Finding hidden files and folders

Many important files are hidden in Windows XP and Vista. The reason for this is to protect critical system files from being accidentally deleted.

Unfortunately many data files such as address books are also tucked away in hidden folders, which means it can be difficult to find them.

To view these hidden files and folders, there’s a few settings to change in Windows. We recommend only doing this when you need to, such as when you are looking for Outlook Express data files or Windows Address Books. When you are finished, you should turn the settings back on.

Windows XP

Open My Computer, select the Tools menu and click Folder Options.

In the Folder Options windows select the View tab. Click the Show hidden files and folders button and below that take the tick off the Hide protected operating system files box.

A box may appear explaining what you are doing and asking if you are happy with this, click Yes.

Click the Apply button and then the OK button and shutdown My Computer.

Now your computer is configured to show all hidden files.

Windows Vista

Click on the Start button and select the Control Panel, click on the Appearance and Personalization link and click on Show Hidden Files or Folders.

In the Hidden files and folders section select the button labeled Show hidden files and folders and remove the tick  from Hide extensions for known file types below this, remove the tick from Hide protected operating system files.

Click the Apply button and then the OK button and Windows Vista is configured to show all hidden files.

Remember that it’s best practice not to be able to see these files as this reduces the risk of accidentally damaging or deleting important system components, so once you’ve found the hidden or system files turn the hide setting back on again.

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