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Posted December 4, 2008

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Hide a File in Vista or XP

How to Hide a File

Why would you want to hide files on your computer? I don't know about you but I have a lot, and I mean a lot, of passwords to keep up with. Maybe you just keep all of your passwords written down on paper next to your computer. I'm guilty of that myself. However, there are some passwords like the ones to my bank account and my credit cards that I don't feel comfortable having hard copies of lying around. I have them memorized but since I want a copy of them someplace other than my cerebral cortex I have them hidden in a text file on my hard drive.

The NTFS file system in all versions of Windows Vista and XP supports something called Alternate Data Streams. This won't work in Windows 98, which uses FAT 32. I just tested this on my laptop running Vista Home Premium and it does work. I've been using it on my XP machine for years now.

This is really neat! And it's very simple and easy to do.

Go to the command prompt. hide a fileI know you know how, but ... hold down the Windows Key and type r. Then type cmd in the run box and hit the Enter key. Or you could click the Start button and click Run from there and type cmd in the box and hit your Enter key. Same thing. There are lots of ways to get to the Command prompt.

You should now be at C:\Users\Your Name> or C:\Users\Owner> or C:\Documents and Settings\your name> but wherever you are that is where you're about to create this secret text file. So now all you need to do is type: notepad SomeFile.txt:SecretWord and hit the Enter key. But before you do that, read all of the rest of these instructions first.

Of course, it doesn't matter what you hiding files using the command promptname the file you're about to create, and it doesn't matter what letters or symbols you use after the colon. I just used SecretWord after the colon as an example. But the syntax is important. Type notepad without a space at the prompt, then a space, and then SomeFile.txt:YourSecretWord all without any spaces.

When you hit Enter, Windows will send up a box that says "Cannot find the C:\Users\Owner\SomeFile.txt:SecretWord.txt file. Do you want to create a new file? Click Yes. When NotePad opens (and it will), put whatever you want to keep private in it then save it, and close it just like you would any other document.

More About How to Hide a File

Now here's the cool part. In regular ol' Windows (not the command prompt), go to C:\Users\Owner, or wherever you just created this NotePad document and find the document. It will be there titled SomeFile.txt. or whatever you decided to call it. Now click it open. Wow! It's blank! O.K., so type some gibberish in it. Anyone who finds this file and opens it will see the gibberish.

To access your secret file, go back to the command prompt (Ctrl + r then type cmd in the box and hit Enter) then type: notepad SomeFile.txt:SecretWord and hit Enter and there's your hidden file without the gibberish. Notice how the Title bar reads: SomeFile.txt:SecretWord.txt.using the command prompt to hide files You can edit it any way you like. When you're done just save it and close it like any normal file.

Neat huh? Sure you could use encryption and/or password-protect a compressed file but this is one of only two ways I know to make a file completely disappear in Windows without having to buy and use some expensive third party software. The way I look at it is, this is way better than encryption because unless you know the password that comes after the colon in the command prompt you ain't gonna get to this file.

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