Vista and Windows 7: Show or Unhide File Extensions

   Posted March 14, 2006 by Jimmy Selix in Microsoft Vista

Most power users of Windows will want to see file extensions for all files. Here is how to see file extensions when browsing in explorer. This technique works for Vista and Windows 7.

File name extensions are the characters at the end of a file name that tells Windows what application should run and open the file. The file extensions are preceeded by a period. For example, in config.sys the .sys is the file extension.

As changing file extensions can confuse Windows when trying to open the file, by default Windows hides these file extensions by default. This is an attempt to protect users from accidentally changing the file extension when renaming the file.

However, power users will always need the ability to see file extensions in order to debug or to do advanced functions. Many tutorials here on tech-recipes, for example, require the visibility of file extensions to be enabled through this technique.

Enable the Display of File Extensions in Vista or Windows 7:

1. Open a folder or open explorer
2. Click the Layout button (to the left of the Views button) as shown in the picture below.

3. Click Folder Options
4. Click the View tab
5. Uncheck Hide extensions for known file types
6. Click OK

After this, the file extensions should be visible and no longer hidden.


About Jimmy Selix

Jimmy Selix is an early adopter that loves to be one of the first on the block to have the latest and greatest in technology and gadgets. Another love of his is being able to share his knowledge to others seeking it. Feel free to drop any comments or questions that you may have.
View more articles by Jimmy Selix

The Conversation

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  • MF

    I cannot understand that M$ cannot undserstand that this is a good thing. Stupid f***ing M$…
    // MVHMF

  • M.

    Thanks… for some odd reason I had thought it to be under, Customize this folder.

  • Steph


    Crazy Vista, before I read this I had not even NOTICED that tool bar in the explorer.

  • Utkarsh

    Great man..thanks for the support.
    Vista is new….so we will take time to know it.

    • UghMS

      Which is exactly the problem with MS. For some reason they think it’s ok to force their users to relearn how to do everything each time they release a new OS, all under the misguided notion that they have somehow made it easier to use (especially for new users). My favorite such thing is the dynamic start menu where things move around based on a complex algorithm of how often it’s been clicked on and how much MS thinks I should be using a program. That’s the only way I can explain why IEXPLORER keeps ending up near the top of the start list.

  • jan frederiksen

    well, thank you for that. I’m new to Vista and I find it difficult to adjust & find the things I’m used to from XP.

  • anon

    Just another reason VIsta is terrible

  • Fraser

    Thanks, my version of vista is a bit different so it took my a awhile to find the layout link 😛

  • Hawk

    Seems like Mickysoft just keeps finding new ways of making the computer more difficult to operate. I don’t understand why. :

    • Namme

      I like how people keep saying windows sucks, but at the same time they keep searching for help on the internet 😉

  • freetrial

    If you hit Alt key, it will show you all of the other options just like XP. =)

    • kyle

      easier than my method lol. good job good info. i never knew that!

    • mike



      now i see the things that i know how to manipulate!

    • zzapper

      Cruel-cruel Mickeysoft, thanks a bunch for hiding this feature so well.

      Thanks for the Alt Key Tip


  • Anthony

    MYN IS IN CHINESE CUSE I CAN ONLY GET LEGAL CHINESE VISTA HERE AND I CAN’T READ ANY CRAP ON IT!! i ticked everything and unticked eveyrthing cuse i can’t read chinese but there was no difference

  • Matthew

    OMFG! thanks so much man, i so hate that. i never knew how to change that, i usualy had to which computers to change it.. gosh, thanks again. 😀

  • kyle

    if like me you dont have that button, click organize then layout and check mark menu bar. go to tool>options, click the view tab and its right there.

    • Jaydenismyworld

      Thank you!! I was wondering if I was going crazy!!

  • Regs

    this is a little outdated (for me at least): almost the same, but instead of hitting layout, you have to click organise and find layout from there.

    thanks for pointing me the right way though

  • dkl

    Thank you. It takes forever to find these annoying little details on your own. This one is my particular pet peeve with vista. Actually I have a “cat lady” type collection of peeves with vista, not just a single pet, but this one is first. Thanks for helping me get rid of it.

  • neha


  • desparatelyseekingchocolate

    THANK YOU!!! This has been driving me nuts!!!!

  • wolfwatcher

    Thank you so much! I had to change a file extension to run a program for school and could not figure this out (I’ve had vista for 3 days). You guys rock =)

  • Fish

    Thanks so much! You saved me from much heartache and headache. I needed to change a file ext. to be able to play my kids wrestling videos! Thanks again!


    There is no layout button to the left of the Views button.

  • tinky2jed

    I have Vista-64, but there is no layout button to the left of the other buttons. Now what?

    • trek

      There’s an organize button that is different than the layout button on mine, but in the same location (perhaps SP1 changed this?) but through liberal application of brain power you should be able to figure it out once you find the right button

  • wayneski

    yea microcrap, hiding extension to what end exactly??????

    geez, like we are going to be a good little servant to your every whim. nice try jack ass.

  • Mark

    Thank you!

  • Angela

    Thank you very much!

  • shane

    My layout buttion doesnt have that option…. and my layout button can only be found under organize

    • demis

      Fortunatelly, all CMD commands remain in VISTA. Thus, you can enter “control folders” in RUN menu (start menu) in order to open the folder options.

      Hope that helped 🙂

  • fedup

    This is Rubbish. I dont even have a Layout button. Next to Vies is Organise.

    Vista is Rubbish. I hate it with a passion.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, experienced computer user getting used to Vista. Dammed oddities 😛

  • Juni


    stupid Vista!!!

  • thesfid

    Thank you!


    if u dont have the layout button just go to tools folder options is there

  • eljay

    Thank you!

  • Scott Priestley

    I recently made the leap to Vista and do a lot of file-level work and a quick search led me to your post!

  • Rafael

    Nice and easy. If there any way to show all file extension in all folders instead of just doing the same operation one by one?

    Thank you!

  • Steve

    Dumb MS for hiding the file extension.

  • Anonymous

    This doesn’t work.

  • Anonymous

    This didn’t work for me.

  • Me

    Thanks, It seems that My system decided to change this on instruction from MS, Its a reel pain in the Arse.

  • Anonymous

    Vista is like that beautiful new Volvo, if I pop the hood I have no clue what to do. I am used to my Fiat, pop the hood and change the oil, easy peasy

  • Anonymous

    thanks nice work dear

  • Hephzibah

    Thank you. Very much.

    And, why is screen Display (wallpaper) under “E” for Ease of Access, in Control Panel?????!!!!?

    Never mind Office 2007, where I had to Google too find the Print command for the trial version……..

  • Hephzibah

    Thank you. Very much.

    And, why is screen Display (wallpaper) under “E” for Ease of Access, in Control Panel?????!!!!?

    Never mind Office 2007, where I had to Google too find the Print command for the trial version……..

  • Anonymous


  • girlgeek

    my version of Vista (SP2) doesn’t show a layout button!

  • Dan

    my files are still showing them, and I HAVE made sure that it doesn’t show, pls help, they’re a mess,

  • Name

    Thank you! That would’ve taken me a while to find. Hopefully I won’t have this much trouble getting accustomed to Windows 7 when I upgrade 🙂

  • Toy

    My computer use Windows Vista, i can see the image file just view medium Icons in View menu, but now can’t see, I don’t know why? Pls tell me how to fix this problem.

  • Toy

    When I insert my Flash drive I see files and folder in my flash drive they are hid, and than I properties on those file and folder I see Hidden check box were check, I can not unchecked, I know that this is virus effect, pls tell me how to fix.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    I was shocked to find out vista didnt do this automatically and havent changed it until now but i noticed the icon didnt show up for me. Instead i had to press ALT to open advanced options and then press Tools and select Folder Options 🙂

  • Anonymous

    you are absolutely right, Vista and Windows 7 treat people like idiots and instead on improve skills they like to see them lost when they use a computer

    • Anonymous

      I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments here.

  • Anonymous

    usless article

  • estuary

    I finally found this a year later!! – all of the stupid work-arounds I have wasted time on. This has been driving me crazy. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    thanks. I always have to use special software to open files with vista, vista tends to be a programmers nightmare, although I still prefer it to xp which I felt was too limiting, I’m waiting for a price drop before upgrading to windows 7.

  • Guyton455


  • John Wirt

    This does NOT work. When I open Explorer there is no Layout button next to the Views button.

    VIsta is like this. A pure pile of ….. It changes in unexpected ways everywhere you go.

    What was the theory of design in Vista. Decide what to display in the same screen situation but whatever time of day it is?


  • Snarky

    my vista was a little different but I figured it out. Thx!

  • Emusker

    thanks so much!
    looked for like 10 min to try and find the option, never figured the default would be to ‘hide’ file extensions…
    honestly the more people know about extensions, the less they’ll break their computer M$.

  • Newearth

    thank you bosss

  • Mlwiltse

    I was just trying to set a file association (Vista 32bit) to a new embroidery program. At somepoint I typed in the name of the program (embird) and all of the file types in 2000 files changed from .jef (the extension my machine looks for) to embird. I can’t figure out how to fix it or even how to get back to the window. Help!


    (Hide file extensions?) Really, M$ makes popups for everything attempting to make things easier (which doesn’t) then they name “Hide File extensions” which “show files extensions”….jesus christ – adios Billie gates…Screw windows dude, MAC here I come…I just can’t take it anymore..I don’t even want to TRY W7…forget it.

  • George

    Thanks! Really helpful!

  • Ross

    What if the “layout button” is not displayed? I’m looking for a “tools > options” menu (something fairly common – if not standard – on other apps) but not having any luck.