Quick Tip: Reveal hidden system files in Windows Explorer

Mark Kaelin shows you how to change the settings in Windows Explorer to reveal hidden files and folders in Microsoft Windows 7.

A few days before posting this Quick Tip, I published a blog post / photo gallery explaining how to add hidden international desktop themes to Windows 7. While that tip was not terribly difficult, I did make the assumption that most users would know how to reveal hidden files and folders in Windows Explorer. But, apparently, there are many TechRepublic members who'd like to see just how that is done. So here goes.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

Quick Tip

I am using Microsoft Windows 7 for this tip, but the procedure is very similar for Windows Vista and Windows XP.

Open Windows Explorer to any folder. For my example shown in Figure A, I am using the root directory of the C: drive.

Figure A

Windows Explorer is opened to the C: drive.
Click the Organize menu entry and then click the Folder and Search Options (Figure B).

Figure B

Click the Folder and Search Options menu item.
This will bring up the Folder Options dialog box (Figure C); click on the View tab.

Figure C

Click the View tab.

Under the View tab, you will find a plethora of configuration checkboxes. My preference is to reveal all hidden files and all system files. To accomplish this:

  • Make sure the Show Hidden Files, Folders and Drives checkbox is filled in.
  • Make sure the Hide Protected Operating System Files (Recommended) is unchecked. (Windows will admonish you that this is a bad idea, but that's how I roll.)
I also like to uncheck the Hide Extensions for Known File Types, because extensions help me determine what I am looking at in Windows Explorer (Figure D). Click Apply to implement your changes.

Figure D

Reveal hidden folders, files, drives, and system files.

If you want to apply these settings to all folders, click the All Folders button. When you're finished, click the OK button.


I want to make one caveat -- folders, files, and drives are often hidden for a very good reason. You do not want to just haphazardly copy, move, delete, or otherwise alter these items. Be very careful.

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