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Show Hidden Files in Windows, MS-DOS, and Command Prompt

Last reviewed: January 2007


What are Hidden Files

It's normal for all Windows to hide certain files and folders in Windows Explorer, My Computer, the Find tool, the Command Prompt, and MS-DOS. Many are also made Read-only and marked as System files. This is Microsoft's way of preventing very important files from being modified or deleted accidentally. This page shows how to view Hidden files in all versions of Windows. System and Read-only files will also become visible.

How to show Hidden files and folders in:

  1. Windows 7
  2. Windows Vista
  3. Windows XP or 2003 or 2000
  4. Windows NT
  5. Windows Millennium
  6. Windows 98, 98SE, or 95
  7. MS-DOS or Command Prompt

Caution: Always backup a file before you modify it. An incorrect Hidden, Read-only, or System file could make your computer unbootable.

Show Hidden Files and Folders in Windows 7

This applies to all versions of Windows 7.

  1. Click the Start button
  2. Click Computer
  3. Double-click C: drive
  4. Click Organize
  5. Click Folders and search options
  6. Click View tab
    • Click to enable Show hidden files, folders, and drives
    • Click to disable Hide extensions for known file types
    • Click to disable Hide protected operating system files (Recommended) if you want to see system files
      (click Yes if a warning dialog box appears)
    • Click the Apply button, and then click OK.
    • Click the Apply to Folders button if it's not greyed out.

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Show Hidden Files and Folders in Windows Vista

This applies to all versions of Windows Vista.

  1. Click the Start button
  2. Click Control Panel
  3. Click Appearance and Personalization
  4. Click Folder Options
  5. Click the View tab
    • Under Advanced settings
      Click to enable Show hidden files and folders
    • Click to disable Hide extensions for known file types
    • Click to disable Hide protected operating system files (Recommended) if you want to see system files
      (click Yes if a warning dialog box appears)
    • Click the Apply button, and then click OK.
    • Click the Apply to Folders button.

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Show Hidden Files and Folders in Windows XP or 2000 or 2003

  1. Open Windows Explorer
  2. Click on the Tools menu
  3. Click Folder Options...
  4. Click the View tab
    • Click to enable Display the contents of system folders (not Windows 2000)
    • Under the Hidden files and folders section
      Click to enable Show hidden files and folders
    • Click to disable Hide extensions for known file types
    • Click to disable Hide protected operating system files (Recommended) if you want to see system files
      (click Yes if a warning dialog box appears)
    • Click the Apply button, and then click OK.
    • Click the Apply to All Folders button.

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Show Hidden Files and Folders in Windows NT

  1. Open Windows Explorer
  2. Click on the View menu
  3. Click Options
  4. Click the View tab
    • Click to enable Show all files
    • Click the Apply button, and then click OK.

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Show Hidden Files and Folders in Windows Millennium

  1. Open Windows Explorer
  2. Click on the Tools menu
  3. Click Folder Options...
  4. Click the View tab
    • Under the Hidden files and folders section
      Click to enable Show hidden files and folders
    • Click to disable Hide extensions for known file types
    • Click to disable Hide protected operating system files (Recommended) if you want to see system files
      (click Yes if a warning dialog box appears)
    • Click the Apply button, and then click OK.

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Show Hidden Files and Folders in Windows 98, 98SE, or 95

  1. Open Windows Explorer
  2. Click on the View menu
  3. Click Folder Options (Win98) or Options (Win95)
  4. Click the View tab
    • Click to enable Show all files
    • Click the Apply button, and then click OK.

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Show Hidden Files and Folders in MS-DOS or Command Prompt

Windows XP's and 2000's Command Console and Recovery console supply limited functionality so most experienced users use a Win9x boot disk when they wish modify a Hidden file from DOS or DOS emulation. The commands used are similar in all cases.

Show Hidden Files at a Prompt

  • DIR /AH C:
      - display hidden files that are on the root of the C: drive
  • DIR /AS C:
      Display system files that are on the root of the C: drive
  • DIR /AR D:
      Display read-only files that are on the root of the D: drive
  • DIR /AHS D:
      Display hidden + system files that are on the root of the D: drive
  • DIR /AHSR C:
      Display hidden + system + read-only files that are on the root of the C: drive
  • DIR /AH /S /P C:
      Display hidden files that are on the C: drive and in its subdirectories:
      (use the /S switch to include all subdirectories)
      (use the /P switch to force a pause after each full screen of information)

To open a Command Prompt from a Win9x boot disk

  1. Boot up with the Win9x boot disk (Startup Disk) inserted!
  2. At the A:\> prompt, type in DIR /? and press Enter

To open a Command Prompt (DOS-emulation) in Windows XP, 2000, or NT

  1. Click Start and then Run
  2. Type in CMD and press Enter

To open a Command Prompt (DOS-emulation) in Windows 9x

  1. Click Start and then Run
  2. Type in COMMAND and press Enter

To open the Recovery Console in Windows XP or 2000

  1. Boot up from the installation CD
  2. Press R to select the Console (and then C for Windows 2000)
  3. Select the installed Windows, and press Enter for the password (unless it's been set)
  4. Type help for a list of commands available
  5. Type command name /? for help on that command, like attrib /?

Use may need to use the Attrib command to change the file attributes of a file before you can alter it. Use
attrib -r -s -h c:\boot.ini
to remove the Read-only, System, and Hidden file attributes from Boot.ini on the C: drive.

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Please remember that you alone are responsible for the consequences of any changes you make to your computer hardware or software.

Copyright © LarryM 1998-2013 thpc@mail.com