How to Show or Hide Hidden Files and Folders

Use Control Panel to access the option to hide or show hidden files and folders in Windows

What to Know

  • Open Control Panel and select Appearance and Personalization.
  • In Windows 11/10, select File Explorer Options and go to View. In Windows 8/7, select Folder Options, then View.
  • In the Hidden files and folders section, choose to show or hide hidden files, folders, and drives.

This article explains how to show or hide hidden files and folders in Windows. Instructions apply to Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7.

How to Show or Hide Hidden Files and Folders in Windows

It's not difficult to show or hide hidden files and folders in Windows. To accomplish either, see below:

  1. Open Control Panel.​ One quick way to do this in newer versions of Windows is to search for it from the taskbar.

    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. Select the Appearance and Personalization link.​ 

    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.

    Screenshot of Appearance and Personalization in Control Panel
  3. Select File Explorer Options (Windows 11/10) or Folder Options (Windows 8/7).

    Screenshot of File Explorer Options in Appearance and Personalization
  4. Select the View tab.

    Screenshot of View tab in File Explorer Options
  5. In the Advanced settings section, locate the Hidden files and folders category.​ 

    You should be able to see it at the bottom without scrolling. There are two options within it.

    Screenshot of Hidden Files and Folders in File Explorer Options
  6. Choose what you want to do:

    • 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.
  7. Select OK at the bottom.

You can test to see if hidden files are actually being hidden 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.

When to Show Hidden Files in Windows

Hidden files are usually hidden for a good reason—they're typically critical files, and hidden from view makes them harder to change or delete.

You may need to see these files because you're dealing with a Windows problem, and you need access to one of these important files to edit or delete. Of course, if hidden files are showing, but you want to hide them, it's just a matter of reversing the setting.

More Help With Hidden File Settings

A faster way to open File Explorer Options (Windows 11/10) 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.

If you're using a newer version of Windows, like Windows 11, you can access the hidden file settings even faster directly from File Explorer. The toggle is in View > Show > Hidden items.

Hidden items toggle in the Windows 11 file explorer view menu

Also, know that turning on hidden files and folders isn't the same as deleting them. Items that are marked as hidden are simply no longer visible—they're not gone.

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