How to Unhide and View Hidden System Files in Windows 11 Operating System

Windows 11 has the ability to hide certain system files and folders to prevent accidental deletion or modification. However, there may be times when you need to view or access these hidden system files for troubleshooting purposes. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to unhide and view system files in Windows 11:

Show Hidden Files in File Explorer

The easiest way to view hidden files is through File Explorer:

  1. Open File Explorer (Win + E)
  2. Click on the “View” tab in the top ribbon
  3. Click on “Show” and select “Hidden items”
    • This will show all hidden files and folders
  4. To hide files again, deselect “Hidden items”

This allows you to easily toggle between showing and hiding hidden files. However, it does not show protected system files.

Show Protected System Files

To view protected Windows system files:

  1. Open File Explorer
  2. Click on the three dots in the top right corner to open the menu
  3. Select “Options”
  4. Go to the “View” tab
  5. Scroll down and deselect “Hide protected operating system files”
  6. Click “Yes” on the warning prompt
  7. Click “OK”

Warning: Be very careful when showing protected system files. Do not modify or delete them, as this can severely damage your Windows installation.

Once you show protected system files, they will appear dimmed or faded to indicate they are system files.

Hide Files Using Command Prompt

You can also use the Command Prompt to hide and unhide folders and files.

To hide a folder or file:

attrib +h +s "folder" 

To unhide a folder or file:

attrib -h -s "folder"

Replace “folder” with the actual folder/file name. The +h and -h attributes hide and unhide the folder, while +s and -s hide and unhide the system property.

Viewing Hidden Folders in Registry Editor

Many hidden system folders are also listed in the Windows registry. You can view these in Registry Editor:

  1. Type “regedit” into the Windows search bar and open Registry Editor
  2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FolderDescriptions
  3. Here you will see many hidden system folder names, locations, and other details

Caution: Do not edit the registry unless you know exactly what you are doing. Incorrect changes can severely damage your system.


And that covers the main methods to access hidden system files in Windows 11. Remember to be cautious when handling protected system files. Generally, there is no need to access these files for regular usage. But for IT professionals and advanced troubleshooting, it can be useful to view and understand how these system files work.