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Solutions: Expose your PC's hidden files

Q. I have an issue with hidden files on my Gateway laptop. I'm running Windows XP with the latest service packs, and Norton as my virus protection. Norton virus scan used to take one hour, but now takes five hours — and reports 4.5-million files. I ran two types of file tree programs and the most they see is 240,000 files, which is about normal for this PC. I have Windows Firewall active, and my router firewalled. Has my PC been hijacked for file storage? What can I do about finding what these files are so I can delete and kill the source?

A. I seriously doubt anyone has hijacked your PC for external file storage, but it's possible that malware, such as a virus, could be creating and hiding files on your system. A large number of hidden files are necessary on any PC and it will take some work to understand what they are. The first thing to do is to make sure you are up-to-date on all Windows security updates, and make sure your antivirus and antispyware programs are current. Next, to get a list of hidden files on your system: Click Start, Run and type CMD and click OK. This will bring you to the old-fashioned DOS prompt (Command prompt). Type "CD /" without the quotes and make sure you leave a space between CD and /. This will bring you to the root (top-level) directory. Now type "DIR /AH-S /S" (again without the quotes and making sure you leave a space between DIR and /AH and between /AH-S and /S). This will search your drive and list only those nonsystem files with the Hidden attribute (we're bypassing system files in order to make the list more concise). To make it easier to manage, you can redirect the output to a file, which you can then view in Notepad or Wordpad. To do this, change the above command to "DIR /AH-S /S >MyHiddenFiles.txt". This will work in Windows XP, but Windows Vista users will get an "access denied" message. To get around this, Vista users can click the Vista button, type "Command prompt" and when it appears in the results, right-click it and select Run as Administrator. When the command is complete (it will return to the prompt), type Exit and return to windows. Open your C drive and you will see MyHiddenFiles.txt. Double-click on it to view it in Notepad. Now what? Here's the hard part — determining what doesn't belong. I cannot stress this enough: Most, if not all files, you'll see listed belong there and it's important that you leave them alone. And while there's no list of "files that belong" that you can check, at least now you have an idea of what is out there.

Q. I don't know what I did wrong, but I cannot forward messages to anyone anymore. For example: If someone sends me a story and I would like to pass it on to others, I would highlight the story and right-click my mouse and save, then I would click on the Forward button and I would apply all the names that I want it to get to and send. But now it will not copy so I cannot send it off to everyone. What did I do wrong?

A. You didn't specify the most important piece of information: Which e-mail program (client) are you using? I'll assume that whatever client you're using is not presenting you with a Copy option. Try using the keyboard shortcut of ctrl-v to paste your copy buffer (ctrl-c is the shortcut for Copy).

Send questions to or Personal Tech, P.O.

Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Questions are answered only in

this column.

Solutions: Expose your PC's hidden files 05/18/08 [Last modified: Monday, May 19, 2008 7:38pm]
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