How-to: All about hidden files on Windows 10, and how to unhide them

James Walker

Stylised image of Windows 10 File Explorer

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Windows 10 supports hidden files across the system. This feature can, per the name, be used to hide files which you don’t want to be visible when browsing through folders. Hidden files is a simple feature which mostly offers one-click controls to show and hide hidden content.

File properties

If you want to hide a file, simply right-click it and open the “Properties” dialog from the context menu. Under the Attributes section, check the “Hidden” option and click Apply. The file will immediately be hidden from view. You can select multiple files and folders and hide them all at once using the same technique.

Screenshot of hiding a file

To make your hidden files visible in File Explorer, click the “View” tab on the ribbon control at the top of the screen. In the “Show/hide” section, check the “Hidden items” option. If there’s any hidden files or folders in your current view, they’ll now be visible. Windows uses a lighter colour for hidden file icons, so you can see at a glance which resources are hidden. To make hidden files invisible again, just clear the “Hidden items” checkbox.

Enabling hidden files

That’s about it for hidden files. Just remember that making hidden files visible will reveal lots of files and folders you couldn’t see before. These are used by the system and are hidden for a reason – deleting or modifying them might make your PC inoperable!

Showing hidden files

It’s also worth mentioning there’s another class of hidden files which are even more sensitive. These are used by Windows internals and are not displayed, even when hidden files are visible. If you really want to, you can view them by clicking “File” in File Explorer and choosing “Options” from the menu. Switch to the “View” pane and scroll down until you see the “Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)” checkbox.

Screenshot of viewing operating system files

After clearing this option, you’ll need to acknowledge a warning that the files are protected because they’re required by Windows. If you go ahead and make them visible, you must ensure you don’t modify or delete them. You can make the files invisible again by restoring the checkbox – just remember this option is independent of the regular hidden file controls.