Making sure that your secrets stay hidden on a PC is just as complicated (if not more) as it is in the real world. Many users share their computers with at least one other person, and since everybody has at least a few files that they need to keep concealed, this may spell trouble. This is why I've decided to write this guide and show you a couple of advanced ways to hide your "top-secret" files and folders. However, just so we're clear from the beginning, these methods will not work if you're trying to hide illegal stuff, and the police will gain access to your PC.
Making a "system" folder
Windows has been around for a long time, so by now, pretty much everyone knows how to use the right-click options to conceal a folder. Unfortunately, they also know how to use the explorer file view options to make all hidden files and folders visible, so that method is pretty much a bust from the get-go. One of the easiest ways to bypass this issue is to make Windows think that the items you're hiding are part of the operating system and offer a bit of extra protection. If you've ever been to the View section from the Folder Options menu, you may have noticed that there's a box marked "Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)". Very few people disable this option and that is what we're going to take advantage of.
So, to hide your file or folder as a system file, all you need is the exact path to the item in question. For example, if you keep it on your desktop, the path would be: C:\Users\<User Name>\Desktop\<Folder Name>. Now, simply launch the Run menu by pressing the Win + R buttons on your keyboard, then type cmd and press Enter. Now, write attrib -s -h C:\Users\User Name\Desktop\Folder Name (replace with the actual path to your item), the press Enter, and your folder or file will become invisible. Now, even if those who try to find your secrets use the "Show Hidden Files" option, the item will stay concealed.
If you want to make the item visible again, you can either repeat the previous process, but instead of -s and -h write +s and +h, or make the folder appear from the Folder Options. If you don't know what the folder options are, you need to launch the Windows File Explorer, press the Alt key to make the File Menu visible, then go to Tools and select Folder Options. Once there, go to the View section and remove the check mark from the box named Hide protected operating system files (Recommended). After you're done using your secret folder, don't forget to hide it again, or all of your previous efforts would have been in vain.
Making an "invisible" folder
This isn't the most secure method in the world, as the folder you're hiding can be discovered by accident, but it's pretty creative and somewhat interesting. Unfortunately, the "invisible" method only works on files hidden on your desktop and depends on the wallpaper you are using or your current Windows version. The concept of this solution is to create a folder that is actually invisible to the naked eye. The biggest advantage is that even if others make all the hidden and system files visible, they still won't be able to see it. Here's how this goes:
The first thing that you need to do in order to create an invisible folder is to make sure that the item doesn't have a name. Sounds easy enough, but it's a bit more complicated than you may think, because Windows doesn't simply allow "nameless" folders to exist. So, select the folder you wish to hide and either press the F2 button on your keyboard or right-click it and select the Rename option. Now, delete the original text, then keep the Alt key pressed while typing 0160 (from the numpad) and press Enter.
Once you've created a nameless folder you must camouflage it, chameleon-style. If you have a simple (uniform) color as your background, making the icon blend in is very easy. Either take a picture of the wallpaper, or actually use the wallpaper as the icon for your folder. Right-click the folder, click on Properties, go to the Customize section and click on Change Icon... Now click on Browse and select either the picture you've taken or the wallpaper itself, and your folder will become invisible. Lastly, try to move the "invisible" folder to a spot on your screen where it can't be clicked by accident, so it should be far away from any other icons or clickable items on your desktop.
In case you have a more complex background (an image with multiple colors like the one you see in my pictures), you will need to use a transparent icon. To get it, browse the images from the Change Icon window until you see a few empty spaces (like in the image). Click on one of those empty spaces, press OK, then Apply and "voila!", your folder can no longer be seen. For some reason, transparent icons didn't work the way they should on Windows 10 (they were slightly visible), but when I tested them out on Windows 7 and 8, I didn't have any issues.
Now you know how to manually hide the files and folders you don't want others to see. Of course, there are also a number of specialized applications that can help you out with this task, but we will talk about them next time. In case you would like to learn more interesting stuff that your operating system can do, you may want to check out these tips and tricks that Windows users should know. In case you're a Mac user, you should read my previous article: "How to Hide Files and Make Hidden Files Visible on OS X".