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 findingĀ  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. šŸ˜€ 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.