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Make Windows show file extensions and hidden files


Most files on Windows PCs have a File Name followed by a period followed by a "file extension" of three or more characters.

For example:

The extension is how Windows knows what type of file it is and what program to launch when you double-click the file's icon.

Most of the time, you don't really need to see the extension, and in fact Windows hides the extension from you, unless you force it to change its ways. Which is a pretty good idea, as it turns out.

Sooner or later, you'll need to view or change a file extension or search for files of a certain extension, but as long as Windows is hiding your files from you, you can't do that.

Worse: If you need to find files of a certain extension, Windows Explorer's File Search feature won't find them if Windows is hiding extensions. That is, if you search for *.TXT, it won't find your .TXT files.

And Even Worse: Some programs, notably Office ones, won't even show extensions in file save/open dialog boxes. This can really turn round and bite you. Suppose you've learned that saving a file as a .PPS is the same as saving it as a PowerPoint Show. So you choose File, Save As, and add a .PPSX extension to the file name in the Save dialog.

You think you've just saved MyShow.PPSX

Wrong. Check for toothmarks on your sensitive bits, you've just been bitten! In fact, PowerPoint has tacked on its usual .PPTX extension AFTER your .PPSX, but since Windows is hiding file extensions from you, you don't see it. You've actually just saved MyShow.PPS.PPT ... which of course behaves like a regular PowerPoint file, not a Show.

And still worse, Windows also hides some files and folders from you altogether.

To avoid confusion, teach Windows to show you your stuff. Here's how:


In Windows 10

In Windows 7 and previous:

Now in either Windows version:

  • Click the View tab of the Folder Options dialog box.
  • Scroll down a bit and remove the check mark next to Hide extensions for known file types as shown below.
  • Optionally, under Hidden files and folders click Show hidden files and folders
  • While you're here, make sure the other options are set the way you want them for all folders on you computer
  • Click OK
  • screen shot showing how to show file extensions using Control Panel, View tab

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    Make Windows show file extensions and hidden files
    Last update 07 April, 2021