How to find hidden files on your phone or computer

Your phones and computers store more than you might expect. The files that you can view by default in Windows, macOS, Android and iOS are by no means all that is stored on these systems.

These hidden files are typically used by the operating system and the programs you run to store data that you don’t normally need to access – indeed, data that can interfere with your device’s smooth operation if it’s edited incorrectly or deleted.

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

This guide provides a warning – you are editing or deleting hidden files from your devices at your own risk, and you really don’t need to do anything with these files.

However, viewing them can be useful in terms of troubleshooting problems that may occur with your phone or laptop, or in order to pinpoint exactly where your digital storage has ended up. Here’s how to make these files visible.


Some Windows files are more hidden than others.

Screenshot: David Nild via Microsoft

You can view hidden files in Windows by opening the File Explorer window by going to Viewing tab on the tape and checking Hidden items box. Windows will remember your selection until you uncheck it, even if you close File Explorer or restart your computer.

Hidden files and folders appear in File Explorer with slightly faded thumbnails, so they are easy to see at a glance, and they will also appear in the search as soon as you make them visible. To hide a file or show it, right-click on it and select Properties and Common: You will see Hidden check box at the bottom.

Windows has another category of hidden files: even with Hidden items checked, Windows still ignores key operating system files, so they cannot be tampered with. To see these files, from the file Viewing click the tab in File Explorer Options, open Viewing and uncheck Hide protected operating system files (recommended) box in Advanced settings.


You can get to the hidden folder of the macOS library with Finder.

Screenshot: David Nild via Apple

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

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