Your PC may be set to hide system ﬁles such as Thumbs.db and desktop.ini by default. This makes Explorer and your Desktop look tidier, but the intended beneﬁt is more patronizing than that: Windows hides them because it doesn’t trust you with them. It assumes you’ll edit or delete them and mess up your operating system. As you’ll discover in this feature, deleting ﬁles such as Thumbs.db certainly doesn’t break your PC, and can free up a lot of wasted hard-drive space.
Being able to see these ﬁles and folders also gives you more control over your PC and how it’s organized, and lets you see how much space these often pointless items are taking up. So go ahead and un-hide them. Go to Folder Options in the Control Panel (get there quickly by typing folder options into Start) and click the View tab. Click ‘Show hidden ﬁles, folders, or drives’, untick ‘Hide protected operating system ﬁles (Recommended)’, click OK, then click Yes in the Warning box.
Microsoft’s use of the word ‘Recommended’ is its last-ditch attempt to keep your hands oﬀ them. Once that’s done, use SwiftSearch to ﬁnd out how many of the ﬁles we mention here have been living and multiplying secretly in your PC. Un-hiding your system ﬁles and folders doesn’t magically make them safe to move and delete, of course. Once you can see these unfamiliar items, they make Explorer a much messier place. You may need to be careful not to click or delete the wrong thing. Always check Google for advice before you edit or delete a system ﬁle or folder that you don’t recognize, and create a system restore point before you make any changes. We’d also recommend looking up mystery system ﬁles on the excellent free site FileInfo.com