Why Is File Explorer Not Showing Files?

Windows 10 has a user-friendly application for finding any files on your computer. It’s called the File Explorer, which you can easily access by clicking on the Start menu. However, when using File Explorer, you may notice that it doesn’t show files saved on your device.

File Explorer may not show files if experiencing system issues. Alternatively, you may have hidden them accidentally, or they may have become corrupted as a result of problems with storage or malware. Zip tools can also cause issues during extraction.

Windows Explorer not showing files.

Why Are Files Not Showing?

There can be several reasons why your Windows 10 File Explorer is not showing any files. Sometimes, it may be something you have accidentally done, but other times, the cause may be malware attacking your computer, so you must take every option seriously.

Let’s see all the possible causes of this problem one by one.

There Might Be Issues With the Memory

Sometimes, when your memory is full, File Explorer may become slow and stop working properly. As a result, it may not show the files at all. This means that they are all still there and are not hidden in any way, but your File Explorer is not showing them because it has stopped working.

The possibility of memory issues may not occur to you immediately since you may be more focused on accessing the files. Consider how much memory or free space you have before you turn your attention to them.

You May Have Accidentally Hidden Your Files

Windows 10 offers you the option to hide specific files so that you can stop other people from accessing them. This option is useful when you’re working on projects or documents that need to be classified for some reason.

However, sometimes, you may accidentally hide your files without meaning to.

Hiding a file takes several steps, so it’s not easy to accidentally hide all the files you have. Generally, hiding a file requires you to:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Find the file you want and select it.
  3. Right-click and select Properties.
  4. Tick the Hidden checkbox in the General tab.
  5. Press OK.

As you can see, hiding a file is not just a click away, so you can’t just hide any file accidentally. However, you may make mistakes while selecting the file you want to hide; instead of selecting one, you may select all of them and then hide them.

Some Files May Be Corrupt

Windows File Explorer may not be showing any files because the ones that are already there are corrupted. Corrupted files are files that cannot be opened or used in any way and, as a result, might not even show up on File Explorer.

Several factors can corrupt a file. For instance, if your computer shuts down unexpectedly while you’re working on a file, you may be unable to open it again if it has become corrupted.

Even if you save the file properly, it may become corrupted when stored in bad sectors of the hard drive. Additionally, files may become corrupted when they are transferred from some storage devices.

Malware Is Hiding or Deleting Your Files

Malware or viruses can affect your computer differently, depending on its purpose. Some may aim to corrupt your files, making them unusable and undetectable in File Explorer. 

Other viruses may hide your files without corrupting them, making them invisible to you in File Explorer and elsewhere. Other, more harmful viruses may even delete your files without you knowing.

Issues With Compression Tools

Typically, you use compression tools to compress large files and extract them, but sometimes these tools can experience issues. These problems can result in your files becoming corrupt or hidden.

As a result, you will not be able to open, use or even see your extracted files; this is a problem that users commonly report, but you can try plenty of solutions.  

10 Fixes

To identify and fix the problem of hidden or corrupted files in your File Explorer, you can try a few different methods. It’s better you start with the easiest and quickest ones and then continue to the more complicated ones if you don’t find a solution. 

1. Refresh File Explorer

Your files may not be hidden or corrupted, but your File Explorer may be temporarily blocked. This may happen when many files are saved on your hard drive, which can slow down your computer and cause issues with File Explorer.

To refresh the application, find a space inside the Explorer and right-click on it. Click Refresh on the menu that will appear and see if anything changes. You can also press F5 to do the same thing.

2. Clear the Cache

As you open File Explorer, you’ll instantly recognize your files through icons or thumbnails. Windows stores these icons in a cache to load them immediately when you open File Explorer. 

However, sometimes the cache may experience issues, which can cause the icons not to load, creating the impression that nothing is inside your File Explorer. You can use Disk Cleanup to clear the cache so the images can load as usual. 

3. Reset File Explorer

Steps to end the Windows Explorer Task in Windows.

If you suspect the problem is with the File Explorer application itself rather than the files inside it, you can try another method besides refreshing.

You can reset File Explorer, which will make the application stop running, so you can make it start again. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl, Alt, and Delete simultaneously.
  2. Find File Explorer on the list of running tasks.
  3. Right-click on File Explorer and choose End task on the menu that will appear.
  4. Go to the upper part of the window and select File.
  5. Go to Run by pressing Windows key + R.
  6. Type explorer.exe and then press Enter.
  7. File Explorer should restart, and you can check if you can see the files. 
How to run Windows File Explorer from the Run command panel.

Alternatively, a restart will accomplish the same task if you prefer a simpler way, as described next.

4. Restart the Computer 

If resetting File Explorer didn’t work or you weren’t feeling up to the task, you may try restarting the computer. When you restart your device, you allow it to eliminate any bugs or glitches that may be causing issues in several different areas.

To restart your computer, click on the Start button or press the Windows button on your keyboard. Select Power and then Restart.   

After you select Restart, you need to wait for the device to restart and then check if the problem has been solved. If this method doesn’t work, the problem may be with the files rather than the File Explorer.

5. Show Hidden Files

If File Explorer is not experiencing any issues, you should consider the files themselves. If you suspect that you may have hidden all the files in your File Explorer, you can make everything visible to check.

How to show all hidden files in Windows File Explorer.
Show all hidden files in Windows 11

Follow these steps to show the hidden files (Windows 10):

  1. Press the Windows button on your keyboard or click on the Start button on your screen.
  2. Type folder options or file explorer options on the search bar.
  3. Select the option that will appear.
  4. Go to the View tab.
  5. Find and check the Show hidden files, folders, or drives box.
  6. Uncheck the Hide protected operating system files box.
  7. Uncheck the Hide extensions for known file types box.
  8. Select OK to confirm.

Once you have made the necessary changes, check File Explorer again and see if you can find your files.

6. Use the Command Prompt

Sometimes, files that you have recently extracted may not appear in your File Explorer or anywhere on your computer. They may be hidden or corrupted, and you may not be able to find them even if you show hidden files on your Explorer.

In this case, you can use the command prompt to help you.

  1. Click on the Start button on your screen.
  2. Type cmd in the search box.
  3. Your command prompt will appear as an option; right-click on it and choose Run as administrator.
  4. The command prompt will open; type attrib -h -r -s /s /d e:*.* and then Enter. If you want to look for files in a particular drive, replace e with the disk’s drive letter, like d, f, and so on.

These instructions should be able to recover any hidden files anywhere they are. Just refresh the drives or storage devices to see them again.

7. Use an Alternative Zip Tool

Sometimes, you may download a large volume of files in a zipped folder, but once you try to extract them, you can’t find them anywhere. There might be different reasons for this issue, but typically it is caused by the zip tool you are using.

You can’t do much to fix the existing zip tool in your device, but you can find an alternative program that can help you extract your files and locate them immediately.

You can download a new zip tool online, like 7Zip, sometimes even for free. You can extract and locate them once you download the new zip tool.

A tool like this can usually handle various types of compressed files with the ability to extract RAR files, to mention one example.

8. Scan and Recover Corrupted Files

If your files are corrupted because of the causes I have mentioned above, you need to find a way to recover them so that you can use them. Windows has a built-in scanner that can help you find any corrupted files, but it may take time and effort. 

This scanner is the System File Checker, which you can run using the command prompt. The process can be complicated and needs several specific commands, so if you don’t know how to do it, you should leave it to an expert. By the end of this process, you should be able to get your corrupted files back.

9. Run an Antivirus Scan

Malware is a type of computer virus that can cause serious issues in your device. It can slow down your computer and corrupt, hide, delete important files, or automatically send information or queries somewhere without you knowing.

When malware enters your device, it may also delete certain files, so they no longer appear in File Explorer.

You can’t restore your hidden files by removing the virus, but you can prevent it from hiding or deleting additional files in the future.

You need to run a scan on your antivirus program to remove the virus. If malware affects your files, the scan will identify it and remove it from the computer. Once you get rid of the malware, you can proceed to recover the files using one of the methods described above or the one I will discuss below.

10. Use File Recovery Software

The worst case scenario you can imagine when you can’t see the files in your Explorer is that they are all deleted. Generally, it’s difficult to delete all of them accidentally, but it can happen. Moreover, some viruses can target and delete your files so that they may be gone.

However, you can still recover deleted or corrupted files using recovery tools. These tools can recover any corrupted, hidden, or deleted files with no problem. You can download or buy such programs online and follow their instructions to recover your chosen ones.