It is possible to hide sensitive folders and files from prying eyes in File Explorer using a few attribute settings. We show you how to hide folders and prevent their accidental deletion.
Despite all the progress Microsoft has made on modernizing Windows 10, its flagship operating system still contains legacy elements from the original PC OS. By applying a few tricks and taking advantage of a few remnant quirks, you may manipulate Windows 10 in strange and mysterious ways you might not have known were possible.
For example, using a specific combination of commands, you can hide a Windows 10 folder from File Explorer and render that folder, and all the files it contains, nearly undeletable. That combination, along with an encryption protocol, could be all you need to hide and protect sensitive private files from unauthorized access.
SEE: Checklist: Securing Windows 10 systems (TechRepublic Premium)
This tutorial shows you how to create a hidden read-only folder in Windows 10 and hide it from the standard view of File Explorer.
How to create a hidden, nearly undeletable folder in Windows 10
In Microsoft Windows 10 there are certain protected variable names that users are not allowed to use for folder names because of how they are used for Windows programming and features. For example, you cannot use File Explorer to create a folder with the name "con," as you can see in Figure A.
In the past, we could use this fact and some tricks at the command prompt to create folders that could not be deleted with standard methods. Unfortunately, Microsoft has recently taken steps to close those DOS command line loopholes. This security measure means we will have to resort to less-powerful and more-conventional methods for hiding our sensitive folders and data.
SEE: How to add Control Panel to File Explorer in Windows 10 (TechRepublic)
While we could still use the command line to create and hide our folders, that technique no loner serves its extra-secretive purpose, so we can use File Explorer and the Windows GUI. Open Windows File Explorer and navigate to a folder or drive where you wish to create your hidden folder. Create the new folder, by right-clicking on a blank spot in the righthand window and selecting New | Folder from the context menu, as shown in Figure B.
Right-click your newly created folder and select Properties from the context menu. Note the Attributes section at the bottom of the screen (Figure C), and click the boxes labeled Read-Only and Hidden to add checkmarks to each.
Click the Apply button and pass the attributes to all the files and subfolders, then click the OK button to complete the change in attributes. As you can see in Figure D, using the normal view in File Explorer, that folder and the files it contains will be completely invisible to the average user. The files will also be Read-only, which means they cannot be modified or overwritten without deliberate steps to override the settings.
To access the hidden folder and its contents, open File Explorer and select the View tab from the Ribbon. Check the box to Show/Hide Hidden Items, and you will be able to see a grayed-out version of the folder, as shown in Figure E.
While this may not be the most effective or efficient way to hide a folder with sensitive data, it is better than nothing. Unauthorized access to your hidden folder will require conscious and deliberate actions, thus eliminating the random accidental discovery by the merely curious.
As mentioned, in the past we would have used a protected folder name to make our hidden folder undeletable, but apparently that is no longer available. If you have found a way to still take advantage of those folder names, we would like to hear about it in the discussion forum below.
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