Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Find hidden files

Today’s article was triggered by a reader’s question. The reader had hidden a file, and now could not find it again.

Q: How can I find folders on my computer if they’ve been “hidden”?
I think we have all placed something carefully out of sight from others.. and then forgotten where we’ve hidden it ourselves. If you have hidden a file (or folder) on your PC, and now cannot remember where it is, there are a couple of ways to go about finding it again.

Method 1) If you know what folder you’ve hidden the file in, but not the name of the file, navigate to the folder (in my example, I’ll use the My Documents folder) and do the reverse of the steps I outlined in my article “Create a hidden folder for your private stuff“. Namely, Click on the “Tools” menu and select “Folder Options”.
Now click on the “View” tab. Look down the list to the “Hidden folders” options, and change the radio button from “Do not show..” to “Show hidden files and folders”. While you’re here, uncheck the option “Hide extensions of known file types” if you haven’t done so already. (This is not only good policy, but will help us if we need to use the Search feature.)
(If you are not sure exactly which folder you hid the file in, click on the “Apply to all folders” button, which will unhide all your hidden files.)
Now any files (or folders) you have hidden in the folder (My Documents, in this example) will appear as a slightly ‘faded’ entry. For purposes of demonstration, there was a hidden text file in My Documents titled “hidden file.doc” which is now visible.
If you have done this, and the file you’re seeking does not appear, do the steps shown above and click on “Apply to all folders”, and then open the other folders you think it is possible that you may have used to hide the file inside. Do a little bit of ‘hunting’ through the most likely places.
[Note: This method is not a good way to look for spyware that may have hidden itself on your computer. If you suspect that there may be spyware on your computer, run two different anti-spyware programs in “Full” (or “Deep”) scan mode. I have a list of good (free) anti-spyware programs here.]

Method 2) If you do remember the name of your file (or folder).. or parts of its name, but not its location, the easiest way to find it again is to use an “advanced” option in the Search tool. Open Search (Start >Search) and select “Files and folders”.
srch.jpgNow click on the down-arrow next to “More Advanced Options”, and then place a check in the “Search hidden files or folders” and the “Search subfolders” options.

There are two Search boxes; the top one looks at file names, and examines your directory, and this is the better one to use. (The second one looks inside files for the string of text you’ve entered, and seems to me to only work about half the time.)
Enter as much of the file’s name as you can remember, and to reduce the number of irrelevant results, specify the file’s type– in my example, it’s a text document, so I will add “.doc”. Use the “*” wildcard symbol in front of and behind the letters you don’t remember. Let us say that I remember that I used the word ‘hidden’ in my file’s name, but I can’t remember if I used “Paul’s”.. or if I named it “file” or if I used “document” instead — I think I may have named it “pauls_hidden_doc.doc”, but the only word I’m pretty sure of is ‘hidden’– so the proper entry in the top Search box would look like this “*hidden*.doc” (w/out the quotes). This tells Search to accept any characters before the word ‘hidden’ as well as any after it, and to only look for text files.
This result appeared in less than a second, and happens to be just what I was looking for and, if there had been a document I had labeled “Paul’s hidden letter” (and forgotten it as well) it would show in the results also.

Also, those of you familiar with DOS can use the DIR command with the following switches, /w /a, appended to see all hidden files and folders listed (c:\>dir /w /a).

Today’s free link: It used to be that if you wanted to connect a new TV or stereo that all you had to do was plug it in– and maybe connect one cable or a couple of wires. Nowadays, the assortment of different cables and wires you have to untangle and sort out and properly configure is pretty complex and confusing. There is a Consumer Electronics website that is essentially a wizard which will walk you through setting up your new device’s cables and getting it to work with your existing devices. It also helps ensure that you purchase the right cable for the job. Visit the Consumer Electronics Association’s connections guide for some excellent help and instructions.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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December 4, 2007 - Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, computers, file system, how to, missing files, PC, tech, Vista, wildcards, Windows, XP | , , ,


  1. Excellent


    Comment by Ambika | February 15, 2008 | Reply

  2. but problem with me that there is no search in my pc and also in tools options there is no folder option…plz give me way..


    Comment by omer | April 17, 2008 | Reply

    • your system contains some viruses.becauce of that folder option is not visible


      Comment by vioneeth | April 30, 2009 | Reply

      • vioneeth,
        I’m not sure what you’re trying to say…

        Some malware will disable the user’s ability to access Folders Options in Control Panel, yes… so that provides a clue that the machine is infected and that removal techniques should be applied.


        Comment by techpaul | May 1, 2009 | Reply

  3. Omer–
    Search, and Folder Options, have been a part of Windows OSes since Windows 95… What operating system are you using?


    Comment by techpaul | April 17, 2008 | Reply

  4. In my PC, “the radio button labeled Show hidden files and folders” in folder option was missing.
    appreciate if help me to restore this button.




    Comment by Aung | April 25, 2008 | Reply

  5. Aung–
    As I mentioned to Omer.. what OS are you using (and are you at work, or is this your computer?)


    Comment by techpaul | April 25, 2008 | Reply

  6. hey i am facing same problem like aung button labeled Show hidden files and folders” in folder option was missing.
    i am using windows vista…and before 2 week it was there but suddenly disappeared ….i dont know what went wrong…


    Comment by Prashant | May 9, 2008 | Reply

  7. Folks–
    If we are talking about your own computer (not a “company” computer), and you look at the View tab of the Folder Options, and you do not see “Hidden fles and folders” and two radio buttons… the odds are very good that one of two things have happened–
    1) you have spyware that has disabled this feature in an attempt to protect itself.
    2) a program you have recently installed (probably malware) has changed a setting in your Local Policy (found in the mmc)

    You can try clicking the “Reset folders” button, which restores the defaults. You can try using System Restore to revert your computer to an earlier date (before the buttons disappeared).. but I would recommend a visit to Housecall, on the Trend Micro website as the first step in finding and removing an infection.


    Comment by techpaul | May 10, 2008 | Reply

    u can bring back the folder option by running
    ” gpedit.msc ” from start menu. under user configuration, select Administrative templets after that windows components & than windows explorer & than right click on “remove file menu from windows explorer” and select properties. after that select “DISABLED” & ok.
    In this way u can bring back the folder option menu.


    Comment by Shoaib | May 26, 2008 | Reply

  9. THank you so very much! this has really helped, I thought I had lost everything! thank you


    Comment by Johnson | May 31, 2008 | Reply

  10. hi frns.. i am using windows XP..i h’v the option show hidden files and folders in the tools/folder options/view. but as i activate it and click ok it is again returning to its old state od don’t show hidden files…. can anybody help what is wrong in this case????


    Comment by aditya | July 30, 2008 | Reply

  11. Aditya–
    There are a few reasons this could be happening, but the most likely is that you have a malware infection.


    Comment by techpaul | July 30, 2008 | Reply

  12. nice work man !!!!!! i couldn’t think of soooooooo may inovative ways to hunt for a file……..thanks a lot !!!!!

    many of the people who can’t locate their files even after following paul’s direction, plzzzzzzzzz get ur comp a updated antivirus…………

    thanks Paul,



    Comment by Devil | August 3, 2008 | Reply

  13. thnx…. i h’v ad-aware as well as nod 32 that gets updated daily nw. when that doesn’t work…..more options frns???


    Comment by aditya | August 7, 2008 | Reply

  14. aditya….try changin to avg, i had nod32 and wen i got avg i pickd up much more and its free!!!


    Comment by john | September 21, 2008 | Reply

  15. Is there a way to search ONLY for hidden files? So the search engine will omit unhidden files.


    Comment by Chris | February 2, 2009 | Reply

    • Chris,
      To the best of my current knowledge, there is no way to tell Windows to do that, no. Not even in the command line.

      I am not sure if you could use the “-” (minus) Boolean modifier in Google Desktop Search, or the other 3rd party file indexing programs.. simply because I’m not that familiar with them. Google’s app is supposed to work just like their online search does, so Booleans should work (not, minus, plus, and, or, etc.).
      The trouble is “hidden” is a file attribute, not a keyword.. so, you’re probably out of luck..

      Anyone out there have an answer for Chris?


      Comment by techpaul | February 2, 2009 | Reply

  16. thx dude.. realy


    Comment by Anonymous | November 3, 2009 | Reply

    • Sir or Ms,
      You’re welcome. I hope you will visit again.


      Comment by techpaul | November 3, 2009 | Reply

  17. the infromation you provided was very useful. I still have a problem and am sure you have a solution to this too.
    The pictures in my digital camera can be viewed in the camera but when i tried to copy the pictures from the camera to the lap top, the folder(device) seems to be empty…please help


    Comment by Dhenden | January 26, 2011 | Reply

    • Dhenden,
      You really haven’t provided much information here… and there are several “possibles”.. but, I suspect you are looking in the wrong folder.

      I will be happy to help you, though. Please visit my business website, Aplus Computer Aid, and give me a call.


      Comment by techpaul | January 26, 2011 | Reply

  18. Thank you, I found my lost files and photos and music YAY!


    Comment by Rhonda | May 6, 2011 | Reply

    • Rhonda,
      Thank you for taking the time to let me know you found my writing helpful.


      Comment by techpaul | May 9, 2011 | Reply

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