Find hidden files and folders in Windows

When you open a folder in Windows Explorer, you expect to see all of its contents – all files, all subfolders. However, that is not necessarily true. If the folder you are searching in contains hidden files or folders, Windows will not show them unless you have enabled hidden file view in Explorer.

If you want to know how to find hidden folders on Windows 10 and all hidden files in it, you need to use some of the methods below. This includes using secret search tools in File Explorer and Windows PowerShell to locate them, as well as using third-party alternatives like FreeCommander.

Find hidden files and folders on Windows 10 with File Explorer

If you’re trying to locate a missing file or folder, the best way to do it is to use File Explorer’s search function. Advanced search parameters allow you to locate folders or files hidden by viewing (automatically or manually) using an open Explorer window.

  1. To do this, open a new File Explorer window from your taskbar (if the File Explorer icon is pinned) or from the Start menu. You can also right click on the Start menu and Explorer to open a new window instead.
  1. in the new Explorer window, open the folder (or drive) you want to search. Use the search bar in the top right corner and type Attributes:H and select the Enter key to start searching. Searches for all files and folders in that folder that have the hidden file attribute applied in the Properties menu.
  1. If you want to further customize the search, you can add a file or folder name (or partial name) to the search. To do this, type the file or folder name before or after the Attributes:H parameter in the search bar (eg. file attributes:H† To search for partial match, you can use a wildcard (eg. fil* attributes:H) to do that.
  1. Once you have located a file or folder, you can trace it back to its saved location by right clicking on the file or folder and selecting Open file location from the pop-up menu.

Search for hidden files and folders with Windows Powershell

While the above file explorer method offers the easiest way to find hidden files and folders on Windows 10, it’s not necessarily the fastest. If you want to quickly search your PC for files you missed, a good alternative is to use the Windows PowerShell.

You can also use the newer Windows Terminal, but PowerShell remains the default option for Windows 10 users. The commands below are PowerShell specific and will not work with the older command line.

To begin with, open a new PowerShell window by right-clicking the Start menu and Windows PowerShell (Administrator)

In the new PowerShell window, navigate to the folder or drive you want to search. For example typing CDC:\ will move you to the root (first) folder on the main system drive so you can search the entire drive.

Typing cd C:\Program Files means that the search you are performing will only work through all the files and subfolders in the Program files folder. Once you’ve moved folders, type ls -Force to view a list of files and folders contained therein (including hidden files or folders).

After going to the folder to start searching, type the following command in the PowerShell window and press the Enter key to run it: Get-ChildItem -Filter *.* -Recurse -Force -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue | where { $_.Attributes match “Hidden”}

This will search for all hidden files and subfolders in your current folder position and display them in the PowerShell window.

If you prefer to display a folder folder to start your search, add -Path location at your command Get-ChildItemsubstitute Place with a suitable file path.

For example, Get-ChildItem -Path C:\Folder -Filter *.* -Recurse -Force -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue | where { $_.Attributes match “Hidden”} searches for all hidden files and subfolders in the C:\Folder folder. If the file path contains spaces or other special characters, enclose them in quotation marks (eg. Get-ChildItem -Path “C:\New Folder” etc).

If PowerShell finds a large number of hidden files and folders, the output of the PowerShell terminal will quickly scroll through the entries, making it difficult to analyze. To make this easier, you can export the Get-ChildItem command to a text file for you to browse and view at your leisure.

To do this, add > log.txt at the end of your order (eg. Get-ChildItem -Path “C:\New Folder” -Filter *.* -Recurse -Force -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue | where { $_.Attribute match “Hidden”} > log.txt† This will create a file called log.txt in your currently active directory with the terminal output of the Get-ChildItem order.

You can set an alternative file path (e.g. > C:\Folder\log.txt) or file name (e.g hiddenlog.txt) as requested.

Once you have created a log file, you can view its contents directly in the PowerShell window by typing catlog.txt (replacing log.txt with the correct file path and file name). You can also open the file normally with File Explorer and Notepad.

Locate hidden files and folders with third-party apps

The best methods to find hidden files and folders on Windows are by using File Explorer or Windows PowerShell as explained above. Alternatively, if these methods are too slow or don’t provide the complex search criteria you need, you can use third-party apps to search your PC for hidden files.

While there are several tools that support it, a good option is to use the freeware Free Commander tool. This File Explorer replacement includes a powerful search feature that helps you find hidden files and folders on your PC.

To start, download and install FreeCommander on your PC and launch it once the installation is complete. To start a search in the FreeCommander window, select Ctrl + F on your keyboard or select File To search to open a new search window.

In the Search files/folders window, enter the search criteria for file or folder names in the file name box, located in the Place tab. You can use full file names or match partial wildcards (eg. File or file*

In the Search in below it, select the folder to start searching. You can type this manually (eg. C:\ to search the entire system drive) or select the add button To leaf through to identify them individually.

Select the Timestamp/Size/Attr tab next and make sure to select the Hidden attribute checkbox so that a check mark is visible. Leave all other checkboxes with a solid black check (make sure they’re included) or select them twice to uncheck them and remove all files with these attributes from your search.

Select any other search criteria you need from all the available search tabs. When you are ready to start searching, select Find to start.

Search results appear in the Search result tab at the bottom of the search window. To open any of the hidden files or folders FreeCommander found, right-click on the entries and select Open

Manage your files on Windows 10

Knowing how to find hidden files on Windows 10 is easy – once you know where to look. Whether you use File Explorer, Windows PowerShell, or third-party apps like FileCommander to get the job done, the steps above should help you find your previously hidden files and folders.

The next step is to properly manage your files. There are plenty of advanced search tips to help you find missing files, but you may also want to consider backing up your important files to make them easier to access in the long run. You can also search for large files in Windows to free up disk space for other files and applications.

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