the Apply button in the bottom-right corner.

Folder Options 21

What do you think of our simple guide on how to view hidden files in Windows? Need clarification or directions for a different OS? Let us know in the comments below.