The idiots guide to showing hidden and password protected files on Windows

Jul 14 09:10 2007 Sam Miller Print This Article

How do you find hidden files on your PC, hidden on purpose by you or hidden by someone else with an ulterior motive?  How do you crack a password on a file or application?  In this brief article we aim to point you in the right direction with some examples of how to go about doing this.

Getting Windows to show the hidden files on the PC is pretty straight forward; here are the sequences of Windows clicks and options you need to follow to get up the hidden files:

1. In Windows Explorer,Guest Posting (for this select "Start"=>"All Programs"=>"Windows Explorer")2. Select "Tools" and go to "Folder Options"3. Click on the "View" tab4. On the "Hidden files and folders" tab, click on "Show hidden files and folders"

It's as simple as that!

Windows hides some files because it doesn't want the occasional user interacting with them or indeed accidentally deleting them and causing a system crash or an application not to run.  This makes a lot of sense from a personal and business users point of view.

There are also some circumstances when you will purposely hide files because they contain confidential information such as financial details or personal data that you do not want made public. 

The question is though, what happens when you forget where you've put them?

After all, these files are hidden precisely so they cannot be easily found, and what do you do if they are password protected?

First of all let's deal with cracking passwords that protect files and applications.  You may be surprised to learn that there are a large number of software tools that are freely available from the internet that will crack any Windows based password that is applied to an application, folder or file.  These common shareware or freeware utilitiy programs include Protected Storage Viewer (just put those three words in your search engine and you'll find the download) and this utility will open and acquire the characters that a Windows based application or file will usually represent as the asterisks when the password input field is being used (when you type "password" it is shown as "********").  This is a pretty neat tool for when you've mislaid or lost your password and it doesn't need any external installation or complicated setup routine to get it working on password recovery.  Even better is that this utility will work on Windows applications such as Outlook, Internet Explorer and MSN, basically if you are dealing with a Windows environment it will do the business for you.

Another good free utility for recovering passwords is Password Recovery Pro, and this is really simple to use.  All you need to do is hold your cursor over the asterisk password field and the password will be revealed.  It works on most Windows files but is no use for Internet Explorer or other web browsers and a patch for Windows Vista is not yet available but that should be along any time now.

If you are looking for hidden files protected with a password on your machine, you may find that simply enabling the Windows "show hidden files" does not pick up every hidden file.  Just as there are password recovery utilities easily available, there are utilities that will seriously hide a file so that even Windows does not register its presence.  This may be something you've done yourself but what if someone else has put a file or application on your machine ?

There are specialist utilities that you can use that will perform a security scan of your hard drive and perform various cross checks to see if there are any hidden files and if so, where they are and if they are authorized by you.  You can imagine the issues that can be raised if someone has planted a key logging application on your computer that you cannot see but which is recording every key stroke you make, including when you are inputting your passwords for personal banking, online credit card transactions as well as snooping on what you are doing on your PC.  Find Protected is not free, but you can download a fully functional evaluation version and this is an easy to use tool and again is very good at finding these files.

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Sam Miller
Sam Miller

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