Hiding files or folders in Windows is a common way to protect sensitive data or protect it from being accessed by unauthorized users. There are several methods for hiding files and folders on Windows, with varying degrees of complexity and security.
1. NTFS File System Permissions
The NTFS (New Technology File System) is the default file system used by Windows-based systems including Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, and others. NTFS file system permissions allow administrators to set access control lists (ACLs) that determine who can read, write, modify, and delete files or folders on a computer. By using NTFS file system permissions, administrators can not only restrict access to sensitive data, but also can make certain files or folders invisible to users who do not have explicit permission to access them.
To use NTFS file system permissions to hide files or folders, use the Windows Explorer. Right-click on the file or folder you wish to hide and select “Properties”. Then click on the “Security” tab. Under “Group or User Names”, select the group or user(s) that you wish to deny access to the file or folder. After you have done this, click on the “Deny” checkbox next to each of the permissions (Read, Write, Modify, and Delete) to ensure that any user without explicit access to the file or folder is unable to access it.
You also may want to uncheck the “Inherit from parent the permissions that apply to child objects” box if any subfolders contain additional, sensitive files. This will ensure that all subfolders and files remain hidden. Finally, click “Apply” and “OK”. Once you have done this, the files or folders will be hidden from anyone without explicit permissions to access them. To make the files or folders visible again, simply repeat the process, but change the “Deny” permission to “Allow”.
2. Hidden Attribute
Windows systems allow files and folders to be marked as “hidden”, meaning they will not show up in normal folder listings. To hide a file or folder using the hidden attribute, open Windows Explorer, right-click on the file or folder, and select “Properties”. Then, select the “General” tab and check the box next to “Hidden”. Make sure to click “Apply”, and then click “OK”. The file or folder should now be hidden from view in normal folder listings.
To make the file or folder visible again, open Windows Explorer, right-click the file or folder, and select “Properties”. Then, select the “General” tab and uncheck the box next to “Hidden”. Make sure to click “Apply”, and then click “OK”. The file or folder should now be visible again in normal folder listings. Keep in mind, however, that any user with administrator privileges can easily locate and view hidden files or folders.
3. Compressing Files
Compressing files into an archive format such as ZIP is another method of hiding files or folders. When a file is compressed into a ZIP archive, it is no longer visible to the naked eye, making it difficult for those without the appropriate knowledge to view its contents. To compress a file or folder into a ZIP archive, open Windows Explorer, right-click on the file or folder you wish to compress, and select “Send to > Compressed (zipped) Folder”.
This will create a new ZIP file in the same location as the file or folder you wished to compress. This ZIP file can then be password-protected to provide an additional layer of security. To password-protect a ZIP file, open the ZIP file, and select “File > Add a Password”. When prompted, enter the password you wish to use, and click “OK”. Now, anyone attempting to open the ZIP file will need to know the password before they can view the contents.
4. Third-Party Encryption Software
Third-party encryption software is a popular method of protecting files and folders because it provides a higher level of security than other methods described above. Unlike NTFS file system permissions and the hidden file attribute, encryption typically involves encrypting the contents of a file or folder so that it cannot be read without a specialized program or password. Popular encryption software includes BitLocker (included with Windows 7 and later versions) and AxCrypt (available free of charge).
Using encryption software can be an effective way to protect sensitive data, but keep in mind that encryption can be bypassed given enough time and effort. To maximize security, use strong passwords and combine encryption with one of the other methods described above.
Hiding files or folders on Windows provides an additional layer of security and privacy, ensuring that sensitive data remains protected from unwanted users. It is important to note that no single method of hiding files and folders is 100% secure, and combining multiple methods is often the best way to ensure maximum protection.