How to Show Hidden Files in Windows 11

edited July 4 in PC Tech

Viewing hidden files in Windows 11 can be essential for accessing important configuration data, logs, and other critical information. This article will explain the purpose of hidden files, how to reveal them, and how to troubleshoot common issues. Whether you need to declutter your workspace or secure sensitive information, learning to manage hidden files is a valuable skill. 

What are hidden files and why you should use them

Hidden files in Windows 11 are files that are not immediately visible to users when they browse through their file system. These files are typically system-related or configuration files that the operating system or certain applications use to function properly. They are hidden by default to prevent accidental modification or deletion, which could disrupt system operations or software functionality. 

In addition to maintaining system integrity, hidden files can serve several other purposes. For instance, developers and IT professionals use them to store logs, temporary files, and backups essential for diagnostics and troubleshooting, without cluttering the user's view. Hidden files can also include user-specific configurations and preferences, ensuring a personalized experience across different sessions and devices without exposing these settings to tampering. Moreover, certain security and privacy applications use hidden files to store sensitive data, protecting it from unauthorized access or accidental exposure. 

Utilizing the hidden files function in Windows 11 offers several practical benefits. It helps keep the workspace uncluttered by keeping essential but seldom-used files out of sight, enhancing the user experience by focusing only on frequently accessed documents and folders. This is particularly beneficial for system administrators and developers who manage numerous configuration files and logs that do not need to be visible at all times. Additionally, hiding files adds an extra layer of security and privacy by concealing sensitive information from unauthorized users who might access the computer. This feature is especially useful in shared or public environments where users want to protect personal data or critical system files from accidental modification or deletion. Ultimately, the hidden files function provides a balance between accessibility and security, allowing users to manage their files efficiently while safeguarding important data. 

How to see hidden files in Windows 11

To view hidden files in Windows 11, you can use various methods depending on your preference and familiarity with different interfaces. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to access hidden files using the Windows 11 interface, File Explorer, Control Panel, and Terminal. 

1. Windows 11 interface to access file visibility settings

  1. Open Settings: Click on the Start button and select Settings or press Windows + I to open the Settings menu. 
  2. Navigate to Privacy & Security: In the Settings menu, select "System" from the left sidebar and go into “For developers” 
  3. Select File Explorer: Under For developers, click on "File Explorer". 
  4. Adjust Visibility Settings: In the File Explorer settings, enable the option to show hidden files, folders, and drives. 

2. File Explorer

  1. Open File Explorer: Click on the File Explorer icon in the taskbar or press Windows + E. 
  2. Access View Options: In the File Explorer window, go to the top menu and click on the "View" tab. 
  3. Show Hidden Items: In the View tab, check the box next to "Hidden items". This will immediately display hidden files and folders within the File Explorer. 

3. Control Panel

  1. Open Control Panel: Click on the Start button, type "Control Panel" in the search bar, and press Enter. 
  2. Navigate to File Explorer Options: In the Control Panel, select "Appearance and Personalization" and then click on "File Explorer Options". 
  3. Adjust Settings: In the File Explorer Options window, go to the "View" tab. Find and select "Show hidden files, folders, and drives". Click "Apply" and then "OK" to confirm the changes. 

4. Terminal 

  1. Open Terminal: Press Windows + X and select "Terminal" from the menu. 
  2. Use Command Prompt: In the Terminal, type “cmd” and press Enter to switch to the Command Prompt interface. 
  3. Navigate to Directory: Navigate to the directory where you wish to search for hidden files by typing cd [path to your directory] and pressing Enter. 
  4. Display Hidden Files: Type dir /a:h and press Enter to display a list of all hidden files in the current directory. 
  5. Reveal Hidden Directories: Type dir /a:d and press Enter to reveal hidden directories. 

By following these steps, you can easily access and manage hidden files in Windows 11 using your preferred method. 

Troubleshooting common issues with hidden files in Windows 11 

Viewing hidden files in Windows 11 can sometimes be challenging due to permission restrictions, incorrect settings, or system corruption. This guide provides straightforward solutions to common problems, ensuring your hidden files are correctly displayed. Follow these steps to troubleshoot and resolve these issues effectively. 

Addressing Common Problems 

  • Permissions Issues: If you encounter errors or restrictions, it may be due to insufficient permissions to access and modify system settings. Ensuring you have the necessary permissions, or seeking assistance from an administrator, can resolve these issues and allow you to view hidden files. 
  • File Explorer Settings: Hidden files may remain invisible if the “Hidden items” option in File Explorer is not enabled. Double-checking this setting ensures that the hidden files are correctly displayed. 
  • System Corruption: Persistent issues with hidden files might indicate system corruption. Running system diagnostics or performing a system file check (sfc /scannow) can identify and repair corrupted system files, restoring the ability to view hidden files. 

Ensuring Changes are Applied 

  • Restart File Explorer: Sometimes, changes to settings may not take effect immediately. Restarting File Explorer by terminating and relaunching it in Task Manager ensures the new settings are applied. 
  • Refresh File Explorer: Changes to file visibility settings might not be reflected instantly. Refreshing File Explorer by pressing Ctrl + R or clicking the “Refresh” button forces the system to update the display, showing any newly revealed hidden files. 
  • Verify Changes: Confirming that hidden files are now visible by navigating to a directory where hidden files are expected ensures that the changes have been successfully applied and that you can access the necessary files. 


Mastering the ability to reveal and manage hidden files in Windows 11 is essential for effective file management and system maintenance. By understanding their purpose and knowing how to access them through various methods, you can ensure that important configuration data and logs are available when needed. Troubleshooting common issues like permission restrictions and system corruption helps maintain system integrity. Overall, these skills enable more efficient file management and contribute to a more organized and secure computing environment.

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Patrick Yu is a Senior Project Manager at Level Interactive and has 8 years of experience writing business, legal, lifestyle, gaming, and technology articles. He is a significant contributor to Acer Corner and is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan.


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