How to Hide Anything in Windows

Akshata Shanbhag 07-12-2015

Microsoft gives you superpowers to make anything on Windows disappear. Make use of them!

This guide is available to download as a free PDF. Download How to Hide Anything in Windows now. Feel free to copy and share this with your friends and family.

Recently, we showed you how to hide the Windows login screen Skip the Login Screen! Here’s How to Boot Into Windows Directly Sick of signing into Windows every time you boot up your computer? Here's how to disable the login screen for good. Read More  and annoying ads How to Ban Windows 10 Ads & NSFW Content from Your Desktop Windows 10 may be crossing a line with desktop ads and NSFW content. Microsoft and third-party developers can push promotional material directly onto your desktop. We show you how you can defend yourself. Read More . These are not the only Windows elements that you can send into hiding. With a few tweaks here and there, you can conceal toolbars, icons, buttons, files — pretty much anything that you’d like to keep out of your way. We’ll show you how to do that in this guide.

Navigation: DesktopCharms Bar & SwitcherRecycle BinIcons & Gadgets | TaskbarSystem TraySearch BoxTask View IconStart Button | Start MenuStart Screen TilesRecently Opened & Most UsedInstalled Apps in All Programs/Apps | File ExplorerFiles & FoldersRecent Places & Recent FilesFile ExtensionsAssorted Items | Hide Away!

A Few Points to Remember

Before we begin, let’s see how to access some important locations and settings that we’ll refer to more than once.

1. The context menu or right-click menu: Right-click any element in Windows 10 Best Shortcuts to Add to Your Right-Click Menu The context menu that pops up whenever you perform a right-click can help you become more productive. With the right tool, customizing the shortcuts within it is a breeze. Read More to open up its context menu. The contents vary based on the element you have clicked.

2. The Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog: Let’s call this one taskbar properties for the sake of clarity. To bring it up, right-click on an empty space on the taskbar and select Properties from the context menu.



3. The Personalization dialog: Right-click on an empty space on the desktop and click on Personalize in the context menu to bring up this dialog. You can also open it via Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Personalize.


4. The Folder Options dialog: We’ll call this dialog folder options. On Windows 7, you can bring it up via Organize > Folder and search options in File Explorer.



On Windows 8, 8.1, and 10, click on the View tab of File Explorer and then on Options at the far right.


Now let’s move on to the actual work of banishing what you don’t like from your Windows experience. Here’s how you hide elements from various sections of your PC.


On the Desktop

Charms Bar and Switcher

In the Edge UI that shipped with Windows 8 came a couple of confusing new features: the Charms bar and the Switcher.

The Charms bar is nothing but an icon-driven menu that pops up when you move the cursor to the top right or bottom right corner of the screen.


The Switcher allows you to cycle through open applications and switch from the Modern desktop to the classic one by moving the cursor to the top left corner of the screen.



Can you make these two annoying features less so? Sure! Go to the Navigation tab of taskbar properties, uncheck the boxes next to the following options, and click on OK:

  • When I point to the upper-right corner, show the charms
  • When I click the upper-left corner, switch between my recent apps


On Windows 8.1, you’ll also find the same options listed under Settings > PC and devices > Corners and edges > Corner navigation.


This tweak renders the hot corners for the Charms and Switcher features inactive globally. You can still use these features via keyboard shortcuts: Win + C for the Charms bar and Win + Tab for the Switcher.

If you want an easy way to disable both these features, try a third-party app like Winaero Charms Bar Killer or Start8.

Maybe you have already installed the Classic Shell application to make Windows 8 suck less Make Windows 8 Suck Less With Classic Shell Make Windows 8 usable for people who think it's not. Add a start menu to the desktop and tweak the way Explorer and Internet Explorer behave, all thanks to a piece of software called Classic... Read More . In that case, open the program, navigate to the Windows 8 Settings tab, and select the All radio button under Disable active corners.


Touchpad users can also try disabling edge swipes via the UI settings provided by the touchpad vendor.

The location of the edge swipe setting varies depending on the brand and model of your PC. You’ll most likely find this feature (or some variation of it) in the Mouse Control Panel or the settings section from where you can tweak touchpad gestures.

The Recycle Bin

In Windows Vista you could just delete the Recycle Bin icon and be done with it. Microsoft decided that you shouldn’t have it so easy, so this is how it works now:

  1. Open the Desktop Icon Settings dialog via Personalize > Change desktop icons (Win 7, 8, 8.1) or Personalize > Themes > Related Settings > Desktop icon settings (Win 10).
  2. Uncheck the box next to Recycle Bin.
  3. Click on Apply and exit the dialog.


As you can see from the image above, you can also hide or restore other desktop shortcut icons like Computer, Control Panel, and Network from the Desktop Icon Settings dialog.

Icons and Gadgets

Desktop shortcuts to files, folders, and programs are easy enough to delete. Select a bunch of them, click on Delete from the context menu, and confirm that you want to proceed with the deletion.

Remember, if you’re deleting a file (or folder) whose icon doesn’t have the tiny arrow symbol that represents a shortcut, you’re deleting the original file and not its shortcut.


Not what you had in mind? Move that file to a safer location, so that you don’t inadvertently delete it from the desktop. You can still keep it handy as a desktop shortcut using the Send to > Desktop (create shortcut) option from the file’s context menu.


Did you know that you can toggle desktop icons off and on as and when you need them? To do so, right-click on the desktop and under View, click on Show desktop icons.


Windows 7 has a few gadgets The 7 Best Windows 7 Gadgets Read More like a clock, currency converter, and a calendar that you can display in the sidebar via the Gadgets option from the desktop’s context menu.

If you want to hide a gadget that’s visible in the sidebar, click on its Close button at the top right. Poof! It’s gone.


If you don’t use the gadgets feature at all and would like to keep it turned off, first click on Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features > Turn Windows features on or off to open the Windows Features dialog. There, uncheck the box next to Windows Gadget Platform and click on OK. That’s it!


On the Taskbar

The Taskbar

Want more screen space? One way to get it is by setting the Windows taskbar to hide itself when you’re not using it. Open taskbar properties and under the Taskbar tab, check the box for Auto-hide the taskbar. While you’re at it, you might also want to uncheck the box next to Show Windows Store apps on the taskbar to get rid of the taskbar icons for Windows Store apps on Windows 10.


System Tray Icons and Notifications

A messy system tray is an eyesore and can be quite the distraction if you don’t control the notifications it is set to show. Don’t worry. You can make those notifications go away and hide the icons behind a discreet popup.

Let’s say you want to hide the Get Windows 10 (GWX) icon and its notifications. To do that in Windows 7 through 8.1, first open up taskbar properties, and under the Taskbar tab, click on the Customize button next to Notification:. This opens the Notification Area Icons section.


Next, look for GWX in the icon list and select the Hide icon and notifications option from the dropdown next to it. This hides the GWX icon, but you can access it via the tiny arrow next to the system tray. Also, you won’t get notifications for GWX anymore.


You’ll have to select the Hide icon and notifications option one by one for every icon that you want to hide.

With system icons, you can go one step further and turn them off instead of hiding them behind a popup. For this you’ll have to click on Turn system icons on or off. On the next screen, select the Off option from the dropdown for every icon that you want to hide from the system tray.


Note: If the dropdowns appear grayed out in the Notification Area Icons section, uncheck the box next to Always show all icons and notifications on the taskbar.


On Windows 10, you’ll find the controls for taskbar icons, notifications, and system icons in a different location: Settings > System > Notification and actions. Don’t let the UI daunt you. It looks different from what you have seen above, but the settings are well labeled and easy to figure out.


While you’re fixing the system tray for your convenience, you can take advantage of these other taskbar customization tricks 7 Tips for Customizing the Windows 10 Taskbar The taskbar remains a staple feature in Windows 10. It's been given a fresh look and new features, including Cortana. We show you all the tweaks to make the taskbar your own. Read More as well.

The global search box that comes bundled with the taskbar on Windows 10 is a handy feature that we would recommend keeping. But if you want to hide the search box, open the taskbar’s context menu and click on Search > Show search box to toggle it off.

If you decide that you want to use the search feature after all, you don’t have to stick with its huge, unwieldy avatar. Keep it ready to use as a tiny search icon by selecting Search > Show search icon from the taskbar’s context menu.


The Task View Icon

If you have no use for the Task View button that links to a virtual desktop feature for multitasking, hide its taskbar icon and get more space for open apps. All you have to do is click on Show Task View in the taskbar context menu to toggle the icon off.


The Start Button

The Modern UI version of the Start menu caused quite a furor when it first made an appearance in Windows 8. Several users were not happy that Microsoft had decided to zap the much-loved Start button and Start menu from Windows 7.

The Start button did reappear in Windows 8.1, but not the classic Start menu.

Anyway, everyone has now accepted that the Start button and the Start screen are here to stay. Of course, that’s not to say that everyone’s sticking with these defaults. Many users prefer to hide the Start button Have It Your Way: Hide The Windows 8.1 Start Button After killing the Start button in Windows 8, Microsoft restored a mutilated version with the Windows 8.1 update. It's now a shortcut button for the Start screen or desktop and some don't like that. Read More and restore the old Start menu Start Menu, How I Miss Thee: 4 Ways To Make A Start Menu On Windows 8 Windows 8 brought down the axe on the Start Menu. This is a feature that no one paid special attention to for years but its untimely demise has caused all sorts of despair. Not only... Read More using third-party apps like StartIsGone or Start8. You can do the same.

Before you go ahead and hide the Start screen in favor of the classic Start menu, do explore the context menu hidden behind the Start button. You might discover some useful options there.


In the Start Menu

System Defaults

The Start Menu in its default avatar has various options that you don’t need to access on a regular basis. You might even prefer to keep them accessible as desktop or taskbar shortcuts. In such cases, you can make the Start Menu more compact by getting rid of unused items.

To hide Start Menu entries, first navigate to the Start Menu tab of taskbar properties and click on the Customize button there. This brings up the Customize Start Menu dialog where you can hide any Start Menu listing by deselecting the checkbox next to it or selecting the Don’t display this item radio button as appropriate.


And here’s how you can hack/hide various Start screen elements in Windows 10 6 Ways to Hack & Customize the Windows 10 Start Menu The Windows 10 Start Menu combines classic elements with modern tiles. Tiles can add a lot of creative freedom. We'll give you tips and reveal tricks for customizing the entire Start Menu to your preferences. Read More .

Start Screen Tiles

If you find any of the Start screen tiles (on Windows 8 and above) distracting, you can turn it off selecting Unpin from Start from its context menu. Want to keep the tile but don’t want its dynamic update feature? Click on the Turn live tile off option instead.


Recently Opened and Most Used Programs/Files

The lists of recently added programs and your most used items (files and programs) can be helpful, but they’re not everybody’s favorites. If you don’t want them displayed, it’s easy to turn them off quickly.

On Windows 7, you’ll have to go the Start Menu tab of taskbar properties and uncheck the boxes for:

  • Store and display recently opened programs in the Start menu
  • Store and display recently opened items in the Start menu and the taskbar

On Windows 8.1, you’ll find these options in the Jump Lists tab of the taskbar properties.


If you’re on Windows 10, go to Settings > Personalize > Start and drag the sliders for Show most used apps and Show recently added apps to the left to hide these jumplists.

If you just want to stop a specific app from showing up in the Most Used (or Recently Added) list, try this instead. Open that app’s context menu from the Most Used section of the Start screen and click on Don’t show in this list.


Installed Apps in All Programs/All Apps

For any app that you’d like to stop from showing up in the list of installed programs, you can usually specify that preference while you’re installing the program. It often appears as a box that reads Add Start Menu Shortcuts  (or some variation of that). Uncheck that box to skip adding the program to the Start screen or the Start Menu.


If you have already installed the app, that’s not a problem. On Windows 7, you can select Delete from the right-click menu of a program’s Start Menu entry to delete that shortcut.

On Windows 8 and above, navigate to C:\ > ProgramData > Microsoft > Windows > Start Menu > Programs and delete the app’s Start screen entry from there.

Beware! Don’t go about deleting anything that you aren’t sure you’ll be able to find again.

In File Explorer

Files and Folders

There’s more than one way to hide a file or folder in Windows. Let’s take a look at some common ones.

1. The default method: This involves opening a file or folder’s Properties dialog from its context menu and checking the box next to Hidden. Make sure that you click on Apply to finalize the change.


To reveal all hidden files and folders, open folder options, and under the View tab, check the radio button next to Show hidden files, folders, and drives.

2. The “System files” trick: The folder options setting to reveal hidden folders is no secret, which is why hiding folders the usual way is less effective than you think it is. A better method is to disguise sensitive files is by designating them as system files. You’ll need to go to the command prompt for that.

Press Win + R, type cmd in the Run dialog that comes up, and hit Enter. At the command prompt, type:

attrib +s +h "C:\...\TopSecretFile"

Replace the sample pathname given here with the pathname to the file that you want to disguise as a system file, and hit Enter. Now that file stays hidden even when you show hidden files and folders.

You can reveal this file in two ways:

  • by typing attrib -s -h "C:\...\TopSecretFile" in the Terminal, or
  • by unchecking the box next to Hide protected operating system files (Recommended) in Folder Options > View, and hitting Apply, of course.


3. Steganography: Steganography is the art of concealing messages in such a way that anyone who isn’t aware of the hidden message won’t even realize that there’s a message hidden, even if it’s in plain sight.

Let’s take a look at a popular steganography trick used to hide a text file within a JPEG image.

Begin by keeping these two files handy: the text file that you want hide and the JPEG image (say, mask-image.jpg) behind which you want to hide the file.

Add these files to a new folder on C: drive and compress that folder into a RAR archive, which we’ll call mask-archive. You’ll need to use a third-party app like WinRAR or 7-Zip for creating the archive.

Now, open Command Prompt, type cd \ and and hit Enter to navigate to the root directory (assuming C: is the current drive at the prompt). Next, run this command:

copy /b mask-image.jpg+mask-archive.rar result-image.jpg


Be sure to replace the sample filenames in the command with the corresponding file names from your computer. Once you press Enter, you’ll find the new image (result-image.jpg) that’s identical to mask-image.jpg, but bigger in size because of the secret text file it includes.

There are more ways to hide secret messages in pictures 4+ Ways To Secretly Hide Messages In Pictures The science (or art) of hiding messages is called steganography , and in the digital age, can be used to hide secret messages in innocent-looking images. Looking at the picture, you have no idea there’s... Read More and other files. You bet it’s fun to explore them all!

4. Encryption Software: Data encryption is a reliable way to protect your sensitive data from prying eyes 5 Effective Tools to Encrypt Your Secret Files We need to pay closer attention than ever before towards encryption tools and anything designed to protect our privacy. With the right tools, keeping our data safe is easy. Read More . It hides information in coded messages that are difficult to decipher unless you have the key to decrypt them.

The top choice for encryption on Windows — TrueCrypt — is no longer around, but there are some decent Windows disk encryption alternatives TrueCrypt Is Dead: 4 Disk Encryption Alternatives For Windows TrueCrypt is no more, but fortunately there are other useful encryption programs. While they may not be exact replacements, they should suit your needs. Read More floating on the web. Some of them have limited choices for encryption algorithms. Some others do not have an encryption feature for individual files and folders. You’ll need to explore a few program options to get the features your need.

Recent Places, Recent Files

Files that you have opened recently and locations that you visit frequently are accessible via the Recent Places section of the Explorer sidebar i.e. the Navigation pane. If you’re on Windows 10, you’ll find similar data listed under Quick Access in the sidebar.

As you continue to use Windows day after day, these sections get cluttered super quick. To stop Quick Access from accumulating data on Windows 10, you need to uncheck the boxes next to the following options in Folder Options > General > Privacy:

  • Show recently used files in Quick Access, and
  • Show frequently used folders in Quick Access

You’ll also need to click on the Clear button in the same section to clear out the data that Quick Access has gathered so far.


On Windows 7, 8, 8.1, have you set recently opened items to stop from showing up in the Start menu as we discussed above (under In the Start Menu)? Then you don’t need further tweaks because that one ensures that the Recent Places section doesn’t gather new data.

File Extensions

To hide file extensions, you’ll need to navigate to folder options again. This time, look for the Hide extensions for known file types checkbox and check it. After you click on Apply, filenames in Explorer will show up sans the corresponding extension.


Assorted Items

On Windows 7, you can hide the menu bar from Organize > Layout and bring it up as and when you need it by pressing the Alt key.


The View tab of the File Explorer ribbon in Windows 8 and above allows you to hide/display various Explorer items like the Navigation pane, the Preview pane, and item checkboxes. On Windows 7, you’ll find these settings either in folder options or under Organize > Layout.

If you want to hide some of the options available on the Quick Access Toolbar, the quickest way to do that would be by clicking on the arrow to the right of the toolbar icons, and clicking on each item to toggle it off.


Hide Away!

Get ready to tuck away all those Windows annoyances that have been nagging you. As you dig deeper and deeper into the Windows settings that we have demonstrated above, you’ll stumble across various other little-known options 10 Little Known Features of Windows File Explorer Don’t let Windows File Explorer fool you with its plain looks. It’s capable of many more actions and tweaks than it lets on! Let us show you a bunch of them. Read More , such as this gem of a feature that’s hidden in plain sight The Windows 8 Task Manager: A Gem Hidden In Plain Sight While many parts of Windows 8 are debatable (maybe Modern is the future; maybe it's not), one element of Windows 8 that has undergone a massive overhaul and made it unequivocally more awesome is the... Read More .

The items that we have listed here are just some of the surface elements that you can hide in Windows.

If you’re willing to risk tackling the Windows registry What Is the Windows Registry and How Do I Edit It? If you need to edit the Windows registry, making a few quick changes is easy. Let's learn how to work with the registry. Read More , there’s a lot more that you can push out of sight — from Control Panel applets to user accounts on the login screen to the Libraries section in File Explorer. And isn’t that the best thing about Windows? That it allows you to tweak every last detail to your liking? We think so. Although we must admit that Microsoft is tightening the reins and locking down more features with every new version of Windows.

Are you content leaving all settings as they were when you installed Windows? Or do you like to hide every last icon and feature that annoys you? Tell us how you prefer your Windows installation to be!

Related topics: File Explorer, Longform Guide, Start Menu, Steganography, Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Customization, Windows Taskbar.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Anonymous
    December 17, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    WIndows 8.1

  2. Anonymous
    December 13, 2015 at 4:46 am

    When I do System files trick even if it is hidden when I use search tool the file came up.What should I do to protect it from the search tool?

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      December 17, 2015 at 8:16 am

      Which version of Windows are you using, Athul? I may have an answer for you based on that.

      • Anonymous
        December 17, 2015 at 12:37 pm

        Windows 8.1

        • Akshata Shanbhag
          December 19, 2015 at 4:44 am

          Apparently this is a reported bug, Athul. One solution suggested in one of the forums is turning off the Recent Items lists from the taskbar properties.