Attrib.exe is a Windows operating system file located in the C:\Windows\System32 folder. It allows you to display or change file attributes. The function of the attrib command is to set, change or remove such file attributes Using the attrib command, you can make files read-only, archive, system and hidden.
What are File Attributes
A file attribute is metadata that is associated with any file on your computer and describes or keeps track of information like when the file was created or modified, file size, file extensions and file permissions.
The Windows operating system offers four attributes for files and folders. They are:
- Read-only – r : These are readable, but cannot be changed
- System – s : For use by the operating system and not normally displayed in a directory listing
- Hidden – h : They are not displayed in a directory listing by default
- Archive – a : For backing up or copying files
How to change File Attributes using attrib.exe
These attributes can be set using [+] or removed using [-] commands.
To see the file attributes, you have to right-click on the file or folder and select Properties. In Windows 10/8, Windows 7 or Windows Vista, you will see only the Read-only and Hidden check boxes. To see the Archive check box, you have to click Advanced.
If you wish to see the syntax for the Attrib command, type attrib /? at the command prompt and hit Enter.
Create a super hidden private file or folder
As a Windows end-user, we can use this feature to create a hidden private file or folder on our Windows computer. Lets say you have a normal folder named Private on your desktop, and you want to make it hidden.
To do so, open command prompt, and type the following in it and hit Enter. Here ACK is my Username, so make sure you use yours in its place.
attrib +s +h C:\Users\ACK\Desktop\Private
This will make the folder a ‘system’ folder AND a ‘hidden’ folder. However, if you use “-s +h” it will make the folder an ordinary hidden folder only.
To see it, you have to via Folder Options, check Show hidden files, folders and drives and uncheck Hide protected operating system files. Or via CMD you can simply use “-s -h” instead of the above command.
Ofcourse this method is not fool-proof, but its good enough a way to keep your folders secret and hidden from most prying eyes. If you are looking for more, you can check out this free file and folder encryption software.
Make a list of all hidden system files and folders
In the rare eventuality that you forget the name of the folder, but know the location – or vice versa, you can run the following command.
attrib C:\*.* /s|find “A SH”>C:\hiddensystemfiles.txt¬epad C:\hiddensystemfiles.txt
This will output the list of all hidden system folders on your C drive.
You can of course modify the syntax suitable to search for only select locations also.
File attribute changer freeware
If you are looking for a freeware tool to change file and folder attributes and properties quickly, you can check out Attribute Changer. It is a tool for power users to change all kind of file and folder attributes, date, time and even NTFS compression. Exif date and time information stored in digital images are also easily altered with Attribute Changer.