Resolved: Making your user folder visible in Vista

So, the weirdest thing happened to me a couple of days ago: My entire user folder stopped being indexed by Windows Search Indexing service. I visited C:Users and I couldn’t find my user folder at all! The panic didn’t start yet. Then, I calmly proceeded to look at my “Folder Options” and on a hunch, I allowed protected system files to be viewable. To my horror, I found out that my User Profile/Folder had somehow become: (a)hidden and (b) a protected system folder.

I don’t recall doing anything to make it change from a regular user folder so I was baffled. Now, I would not have worried so much if not for the awful fact that my files were no longer being indexed because Windows doesn’t index protected system files because under normal circumstances, your user files are not protected system files. So, I set about findingย  a solution to my problem and after a couple of days & false moves, I hit upon a simple solution (thanks to Google). Here are the steps to “unhide” and remove the “system file” attribute from your user profile/folder:

  1. Hit “Start” and type “cmd” into the search box (on Vista/Windows 7 systems)
  2. Your first search hit should be cmd.exe; Right-click cmd.exe and run the program as an administrator. command prompt
  3. You will see something like this: C:\Windows\system32:
  4. Change the directory using the “cd” or “chdir” command; What you type should look like this: “cd C:\Users\YourUsername” (without quotes).
    change directory command
  5. Before I proceed, I’ll give you a short overview of the commands that you’ll be using. The main command is the “attrib” command which allows you the change properties of the file or folder. To see the list of commandline arguments that you can pass to the attrib command, do the following: type in “C:Users\YourUsername attrib /? and hit “Enter”. The following items should be displayed:
    Microsoft Windows [Version 6.1.7600]
    Copyright (c) 2009 Microsoft Corporation.  All rights reserved.
    C:\Windows\System32> cd C:\Users\Jane
    C:\Users\Jane> attrib /?
    Displays or changes file attributes.
    ATTRIB [+R | -R] [+A | -A ] [+S | -S] [+H | -H] [+I | -I] [drive:][path][filename] [/S [/D] [/L]]
    +  Sets an attribute.
    -   Clears an attribute.
    R  Read-only file attribute.
    A  Archive file attribute.
    S  System file attribute.
    H  Hidden file attribute.
    I   Not content indexed file attribute.
    [drive:][path][filename]  Specifies a file or files for attrib to process.
    /S  Processes matching files in the current folder and all subfolders.
    /D  Processes folders as well.
    /L Work on the attributes of the Symbolic Link versus the target of the Symbolic Link


  6. To cut this narrative short, the relevant command for removing the hidden file attribute & system file attribute from your user folder, enter the following command:
    attrib -H -S "C:\Users\YourUsername" /S /D 

    Unhide User Folder in Vista

It seems rather self-explanatory in retrospect, but I totally bombed during the first few days of trying to figure out the solution. I didn’t arrive at this solution by dint of my “smartitude“. God, I love the Urban Dictionary. lol. I’ve always sworn by this phrase, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing‘ so I don’t even want to leave the slightest intimation that I am the source of any of these epiphanies unless I explicitly tell of how I discovered so-and-so. The following links were invaluable to me during those trying days. ๐Ÿ˜€ In retrospect, I think why I didn’t happen on the solution sooner via Google was because of the way I crafted my inquiry to Google. If I’ve learned anything from the web, it’s that to get the right answers, you have to ask the right questions. Without further ado, the gurus:

  1. Tim Sneath at Musings of a Client Platform Guy. The relevant article is titled: “Windows Vista Secret #11: Deleting the Undeletable” His suggested solution didn’t work right away for me, but it was good reading it. His post will help you if you are dealing with screwy ACL permissions.
  2. The How-To Geek on removing hidden file attribute.

My current computer backup situations

Ever since I purchased an HP dv9700t CTO notebook PC, I’ve had to reformat this computer over 3 times now. The reason is simple: I like to try out new things on the computer and that more often than not, include alpha, beta and even gamma software. I’d like to say that I’ve learned and reformatting my PC (as a last solution) is a thing of the past. Alas! I cannot guarantee that. So, here’s what I’ve learned from owning a computer that I deliberately introduce chaos into:

  1. If you don’t know what a virtual machine or virtualization means, learn it NOW. Invest an operating system (Linux or Microsoft) and learn how to run that operating system inside a virtual environment. This article is going to be short so go ahead and read my article about my experience with two virtual machines (Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 and VirtualBox) Both are free virtual machine managers and are widely recommended for regular users.
  2. Windows Complete Image backup is NOT the same as merely backing up your files. In fact, based on my experience with Windows Complete Image backup and Windows File Backup available to Vista Ultimate users, I will say this: it would really really be smart to have a full featured backup solution in addition to Windows built-in backup feature. I would recommend Acronis True Image 2009 which is not bad at the price tag of $49.99. I’ve used Acronis on my computer since they had Acronis True Image 10 and since I discovered that you can’t retrieve individual files/folders from a Windows Complete Image backup, I’ve returned to using Acronis True Image. The reason: each time I perform a complete PC backup using Windows Backup and Restore center, it’s over 70gbs in size. Guess how much it costs (in terms of space consumed on the hard disk) to create a file backup using Windows Backup and Restore Center? Roughly ~65gbs (leaving all the default settings checked because Windows doesn’t even give you the chance to pick & choose what files you want to backup)!!! So, like I always say, economics (of space) is the reason I’m switching back to Acronis True Image 2009. That way, I’ll have just one ~ 70GB backup file on my external hard drive AND be able to extract my individual files from it!
  3. Good old fashioned DVD-R or CD-R backups:- After my last disaster scenario (i.e. I lost close to 3 weeks worth of work), I have seen the light in having copies of precious files on disks. I was actually able to pare my loss down to 2 weeks because I had copied the “My Documents” folder on my laptop to a regular DVD (~ 4.3 GBs of data).

So there you have it! Good luck and stay tuned for more on my blog and at my Channel (Jane Talks Tech!)

Sour grapes or straight talk – you decide. :)

So, as Matt will attest to, I’ve been going slightly nuts since learning about the HP magic giveaway & entering sites participating in the HP magic giveaway contest (sponsored by HP, Microsoft, BuzzCorps & Corel). I am going on record now to say that I’m done entering. lol. Seriously.

Well, I’m done entering sites that aren’t going by a simple luck of the draw. What with the bulk of the giveaway sites wanting you to sign up for all the Web 2.0 services known to mankind, it’s a small nightmare (for me anyway). Kudos to those who are going to do read over entries although I know that there’s zero chance of me winning in such a case. I’ve been blessed by God and even though I know organizations in need, how can you truly tell if I’m blowing smoke up your butt? Some winners (e.g. Evan Brammer) are for real & I’m just glad he’s off the giveaway circuit because he would’ve won anyway. lol). If this post is a little (okay, a lot crabby, call it sour grapes. LOL.

A lot of the bloggers have reminded entrants that they’re the sole judge, jury & executioner. Fair enough, but one particular website (hint: it’s the one that wants your first born child. Okay, there’s no such one, but it rubbed me the wrong way. Send me an email if you really want to know) kinda sent me over the edge. Talk about getting a God complex just because you have been privileged to throw such a contest. Okay, I’m being very dramatic about this because they were given carte blanche & they’re only doing what’s smartest for them. Anyhow, I’ll just highlight a couple of contests I liked and/or entered:

  1. Chris Pirillo ran his contest with a shrewd goal in mind: get people to post slightly thoughtful articles which he put up on his website. I didn’t enter this one because I couldn’t think of something that would stand out. My guess is that hundreds of people submitted all sorts of articles. Guess whose site will rank higher in Google’s eyes? ๐Ÿ™‚
  2. Gottabemobile (as I expected) ran a smart contest. In fact, I contemplated not entering their contest because I didn’t feel “worthy” (so to speak) & slightly guilty because I’d just won something from their site before. I didn’t submit my entry till last night and by so doing, I sort of sabotaged myself. I truly believe that they did agonize over whom to pick & they did make a right choice: not me. lol.
  3. Carlos Alberto’s giveaway has a slightly sadistic twist (Kidding!) because some of his rules include going through his posts and finding certain words. That was fun to enter because I watched some videos that I hadn’t watched before. Even more fun for running his site through Google Translate service and hoping that it worked as described. ๐Ÿ˜€
  4. Long Zheng‘s contest was a simple “enter your email & I’ll randomly pick a winner” type of entry. However, he also got something out of the entrants i.e. he’ll be able to get some idea of our systems & encouraged people to check out the Microsoft Vista operating system.
  5. Liz-Henry‘s giveaway idea was also very smart, honest & straight forward. All she wanted was a thoughtful comment on any of her posts and she would pick the winner randomly. I didn’t enter this contest because I kept wondering what to write. I didn’t want to leave some thoughtless comment just to qualify. So, I lost out on this one which had only 100 entries.
  6. Julie Strietelmeier at The Gadgeteer who invited participants to showcase their creativity by making images that were inspired by Technology & showed her site’s logo somewhere.

The contests aren’t over yet, but these are a small sampling of the entries that I’ll be entering from now. Simple, no bullshit contest. </end> ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll write about my computer adventures later on so stay tuned.