How To Show or Hide Hidden Files & Folders

Hide or Show Hidden Files & Folders in Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, & XP

Man hiding in filing cabinet reading document with magnifying glass
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Hidden files are usually hidden for good reason - they're often very important files and being hidden from view makes them harder to change or delete.

But what if you want to see those hidden files?

There are many good reasons you might want to show hidden files and folders in your searches and folder views but most of the time it's because you're dealing with a Windows problem and you need access to one of these important files to edit or delete.

On the other hand, if hidden files are, in fact, showing but you instead want to hide them, it's just a matter of reversing the toggle.

Fortunately, it's really easy show or hide hidden files and folders in Windows. This change is made in Control Panel.

The specific steps involved in configuring Windows to show or hide hidden files depends on which operating system you happen to be using:

Note: See What Version of Windows Do I Have? if you're not sure which of those several versions of Windows is installed on your computer.

How To Show or Hide Hidden Files and Folders in Windows 10, 8, and 7

  1. Open Control Panel.

    Tip: If you're comfortable with the command line, there's a faster way to get this done. See the More Help... section at the bottom of the page and then skip down to Step 4.
     
  2. Click or tap on the Appearance and Personalization link.

    Note: If you're viewing Control Panel in a way where you see all the links and icons but none of them are categorized, you won't see this link - skip down to Step 3.
     
  1. Click or tap on the File Explorer Options (Windows 10) or Folder Options (Windows 8/7) link.
     
  2. Click or tap on the View tab in the File Explorer Options or Folder Options window.
     
  3. In the Advanced settings: section, locate the Hidden files and folders category.

    Note: You should be able to see the Hidden files and folders category at the bottom of the Advanced settings: text area without scrolling down. You should see two options under the folder.
     
  1. Choose which option you want to apply.

    Don't show hidden files, folders, or drives will hide the files, folders, and drives that have the hidden attribute toggled on.

    Show hidden files, folders, and drives lets you see the hidden data.
     
  2. Click or tap OK at the bottom of the File Explorer Options or Folder Options window.
     
  3. You can test to see if hidden files are are actually being hidden in Windows 10/8/7 by browsing to the C:\ drive. If you do not see a folder named ProgramData, then hidden files and folders are being hidden from view.
     

How To Show or Hide Hidden Files and Folders in Windows Vista

  1. Click or tap on the Start button and then on Control Panel.
     
  2. Click or tap on the Appearance and Personalization link.

    Note: If you're viewing the Classic View of Control Panel, you won't see this link. Simply open the Folder Options icon and proceed to Step 4.
     
  3. Click or tap on the Folder Options link.
     
  4. Click or tap on the View tab in the Folder Options window.
     
  5. In the Advanced settings: section, locate the Hidden files and folders category.

    Note: You should be able to see the Hidden files and folders category at the bottom of the Advanced settings: text area without scrolling down. You should see two options under the folder.
     
  1. Pick the option you want to apply to Windows Vista.

    Do not show hidden files and folders will hide the files and folders with the hidden attribute turned on.

    Show hidden files and folders will let you see the hidden files and folders.
     
  2. Click or tap OK at the bottom of the Folder Options window.
     
  3. You can test to see if hidden files are being shown in Windows Vista by navigating to the C:\ drive. If you see a folder named ProgramData, then you are able to view hidden files and folders.

    Note: The icons for hidden files and folders are slightly grayed out. This is an easy way to separate hidden files and folders from your normal unhidden ones.

    How To Show or Hide Hidden Files and Folders in Windows XP

    1. Open My Computer from the Start menu.
       
    2. From the Tools menu, choose Folder Options....

      Tip: See the first tip at the bottom of this page for a quick way to open Folder Options in Windows XP.
       
    3. Click or tap on the View tab in the Folder Options window.
       
    4. In the Advanced settings: text area, locate the Hidden files and folders category.

      Note: The Hidden files and folders category should be viewable at the bottom of the Advanced settings: text area without scrolling down. You'll see two options under the folder.
       
    5. Under the Hidden files and folders category, choose the radio button that applies to what you want to do.

      Do not show hidden files and folders will hide the files and folders with the hidden attribute turned on.

      Show hidden files and folders will let you see the hidden files and folders.
       
    6. Click or tap OK at the bottom of the Folder Options window.
       
    7. You can test to see if hidden files are being displayed by navigating to the C:\Windows folder. If you see a number of folders beginning with $NtUninstallKB, then you are able to view hidden files and folders, else they're successfully hidden.

      Note: These $NtUninstallKB folders contain information needed to uninstall updates you've received from Microsoft. While unlikely, it's possible you might not see these folders but may still be configured correctly to view hidden folders and files. This might be the case if you've never installed any updates to your operating system.

    More Help with Hidden File Settings

    A faster way to open File Explorer Options (Windows 10) or Folder Options (Windows 8/7/Vista/XP) is to enter the command control folders into the Run dialog box. You can open the Run dialog box the same in every version of Windows - with the Windows Key + R key combination.

    The same command can be run from Command Prompt.

    Also, please know that hiding hidden files and folders is not the same as deleting them. Files and folders that are marked as hidden are simply no longer visible - they're not gone.