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How to Make Windows Show Hidden Files and Folders


If you want to know where your email program keeps your mail on disk — to create a backup copy of these vital files, for example, or to recover mail from an old and broken computer's hard drive —, you are usually led to folders buried deep inside other folders inside your Windows profile. Often, you are led, by otherwise credible instructions, to folders that do not seem to exist.

Typically, these inexistent folders are merely hidden. In order to prevent accidental deletion, Windows and some programs hide files and folders from normal view. Fortunately, it's easy to show — and open — them.

Make Windows Show Hidden Files and Folders

To see and access hidden files and folders in Windows Explorer:

  • Open a Windows Explorer window.
    • Select My Computer from the Start menu, for example.
  • Select Tools | Folder Options... from the menu.
    • On Windows Vista and Windows 7, you may have to hold down the Alt key to see the menu.
  • Go to the View tab.
  • Make sure Show hidden files, folders, and drives or Show hidden files and folders is selected under Hidden files and folders.
    • Optionally, remove the checkmark from Hide protected operating system files (Recommended). To access the hidden locations of email applications, this is usually not necessary. Protected system files are better left unseen.
  • Click OK.
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