Windows hides things in places you cannot see in while you’re in Windows. Most of you know, by now, when you delete a file in Windows, the file isn’t really deleted. The space that it occupied is freed and Windows will use the space the file once occupied for something else since it’s now marked “free” as far a Windows is concerned. Even when Windows overwrites that space with something else, the shadow of the file that was there before can be recovered. In order to completely eliminate any chance of anyone recovering the file that you deleted, you’d have to overwrite that space with gibberish many, many times – until eventually all traces of the file are obliterated. So deleting files does not really delete anything. And when Windows overwrites the space freed with another file, the file that was originally there can still be recovered using the right tools.
And did you know that there are places in the Windows operating system that remain totally hidden to you, no matter what you do? In these secret and hidden places are stored everything you’ve ever written, typed or viewed on your computer. While this doesn’t really mean to too much to most of us at first glance, it starts meaning a lot more when you start thinking about the credit card information you’ve typed when you’ve purchased something online, or the passwords you’ve typed in to financial sites, and other things you really don’t want anyone to be able to dredge up from the bowels of your computer system.
Before you get paranoid, we must be totally candid here. Because these files are so well hidden, no Trojan, or other malicious software program is going to infect your system and start digging around and sending this information to criminals in some far off place. It’s not going to happen. It would take hands-on access to your computer and specialized software to dig up this information and read it. Most people don’t have this kind of knowledge or this kind of software. And most people who have access to your computer don’t have this kind of knowledge or the kinds of tools they need to actually read the data contained in these deep and arcane areas of your computer.
We just wanted you to know that these files exist and they can be ferreted out if someone has the tools, the access and the time to do it. Why Microsoft did this, only they know. We tend to think it is the legacy left over from early versions of DOS-based Windows and not some dark, intentional plot by Microsoft. Some security sites think Windows did this on purpose, we disagree. What reason would Microsoft have for doing this?
If you want to see some of the hidden files deep within your computer you can do try this (for Windows XP and Windows Vista users):
Click “Start” and in the “Run” command type the word “Command” (without the quotes).
At the prompt (which looks like this >) type CD C:\ (this changes the prompt to the root of your C:\ drive)
At the prompt C:\> type dir/s/ah/p
The first page of information will appear. To view the next page press “Enter”. Keep pressing “Enter” to view the next page of information. Note: If you leave the /p off the command dir/s/ah/p you’ll get a long list of everything without having to go through the information page by page, but you’ll have a lot of information to scroll through. We find it easy to read, doing it page by page.
Note the dates of the file and the directory information (on the left edge of the DOS-like dialog window). You’ll find files and directories there with dates that go back to the date Windows was installed on your computer.
This is just an example of things on your computer which you can’t see from within Windows. This is more of a “FYI” tip than anything else. Just so you’re aware that there isn’t anything you can view or type on your computer that isn’t stored somewhere – and kept secret even from the you, the owner of the computer.
System cleaners are good for removing junk from the visible parts of Windows, but no cleaner will wipe these kinds of files which are deliberately hidden by Windows.
One more thing, we used the term “hidden” in this tip. This is different from the “View Hidden Files” under folder options. Those files are not the hidden files we’re talking about here. We’re talking about files that are hidden no matter what “hidden files” or “system files’ you choose to view under “Folder Options”. These “hidden files” can be seen easily – and Windows gives you the choice to make them viewable. The hidden files and folders that we’ve been talking about in this article are different – they’re hidden by Windows but they are always there.