How to View Hidden Files and Folders in Windows 11

Hidden files and folders do not appear in File Explorer by default. Here is how to unhide and view hidden files in Windows 11.

Windows automatically hides several files and folders related to the operating system. Users can hide files and folders by selecting the “Hidden” property in the file/folder properties dialog when needed.

Hidden files and folders don’t appear in File Explorer, on the desktop, and in the Start menu search results. As you can guess, hiding files and folders from plain sight is one of the most popular yet not secure ways for many Windows users to protect data.

To see hidden files, you must first unhide them. The good thing is that Windows makes it easy to show hidden files and folders. All you have to do is select an option, and you are good to go.

Let me show you how to see or view hidden files and folders in Windows 11 operating system without delay.

Table of contents:

Show hidden files, folders, & drives in Windows 11

To show hidden files and folders, you must enable the “Hidden Items” option in File Explorer. Let me show you how to do it.

  1. Open the File Explorer.
  2. Click the “View” option.
  3. Go to the “Show” menu.
  4. Select the “Hidden items” option.
  5. With that, hidden files and folders are unhidden and viewable.

Steps with more details:

First, launch File Explorer with “Windows key + I” key binding. You can also click the File Explorer icon on the taskbar.

open file explorer

After opening File Explorer, click the “View” option. Next, go to “Show” and select the “Hidden items” option.

click view
show hidden files and folders

You can see or view the hidden files and folders as soon as you do that.

hidden folder

Select the “View > Show > Hidden items” option in File Explorer to hide them again.

Show protected operating system files

When it comes to some important system files, Windows hides them with an extra layer of security. To unhide these protected system files, you must disable the “Hide protected operating system files” option. Here’s how.

  1. Open the File Explorer.
  2. Click on the “See more” icon.
  3. Select “Options.”
  4. Go to the “View” tab.
  5. Uncheck the “Hide protected operating system files” option.
  6. Click “Yes” in the “Warning” window.
  7. Press “Ok” in the main window.
  8. With that, you see the hidden protected system files.

Steps with more details:

Use the “Win + I” keyboard shortcut to launch File Explorer. You can also click the File Explorer icon on the taskbar or search for it in the Start menu.

Click the “See more” (three vertical dots) option, then “Options.” This action opens the Folder Options window.

click see more icon
click options

Now, go to the “View” tab. Find and uncheck the “Hide protected operating system files” checkbox.

uncheck hide protected operating system files checkbox

Windows will show a warning message. Click the “Yes” button to continue.

click yes

Finally, press the “Ok” button in the main window.

click ok to save changes

With that, protected operating system files are viewable. To hide them again, select the “Hide protected operating system files” checkbox.

Show hidden files shortcut

You can use AutoHotKey to show hidden files with a keyboard shortcut. Here’s how to do it in simple steps.

Install AutoHotKey if you haven’t already — https://www.autohotkey.com/download/

First, go to the desktop, right-click on it and choose the “New > Text Document” option. This action creates a new text file.

create new text document

Open the text file. Paste the code below into it, then hit the “Ctrl + S” keyboard shortcut or choose “File > Save.”

; Use Ctrl + H shortcut to toggle hidden files
^H::
RegRead, HiddenFiles_Status, HKEY_CURRENT_USER, Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced, Hidden 
 ​
If HiddenFiles_Status = 2
RegWrite, REG_DWORD, HKEY_CURRENT_USER, Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced, Hidden, 1
 ​
Else
RegWrite, REG_DWORD, HKEY_CURRENT_USER, Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced, Hidden, 2
 ​
send {F5}
save AutoHotKey script

Change the text file name to “HideUnhideFiles.ahk.” You can name the file whatever you wish, as long as the .txt extension is replaced with .ahk.

launch AutoHotKey script

Double-click the newly created AHK file. This action launches the AutoHotKey script and runs the background silently. You can see it in the taskbar.

As long as the script runs, you can press the “Ctrl + H” shortcut to show hidden files. Pressing the shortcut again hides them. Simply put, the shortcut toggles hidden files.

shortcut to show hidden files and folders

That is all. It is that simple to show or view hidden files and folders in Windows 11.

I hope this simple and easy Windows how-to guide helped you.

If you are stuck or need some help, send an email, and I will try to help as much as possible.

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