How to Show Hidden Files and Folders in Windows

Did you know that to prevent important files from being deleted, Windows hides some vital system files from you? It does this when you search your files on your hard drive. If you like to always be able to see every single file on your computer, this can be annoying. This guide shows how to make Windows show you every file.

Good to know: seeing a “You don’t currently have permission to access this folder” error on your PC? Learn how to eliminate it.

How to Show Hidden Windows Files Using the Control Panel

You can show hidden files on Windows through several methods. This particular method modifies the default settings through the Control Panel.

  1. Type “Control Panel” in Windows Search, and click on the best match below.
Opening Control Panel via Windows Search.
  1. Click on the “View by” drop-down menu in Control Panel, select “Small Icons” or “Large Icons” to help you see all the options at once, then click the “File Explorer Options” icon.
Clicking on "File Explorer Options" in Control Panel.
  1. Click on the “View” tab, then check the box for “Show hidden files, folders, and drives.” Further down, check the “Hide protected operating system files (recommended)” option.
Enabling "Show hidden files, folders, and drives" option in Control Panel.
  1. Click “Yes” under the warning telling you that you have chosen to display protected operating system files. When you return to the File Explorer Options box, click “OK.” All the files that were previously hidden should be visible.
Pop-up showing up after enabling hidden files and folders via Control  Panel.

Be cautious when dealing with the protected operating system files, as those are different from the normally hidden files. Windows creates protected operating system files and uses them continuously to run smoothly. The average hidden files are less important and, most of the time, created by users or third-party apps.

Tip: learn how to get started using tabs in File Explorer for an improved multitasking experience.

How to Show Hidden Windows Files Through the File Explorer

Open the same File Explorer Options window through File Explorer, which may make it easier to show files without the need to navigate through Control Panel.

  1. Launch File Explorer by clicking its icon or using the Win + E shortcut, then navigate to the folder with folders inside that you want to show.
  2. Click on “View” on the top bar, hover over the “Show” menu, then select “Hidden items.” This will only show the non-system hidden files.
Clicking on "View" in File Explorer to reveal "Hidden items" option.
  1. Alternatively, click the three-dot icon on the top bar, and select “Options” to bring up the Folder Options window.
Bringing up the "Options" feature from File Explorer.
  1. If using an older version of Windows, find the same settings by clicking the “View” option. Opt to show “Hidden Items” through the “Show/Hide” drop-down menu.
File Explorer menu in Windows 10.

Tip: experiencing File Explorer issues? Learn how to fix the most common issues.

How to Use the Registry to Make Hidden Files Appear

Tweak the Registry Editor to manage how Windows deals with hidden files.

  1. Press Win + R to open a Run dialog, type regedit, then hit Enter.
Typing "regedit" in Run window.
  1. Manually navigate to the following path, or copy and paste it to the path bar:
  1. Double-click the “Hidden” option that allows you to set the value for hidden files.
Navigating to location in Registry Editor.
  1. Choose “1” for the “Value data,” to let Windows show hidden files, or “2” to keep hidden files as they are.
Setting new value for key to show hidden files via Registry Editor.
  1. Set “ShowSuperHidden” to “1” to see those protected Windows files. The “0” default value will keep them hidden.
Super Hidden Files 1

Tip: become an advanced Registry Editor user with these hacks.

Instead of diving into the settings when you want to hide or show a hidden file, do it instantly through the context menu by quickly applying a registry edit. We’re launching a .REG file to modify the registry, as it’s the easiest to apply or remove.

  1. Launch the Notepad app via Windows Search.
Typing Notepad in Windows Search.
  1. Copy the following code, and paste it inside Notepad:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00<br>[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\AllFileSystemObjects\shell\Windows.HideSelected]<br>"Description"="@shell32.dll,-37575"<br>"ExplorerCommandHandler"="{0947c622-f98a-48a5-9df7-60e5fe202e07}"<br>"Icon"="imageres.dll,-5314"<br>"MUIVerb"="Show / Hide Selected Files"
Typing code in Notepad.
  1. Press Ctrl + S to save the new file. Change the extension to “.REG” instead of “.TXT.”
Creating .REG file via Notepad.
  1. Launching the newly-created registry file will activate the option to hide or show any file through the context menu. Double-click the file, and agree to the notice by clicking “Yes -> OK.”
Launching new .REG file.
  1. When you right-click any file, you’ll see the option to hide it.
"Show / hide selected files" option showing up in context menu.
  1. If you want to show hidden files, set Windows to show hidden files first (using one of the methods above).
  1. Create another .REG file with the following code, and launch it to disable this feature and remove the context menu option. Keep the two .REG files for later use.

Tip: is Windows auto-saving files and folders to OneDrive? Learn how to prevent it.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I hide files on Windows?

The standard way to hide a file or folder is by right-clicking it and selecting “Properties.” You’ll see a tick box that lets you set the file as “Hidden” under “Attributes.”

How do I create an invisible folder on Windows?

Create a regular folder, right-click it, then select “Properties.” Navigate to the “Customize” tab, and select “Change icon.” Select the empty/transparent icon after sliding to the right. Once you have a transparent folder, hide the folder’s name. Press F2 (or FN+F2) to rename the folder, and quickly press Alt + 0173 to insert an empty character.

Can I sync hidden files across devices?

Yes. The best way to sync hidden and password-protected files across devices is by using the OneDrive Personal Vault. It allows you to hide files and make them accessible on another device, even Android and iOS. Install OneDrive on your PC, set it up, then activate the Personal Vault.

Image credit: Flaticon & Unsplash. All screenshots by Mustafa Ashour.

Mustafa Ashour
Mustafa Ashour

Mustafa is a tech content writer who’s a geek at heart. His passion lies in writing about technology, especially software-related topics. He’s also interested in digital marketing, business development, and entrepreneurship. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance.

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