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How to Manage Super-Hidden Windows System Files

You are probably familiar with the fact that some files in Windows are given the attribute of “hidden” and do not normally show up in Windows Explorer. You may also know how to make these files visible. (The method for XP is at this link and for Vista/7 is here.) However, there are some system files that are really hidden; they are “super-hidden” and require an additional tweak to make them appear in the Explorer file manager.

Generally, it is a good idea to leave these system files invisible but sometimes an experienced PC user may wish to see these files. One example is when disk space is tight and you wish to see how much space is being used by certain system files like hiberfil.sys. Another example would be if you wish to look at the contents of one of the many desktop.ini files.

List the super-hidden files

It is easy to see a list of super-hidden files with a simple command line operation using the switch ”/as”. For example, to list the super-hidden files on the C: drive, open the command prompt and enter
    dir C:\ /as

Here is another example. To see what is in the Windows folder, enter
    dir %windir% /as

Note that the command as given does not list subdirectories. That would be a very long list but if you really wanted to, you could add the switch “/s”.

Make super-hidden files accessible in Windows Explorer

If you are an experienced PC user and want to make super-hidden files accessible in Explorer, you can find the instructions for Windows XP here. For Windows Vista/7, this is the procedure:

  1. Open "Computer" or any folder
  2. Open the "Organize" drop-down menu
  3. Click "Folder and search options"
  4. Click the "View" tab
  5. Scroll down the “Advanced Settings” list and remove the check by “Hide protected operating system files”
  6. Say “Yes” to the warning message
  7. Click “OK”

It is probably best to make this setting change temporary and to restore the check as soon as you have finished with your file tasks.

The next tip will discuss one of these super-hidden files, hiberfil.sys.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's and tutorials, including  a computer education website and a site for learning about the command line.

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by Anonymous1 (not verified) on 18. March 2012 - 8:41  (90785)

Here's a warning in the vein of getting access to difficult-to-access files/folders.

In Windows 7 and Vista, one can (appropriately) "Take Ownership" of a file or folder by several methods.
My point is not to explain those methods, but to warn you to not ever take ownership of the C drive (Windows root) or of Documents and Settings. There may be others, but those are the ones that seem to come up the most.
Taking ownership of either of those two can result in strange behavior at best and a need to reinstall Windows at worst.
For more on this do a search on SevenForums.

by Dean Hannotte (not verified) on 2. March 2012 - 23:47  (89832)

It would be clearer if you replaced your colloquial term "super-hidden" with Microsoft's terminology that millions of people already understand. Hidden files are indicated in the directory record (if not in the listing) by one flag, and System files by another. (There are other binary flags too, such as R for readonly.) All these flags have been in use for more than 10 years and can be toggled independently using the attrib command.

The only complication is that System files are not shown in directory listings, just like Hidden files. So, yes, they will be hidden in the directory listing, but certainly not "super-hidden".

by Bruce_Fraser on 26. February 2012 - 18:52  (89540)

When I think of "super hidden," the one that comes immediately to mind is the folder "System Volume Information." Browsing to that in Windows 7 Explorer always brings up the error message:
C:\System Volume Information is not accessible.
Access is denied.

Now having a peek inside THAT would be interesting.
Just for curiosity's sake, mind you. I realize there are things in there, especially on the Windows partition, which are essential for Windows to work.
Anyway, if someone wants to give it a shot, here is a solution on the Microsoft Answers site:

by Burton Charles on 26. February 2012 - 16:29  (89526)

Two additional steps(#7&8) were required on my Windows 7 computer to view files that were contained within 'Super-hidden Folders'. (See below)

1. Open "Computer" or any folder
2. Open the "Organize" drop-down menu
3. Click "Folder and search options"
4. Click the "View" tab
5. Scroll down the “Advanced Settings” list and
remove the check by “Hide protected operating system files”
6. Say “Yes” to the warning message

7. Scroll up and select 'Show hidden files, folders and drives'
8. Click 'Apply'

9. Click “OK”

by Roberteh (not verified) on 24. February 2012 - 14:21  (89365)

The command dir C:\ /as and dir %windir% /as renders "dir" cannot be found in XP Pro. Removing the dir simply opens the C drive in a normal windows view.

by amarillier on 24. February 2012 - 22:15  (89409)

Start a shell (command prompt) then try it. dir is not a separate command, it is part of the shell.

Press Win-key R and type CMD , or click Start, Run, and type CMD

by Roberteh (not verified) on 26. February 2012 - 15:48  (89525)

thank you amarillier