How To Display Hidden Files and Folders In Windows

There are a number of reasons why certain files or folders may be hidden in Windows. Firstly, some system files and folders are hidden by default so users don’t accidentally delete them or change them. This setting comes in from Microsoft. Secondly, you or other users of your computer might have hidden some files and folders to protect their confidentiality or to make them more secure.

Here is a refresher again on how to hide a file or a folder. For this example I created a folder called secrets in my test folder. I can hide this folder by simply doing a right-click, choosing Properties from the menu and selecting Hidden under the Attributes section. This will hide the folder from all the users.


Whatever the reason might be, if you have hidden files or folders, it is not hard at all to display them again. Here’s how to do it:

Display Hidden Files in Windows Vista or Windows 7:

Right now, the folder secret that I created still exists but is not visible to the users. Here’s how to make it visible.

Once inside your main folder (where the hidden files/folders exist), click on the Organize -> Folder and Search Options from the menu.


Click on the View tab. These settings control what gets displayed to the users. Towards the middle of the menu, there is an option to control hidden files and folders. By default, it is set to “Do not show hidden files and folders“. Change it to “Show hidden files and folders“.


Click Apply and then Ok. Windows will now display all the hidden files and folders contained in this folder. The exact same instructions apply for Windows 7.

Also note that these settings are global and would apply to all the folders in your hard drive.

How To Display Hidden Folders in Windows XP:

For windows XP, simply go to My Computer -> Tools Menu.

Selecting Folders Options will take to the same folder settings tab that we saw for Vista. Now under the Hidden files and folders option, choose “Show hidden files and folders“. Click Apply and then Ok.


Windows XP would now display all hidden files and folders.

Protected Operating System Files:

It is important to mention that following the above instructions would display most of the hidden files and folders but would still not display sensitive some protected operating system files. These files are hidden because of the risk they pose if anything is altered in them. However, if you want to display these files as well, uncheck the box titled Hide Protected Operating System Files (Recommended). This will display the operating system files within your PC.