What is hidden files and how to show them in Windows 10 [tutorial]

Some files and folders in Windows are not shown by default. Such files and folders are hidden as they are not usually that important for a user. Files and folders with a hidden attribute are often critical operating system files so unless you know exactly what you’re doing, moving or modifying them should be the least of your worries. Accidentally deleting important system files can result to serious problems so hiding such files makes sense.

For example, Program Data folder, which is hidden by default, stores many folders, subfolders, and files needed to run applications in a machine. Deleting this critical operating system folder by mistake can turn your PC into an expensive brick. Because Program Data folder contains important settings for all users/profiles, deleting or moving it to a different location can render the entire machine paralyzed.

Needless to say, there’s no need to tamper with hidden files. They’re hidden for a reason. If, for curiosity’s sake, you want to view the hidden files in your Windows 10 machine, it’s really very easy to do so. Sometimes, Windows troubleshooting also requires you to access system files that are hidden so it pays if you know how to display them in a pinch.

Before we proceed to the main topic though, we would like to remind you that we accept requests for assistance regarding their Windows computers. If you have a problem that you can’t seem to find a solution to, send us your issue by following the link at the bottom of this page. Just remember, windows problems can sometimes be difficult to diagnose so kindly make sure that you give us very detailed description of the problem. You want to mention relevant history that may have led to the issue. The more information that you can provide, the higher the chance of us diagnosing the issue more efficiently. We also expect that you mention whatever troubleshooting step/s that you may have done before contacting us in order to prevent repeating them in our article. Again, the more details you can give us, the faster it is for us to pinpoint the cause and its corresponding solution.

How to display hidden files in Windows 10

In order to show hidden files in Windows 10 (and in older Windows versions), follow the steps below:

  1. Open Control Panel by pressing Windows key and X at the same time, then selecting Control Panel from the popup menu. If you’re in Windows 7, hit the Start key or press the Windows key on the keyboard.
  2. Depending on how your device’s Control Panel is set up, you may need to hit either Large or Small icons at the upper right hand side.
  3. Open File Explorer Options. (This may be named Folder options in Windows 7, 8 and 8.1.)
  4. Click View tab.
  5. Under Advanced Settings section, look for Show hidden files, folders, and drives.
  6. Select Show hidden files, folders, and drives.
  7. Remove the check mark for Hide protected operating system files option.
  8. Hit Yes to confirm the changes.
  9. Click OK.

More about hidden files

You’ll be able to identify previously supposedly hidden files in a directory due to their appearance. Icons of hidden files appear lighter than regular non-hidden files.

Hiding files is as easy as showing them. If you intend to hide a file or folder, simply right click on its icon, click Properties, and select Hidden in Attributes section. If you’re trying to hide a folder that contains subfolders and files, you’ll be asked to confirm if you want to apply the hidden attribute to that folder only or to its contents as well. The choice is up to you.

Remember, hiding a file or folder does not mean such items are removed from the storage device. Hidden files are simply not seen, invisible, but they still actually reside in the drive. The same is true for items in hidden subfolders. Hidden files still take up storage space just like any regular, non-hidden files. You should not use the hidden attribute to hide sensitive files. If you need to protect files from unauthorized access, you should instead use encryption to do it.


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