What Are the Hidden Files in my Linux Home Directory For?

In your Linux system you probably store a lot of files and folders in your Home directory. But beneath those files, do you know that your Home directory also comes with a lot of hidden files and folders? If you run ls -a on your home directory, you’ll discover a pile of hidden files and directories with dot prefixes. What do these hidden files do anyway?

Most commonly, hidden files and directories in the home directory contain settings or data that’s accessed by that user’s programs. They’re not intended to be edited by the user, only the application. That’s why they’re hidden from the user’s normal view.

In general files from your own home directory can be removed and changed without damaging the operating system. The applications that rely on those hidden files, however, might not be as flexible. When you remove a hidden file from the home directory, you’ll typically lose the settings for the application associated with it.

The program that relied on that hidden file will typically recreate it. However, you’ll be starting from the “out-of-the-box” settings, like a brand new user. If you’re having trouble with an application, that can actually be a huge help. It lets you remove customizations that might be causing trouble. But if you’re not, it just means you’ll need to set everything back the way you like it.

Everyone will have different hidden files in their home directory. There are some that everyone has. However, the files serve a similar purpose, regardless of the parent application.

System Settings

System settings include the configuration for your desktop environment and your shell.

Application configuration files

You’ll find these in the “.config” folder in Ubuntu. These are settings for your specific applications. They’ll include things like the preference lists and settings.

In most cases the hidden files in your Linux home directory as used to store user settings. This includes settings for command-line utilities as well as GUI-based applications. Removing them will remove user settings. Typically, it won’t cause a program to break.