Why can’t I see my files in my external hard disk drives after an virus infection?
Question by Rick yeo /

I had a virus infection on the 31st August and my PC screen went blank (with nothing but the recycle bin icon). The only message I got on was to PAY and activate my file recovery to recover all my files (that’s how I know I got infected with a malicious virus).

So, I did a system restore to a week earlier and my PC recovered but the files on my 2 of external hard drives (which were connected to my PC the time when the virus hit) have ‘disappeared’. I’m on Win 7.

However, I can see my files (greyed out) and I am able to retrieved them in another older PC (windows XP).

I think it has something to do with the virus (I’ve since scanned my PC and hard disks files with many scanners and removed all possible hackers/trojan.exe files)

So now, how do I get both of my external hard disks to work normally again on my Win 7 PC (I don’t want to do transfers of all my files as they’re about 1TB)?


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Answers (16)
  • Gary Tan

    I believe they might have hidden or change the attributes of your files, you may wish to check if there is autorun.inf and if there is, open it with Notepad and take a look at what’s within. Find out if it is calling for a program. Select one of the files in the external hard disk and do a right click and look for properties. Check if it is set to hidden/system if it is, you might want to remove the system attribute as most Windows 7 boxes are set NOT to show system files. Cheers!

  • ha14

    on “Start” –>Run–>type cmd and click on OK.
    if your hard drive as G:
    Enter this command: attrib -h -r -s /s /d g:\*.*
    Then check if your real files will be shown

    for your second question, copy the contents of each individual folder into its duplicates on the desktop, as the files itself will probably be untouched by the virus;

  • Adjei Kofi

    You can use the command prompt to recover or reveal all the files. Open command prompt by cmd in the start menu. While in cmd, type the letter of your hard drive, press enter. Example is, if the drive letter is K, type K and add a semi-colon like this K:
    Next, type the following
    attrib /s /d -s -h -r
    This will show all hidden files and folders in the drive. Hope it works. :)

    • Rick


      I did what you describe here, but I’ve got a “access denied” response from my PC..

      Don’t know if I did right, but I went to CMD, typed in G; and when the G prompt came up, I typed in attrib /s /d -s -h -r, without any .

      Then came a string of access denied prompts…

      Anyway, following the first part of Bruce’s suggestion, I was able to see my folders, but they are still blurred out and I am not 100% sure if the viruses are totally exterminated.

      My question is – do I need to transfer my files within the folders to another newly created sets of folders, outside the external disk, do a re-format of the external disk and then, transfer the folders back in?

      Appreciate your help


  • Erlis Dhima

    It depends on how bad the virus is! I have seen cases when these files couldn’t be unhidden… But, the files inside folders, where not affected by the virus! If this is the case, then recreate the folders, and move the files to the newly created folders…
    For the files that are directly to the hard disk, there is nothing to do!
    Also what Bruce said, it could really help!

  • Joel Alar

    The behavior of the virus infected your pc is to hide all your legitimate files and create a bogus or temp folder. Don’t worry all of your files was still there, please follow the advise of Bruce.

  • Bruce Epper

    Open Windows Explorer, click on Organize and select ‘Folder and search options’. Click on the View tab. Under ‘Hidden files and folders’ select the ‘Show hidden files, folders and drives’. Click OK to accept the changes. Navigate to the 2 affected drives and check that you can see the files. If you can, the file attributes were changed to hide them from view. You can go to the command line and use the ‘attrib’ command to remove the hidden flag from the files, i.e. ‘attrib * -h’ to remove the hidden flag from all files in the selected folder.

    • Rick

      Hi Bruce,

      Thank you very much for your reply and your instructions for help in my case.

      I’ve got up to being able to see my ‘hidden’ files, but I did not know where is the command line to remove the hidden flags.

      Could you kindly indicate the steps to get there like you did for the first part of your reply?

      I really appreciate your help.


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