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How to see hidden files in Windows

By on April 21, 2004 | Last Updated: December 13, 2012 | Read 2,998,096 times.
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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Windows 95
  3. Windows 98
  4. Windows ME
  5. Windows NT
  6. Windows 2000
  7. Windows XP and 2003
  8. Windows Vista
  9. Windows 7
  10. Windows 8
  11. Conclusion

Introduction

By default Windows hides certain files from being seen with Windows Explorer or My Computer. This is done to protect these files, which are usually system files, from accidentally being modified or deleted by the user. Unfortunately viruses, spyware, and hijackers often hide there files in this way making it hard to find them and then delete them.

By following the steps below for each version of Windows you will be able to change the operating systems behavior so that you can see hidden and protected files. In this way you will be able to delete or replaces files for troubleshooting purposes.

Windows 95

To enable the viewing of Hidden files follow these steps:

  1. Close all programs so that you are at your desktop.
  2. Double-click on the My Computer icon.
  3. Select the View menu and then click Options.
  4. After the new window appears select the View tab.
  5. Scroll down until you see the Show all files radio button and select it.
  6. Press the OK button and close the My Computer window.
  7. Now your computer is configured to show all hidden files.

Windows 98

To enable the viewing of Hidden files follow these steps:

  1. Close all programs so that you are at your desktop.
  2. Double-click on the My Computer icon.
  3. Select the View menu and then click Folder Options.
  4. After the new window appears select the View tab.
  5. Scroll down until you see the Show all files radio button and select it.
  6. Press the Apply button and then the OK button and close the My Computer window.
  7. Now your computer is configured to show all hidden files.

Windows ME

To enable the viewing of Hidden files follow these steps:

  1. Close all programs so that you are at your desktop.
  2. Double-click on the My Computer icon.
  3. Select the Tools menu and click Folder Options.
  4. After the new window appears select the View tab.
  5. Under the Hidden files and folders section select the radio button labeled Show hidden files and folders.
  6. Remove the checkmark from the checkbox labeled Hide file extensions for known file types.
  7. Remove the checkmark from the checkbox labeled Hide protected operating system files.
  8. Press the Apply button and then the OK button and shutdown My Computer.
  9. Now your computer is configured to show all hidden files.

Windows NT

To enable the viewing of Hidden files follow these steps:

  1. Close all programs so that you are at your desktop.
  2. Double-click on the My Computer icon.
  3. Select the View menu and then click Options.
  4. After the new window appears select the View tab.
  5. Scroll down until you see the Show all files radio button and select it.
  6. Press the OK button and shutdown My Computer.
  7. Now your computer is configured to show all hidden files.

Windows 2000

To enable the viewing of Hidden files follow these steps:

  1. Close all programs so that you are at your desktop.
  2. Double-click on the My Computer icon.
  3. Select the Tools menu and click Folder Options.
  4. After the new window appears select the View tab.
  5. Under the Hidden files and folders section select the radio button labeled Show hidden files and folders.
  6. Remove the checkmark from the checkbox labeled Hide file extensions for known file types.
  7. Remove the checkmark from the checkbox labeled Hide protected operating system files.
  8. Press the Apply button and then the OK button and shutdown My Computer.
  9. Now your computer is configured to show all hidden files.

Windows XP and Windows 2003

To enable the viewing of Hidden files follow these steps:

  1. Close all programs so that you are at your desktop.
  2. Double-click on the My Computer icon.
  3. Select the Tools menu and click Folder Options.
  4. After the new window appears select the View tab.
  5. Put a checkmark in the checkbox labeled Display the contents of system folders.
  6. Under the Hidden files and folders section select the radio button labeled Show hidden files and folders.
  7. Remove the checkmark from the checkbox labeled Hide file extensions for known file types.
  8. Remove the checkmark from the checkbox labeled Hide protected operating system files.
  9. Press the Apply button and then the OK button and shutdown My Computer.
  10. Now your computer is configured to show all hidden files.

Windows Vista

To enable the viewing of Hidden files follow these steps:

  1. Close all programs so that you are at your desktop.
  2. Click on the Start button. This is the small round button with the Windows flag in the lower left corner.
  3. Click on the Control Panel menu option.
  4. When the control panel opens you can either be in Classic View or Control Panel Home view:

    If you are in the Classic View do the following:
    1. Double-click on the Folder Options icon.
    2. Click on the View tab.
    3. Go to step 5.

    If you are in the Control Panel Home view do the following:
    1. Click on the Appearance and Personalization link .
    2. Click on Show Hidden Files or Folders.
    3. Go to step 5.
       
  5. Under the Hidden files and folders section select the radio button labeled Show hidden files and folders.
  6. Remove the checkmark from the checkbox labeled Hide extensions for known file types.
  7. Remove the checkmark from the checkbox labeled Hide protected operating system files.
  8. Press the Apply button and then the OK button.
  9. Now Windows Vista is configured to show all hidden files.

Windows 7

To enable the viewing of Hidden files follow these steps. Please note a guide with images that shows the same steps can be found here:

How to show hidden files in Windows 7

  1. Close all programs so that you are at your desktop.
  2. Click on the Start button. This is the small round button with the Windows flag in the lower left corner.
  3. Click on the Control Panel menu option.
  4. When the control panel opens click on the Appearance and Personalization link.
  5. Under the Folder Options category, click on Show Hidden Files or Folders.
  6. Under the Hidden files and folders section select the radio button labeled Show hidden files, folders, or drives.
  7. Remove the checkmark from the checkbox labeled Hide extensions for known file types.
  8. Remove the checkmark from the checkbox labeled Hide protected operating system files (Recommended).
  9. Press the Apply button and then the OK button..
  10. Now Windows 7 is configured to show all hidden files.

Windows 8

To enable the viewing of Hidden files follow these steps. Please note a guide with images that shows the same steps can be found here:

How to see hidden files in Windows 8

  1. From the Windows 8 Start Screen, click on the Control Panel app.
  2. When the Control Panel opens scroll down to the bottom and click on the More Settings option.
  3. The traditional Windows 8 Control Panel will now open. When it is open, click on the Appearance and Personalization link.
  4. Under the Folder Options category, click on Show Hidden Files or Folders.
  5. Under the Hidden files and folders section select the radio button labeled Show hidden files, folders, or drives.
  6. Remove the checkmark from the checkbox labeled Hide extensions for known file types.
  7. Remove the checkmark from the checkbox labeled Hide protected operating system files (Recommended).
  8. Press the Apply button and then the OK button..
  9. Now Windows 8 is configured to show all hidden files.

Please note that you will now see icons that were not previously visible. One of the most common concerns is that you will see a file called desktop.ini throughout your computer. These are legitimate hidden files and can be ignored.

Conclusion

Now that you know how to see all hidden files on your computer, malicious programs such as viruses, spyware, and hijackers will no longer be able to hide their presence from you or people helping you.

If you have any questions please feel free to post them in our computer help forums.

--
Lawrence Abrams
Bleeping Computer Windows Basic Concept Tutorials
BleepingComputer.com: Computer Support & Tutorials for the beginning computer user.

 

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