I’ve been trying to trim down my hard drive by removing big files. Easy enough, except there are some directories where I’m puzzled that the total directory size is 10MB or larger, but when I look in the directory it’ll just have a couple of 20-35Kb files. Where’s all that disk space going? Hidden files?
I think you’re spot on with your suspicion that it’s hidden files that are eating up the disk space in these directories, actually. Then again, it’s possible that the file size listed in a directory listing might be rounded up or down so checking “Properties” of a few files might reveal a small variation in size. Still, a 10MB file isn’t going to show up as being 31KB in a directory listing, whatever settings you have in your Windows config.
The thing about hidden files is that they’re typically hidden for a reason. Remove the wrong ones and suddenly your favorite program can’t load, utilities can’t find runtime libraries and the system might fail to connect with peripherals or even boot at all. So while you can certainly enable “show hidden files” in Windows 7, I encourage you to be very careful with the files that you remove because, well, you really can break things rather dramatically!
One way to do that is to do a Google search for the name of the file before you make any snap decisions, especially if it’s in C: or C:\Windows or a similar main directory. If it’s in your “Old Reports” folder and has a name like “w43252547.tmp” it’s more likely to be safely wiped away.
Okay, so with that disclaimer in place, here’s how you can enable the display of hidden files as you explore your Windows 7 system.
From the “Control Panels” option on the START menu choose “Folder Options”:
This produces a rather astonishingly large number of different options, split across three different tabs:
Click on the “View” tab and you’ll see all the advanced settings:
It’s a bit hard to see so I’ll zoom in: what you seek is under “Hidden files and folders”:
As you might suspect, the option I’ve highlighted, “Show hidden files, folders, and drives”, is the one you want to choose.
While you’re here, though, why not check out the options available for “Search” (a common place where people get confused about Win7)?
When you’re done with the tweaks you desire, click on “Apply” on the lower right and you should be able to see all the files and folders in the mysteriously large folders on your computer. Carefully remove the ones that are clearly safe, and then you should be good to proceed with your spring cleaning task!