Your phones and computers contain more of it than you might think. The files that you can view by default on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS are by no means all that is stored on those systems.

These hidden files are typically used by the operating system and the applications you run to store data that you normally don’t need to access – indeed, data that can interfere with the proper functioning of your device. ‘it is edited in the wrong way or deleted.

User settings and application configurations are often saved as hidden files, for example. Programs need these files to run, but users don’t really need to access them. Hidden file caches are also common, temporary stores of data to speed up software operations.

This guide comes with a disclaimer: you edit or delete hidden files from your devices at your own risk, and you really shouldn’t have anything to do with those files anyway.

Viewing them, however, can be useful in troubleshooting any issues you might be having with your phone or laptop, or in trying to figure out exactly where all of your digital storage is. Here’s how to make these files visible.

the Windows

Some Windows files are more hidden than others.

Screenshot: David Nield via Microsoft

You can view hidden files in Windows by opening a File Explorer window, switching to Seen on the ribbon bar and checking the Hidden items box. Windows will remember your choice until you uncheck the box again, even if you close File Explorer or restart your computer.

Hidden files and folders appear with slightly faded thumbnails in File Explorer, so they’re easy to see at a glance, and they’ll also show up in searches once you’ve made them visible. To hide a file or to show a file, right click on it and choose Properties and General: you will see the Hidden checkbox at the bottom.

There is another category of hidden files in Windows: even with the Hidden items checkbox checked, Windows always keeps key operating system files out of view so that they cannot be tampered with. To view these files, from Seen tab in file explorer click Options, open it Seen tab and uncheck the box Hide protected operating system files (recommended) Box in Advanced settings.


You can access the hidden macOS library folder from Finder.

Screenshot: David Nield via Apple

The easiest way to see hidden files on a computer running macOS is to use the Finder app. Open it, then use the keyboard shortcut Cmd + Shift +. (this is the period key) to show files and folders (or to hide them again). The setting remains in place until you change it (between restarts, etc.).



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