Sunday, October 26, 2008

How to Hide a File in Vista or XP

How to Hide a Windows Notepad File

Why would you want to hide files on your computer? I don't know about you but I have a lot, and I mean a lot, of passwords to keep up with. Maybe you just keep all of your passwords written down on paper next to your computer. I'm guilty of that myself. However, there are some passwords like the ones to my bank account and my credit cards that I don't feel comfortable having hard copies of lying around. I have them memorized but I want a copy of them someplace other than my cerebral cortex so I have them hidden in a text file on my hard drive.

The NTFS file system in all versions of Windows Vista and XP supports something called Alternate Data Streams. So this will won't work in Windows 98 which uses FAT 32. I just tested this on my laptop running Vista Home Premium and it does work. I've been using it on my XP machine for years now.

This is really neat! And it's very simple and easy to do.

Go to the command prompt. I know you know how but ... hold down the Windows Key and type r and then type cmd in the run box and hit the Enter key. Or you could click the Start button and click Run from there and type cmd in the box and hit your Enter key. Same thing. There are lots of ways to get to the Command prompt.

You should now be at C:\Users\Your Name> or C:\Users\Owner> but wherever you are that is where you're about to create this secret text file. So now all you need to do is type: notepad SomeFile.txt:SecretWord and hit the Enter key. But before you do that read the rest of this first.

Of course it doesn't matter what you name the file you're about to create and it doesn't matter what letters or symbols you use after the colon. I just used SecretWord after the colon as an example. But the syntax is important. Type notepad without a space at the prompt then a space and then SomeFile.txt:YourSecretWord all without any spaces.

When you hit Enter, Windows will send up a box that says "Cannot find the C:\Users\Owner\SomeFile.txt:SecretWord.txt file. Do you want to create a new file? So click Yes. When NotePad opens (and it will) put whatever you want to keep private in it and save it and close it just like you would any other document.

Now here's the cool part. In regular ol' Windows, go to C:\Users\Owner, or wherever you just created this NotePad document and find the document. It will be there titled SomeFile.txt. or whatever you decided to call it. Now click it open. Wow! its blank! O.K. so type some gibberish in it. Anyone who finds this file and opens it will see the gibberish.

To access your secret file go back the command prompt (Ctrl + r then type cmd in the box and hit Enter) and type: notepad SomeFile.txt:SecretWord and hit Enter and there's your hidden file without the gibberish. You can edit it any way you like. Notice how the Title bar reads: SomeFile.txt:SecretWord.txt.

Neat huh? Sure you could use encryption or password-protect a compressed file but this is one of only two ways I know to make a file completely disappear in Windows without having to buy and use some expensive third party software. The way I look at it is, this is way better than encryption. Because unless you know the password that comes after the colon in the command prompt you ain't gonna get to this file.

How to Hide a File Inside a Jpeg

You can also hide a file inside a photograph, a jpeg file to be precise. This method of hiding a file is not nearly so elegant and simple as the above method of hiding a file called Alternate Data Streams. This method does have a couple of advantages over Alternate Data Streams in that this method is portable. You could transport this file to another machine and view the hidden file there. And you can hide several files of any type, not just text files, in one jpeg.

Here's how to hide a file in a jpeg.

Create a folder on the Root drive called "test" (If you don't know how to do that, don't worry. I'll explain it later.) and move the text file you want to hide (We'll call it "secrete.txt) into this folder along with any regular jpeg (We'll call this "regular.jpg"). Oh, one tiny thing I failed to mention is, you're going need a copy of WinRAR. WinRAR is a file compressor sort of like WinZip. You can get a free copy at If you can't find a free copy there just Google "free winrar" and find someplace where you can download it for free. Don't pay for it.

Now in the folder where the jpeg and the file you want to hide reside, right-click the file to be hidden and click "add to new archive" and type a name for the new .rar file. Let's name it "secrete.txt.rar". Now you'll have three files in your folder: the jpeg, the original file to be hidden and the new .rar file.

Now for the magic. Go to a MS-DOS command prompt by typing cmd in the Run box. Remember how we did that earlier? You hold down the Ctrl key and type the letter r and then type cmd into the run box. You should be at C:\Users\Your Name> or C:\Users\Owner> so type "cd\" without the quotes, of course, to get to the Root drive where the folder is. Now type "cd test" and the prompt should read C:\test> and be blinking waiting for you to type so type this without the quotes "copy /b regular.jpg + secrete.txt.rar newpic.jpg" and hit the Enter key. You're done!

Now if you go to the file in Windows and click it open you just see a normal jpeg picture. But if you right-click it and open it with WinRAR and choose the option "all files" you'll see your secrete.txt file that will open like any other file.

Now some explanation.

There two ways to create a directory (folder) on the Root drive. You can open Windows Explorer (not Internet Explorer) by holding down the Windows key (the one to the left of the space bar between Ctrl and Alt) and typing the letter e. Now click the C: disk (that's the Root drive we're looking for) in the left window pane to highlight it and all of C:'s files and folders materialize in the larger right window pane. Right-clock on any empty spot in this larger pane and hold your mouse on New. In the drop box that comes up from this action, mouse up to Folders and click it and name the new folder "test".

The geek way to do the same thing is to go to the command prompt and get to the root drive there (see above) and at the prompt that reads C:\> type "md test" and hit the Enter key.

In MS-DOS md means make directory, cd means change directory so the command "cd test" means change to the "test" directory and the command "md test" means make a directory named "test". "copy /b regular.jpg + secrete.txt.rar newpic.jpg" means copy both of these files and put them both in a new file named newpic.jpg. The /b part is a DOS switch that tells DOS "oh, by the way, we want everything to be copied into binary code". Don't worry about what that means, just as long as you know that this trick won't work without the /b switch. Oh, and typing "cd\" means "change directory to the Root directory".

So there you have it. Those are the only two ways I know to completely hide a file in Windows XP and Vista. The second method, hiding a file in a jpeg, will work in earlier versions of Windows as well, like Windows 98, 98SE, Millennium, even Windows 95.

If you know of any other way to hide files in Windows, or if you have any questions or comments about anything in this post or any other posts to this blog, email me at and I will get back to you. If you have a Gmail account you could leave a comment at the bottom of this post and I'll respond to that too.

Don't forget to visit my Website at And if that's how you got here in the first place, hit your Back button and look around.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Scoroncocolo's Computer Tips

I get asked a lot of questions from people all over the world who assume that just because I have a Website that I must be an expert on computers. I'm not, but most of the questions I'm asked are pretty simple and easily answered. I thought I'd blog about the most Frequently Asked Questions I get asked about. To save us both some time, I won't ask the question, I'll just try to answer it.

To find your computer's IP address, open the Command prompt and type "ipconfig" (without the quotes, of course) and hit your Enter key.

To get to the Command prompt, press the Windows key and type the letter "r" and in the Run box that appears type the letters "cmd" and hit your Enter key.

You're IP number will look something like: Now you can open your firewall program on all of your computers and type the IP numbers of all of the computers on your network into their Trusted Zones. This should allow you to access all files and folders on the network on any computer connected to it.

I've never been asked this but another cool use of the Run box is to open it (Win Key + r) and drag a folder, file or program into it. Doing that will put the complete path to that file, etc. in the Run box. Just click in the box to highlight it and Ctrl + c to copy it to the Clipboard. Open any program that you can type into and type Ctrl + v to paste it into that program. Of course, you can find the path of any file by right-clicking it and choosing Properties. Vista has a little known feature that allows you to hold down the Shift key while right-clicking something to give you an option to Copy as Path and clicking that puts the path to that file or folder on the Clipboard. Betcha ya didn't know that.

If the print is too small to read on a Web page just use Ctrl + the plus key to enlarge it. Ctrl + the minus key will size it back down.

You can enlarge an entire Web page or almost any document by pressing the Ctrl key while turning the wheel on your mouse.

When someone sends you something shocking in an e-mail message, something like: Did you know that Barak Obama took his Senate oath of office by placing his hand on the Koran? don't just blithely pass that on to all your on-line friends, go check it out on, the Internet's authority on e-mail myths. And by the way, Obama took his oath on the Bible. And he's a Christian and was never a Muslem. When a politician e-mails you something slamming or sliming his or her opponent don't just take it for granted. Go to and find out the truth.

Have you ever wanted to save an image to your computer so you right-click it expecting to see the dialog box appear that would allow you to Save Image as... but nothing happens? You can save anything you can see on your screen by pressing the PrtScrn key (print screen) and you'll find it on the upper right-hand corner of your keyboard. Pressing that key will place everything that is on your screen onto the Clipboard. Once it's on the Clipboard you can paste it into any Word-like document or go to your Desktop and right-click it and mouse on New and from there click Bitmap Image. When the program opens click Edit and then Paste in XP. You'll have to open the newly created Bitmap from your Desktop in Vista and right-click in it and click Paste.

When searching in Google if you use, let's say, red apples as your search terms you will get results for sites where both of these words are in use, but if you put red apples in quotes "red apples" you will get only results of those sites where those two words appear together. Try it.

Google does math? Oh yeah. Just type something like 17*9+233/7 into Google's search box and Google will spit out the answer which in this case is 186.285714. * means multiply and / means divide by. Google also does unites of measurement and currency conversions. Euros to dollars and such.

Double-clicking a Windows title bar will toggle between maximizing it and half-screening it.

Shortcuts I Use Everyday

You can switch between open programs by using Alt + Tab.

Ctrl + f will bring up the find box in almost any program. Hitting the forward slash key brings it up in Firefox.

In a Web browser, instead of mousing up to the Back Button just use Alt + the back arrow key. You can use the forward arrow key to go the other way.

You can use the spacebar to go down one sreen-worth of text in any browser. Shift + the spacebar goes back up.

Ctrl + c copies anything that's been highlighted to the Clipboard.
Ctrl + v inserts material from the Clipboard onto a document i.e. an email you're composing or whatever.
Ctrl + x works like Ctrl + c but it also deletes the highlighted material provided it isn't Read-only material.
Ctrl + a highlights the entire page.

To highlight a block of text, click in front of the passage you want to highlight to make your curser start blinking there then hold down the Shift key and click behind the last word in the block of text.

To highlight a single word just double-click it.

To highlight an entire paragraph in any Web browser, place your mouse over any word in the paragraph and triple-click it.

You can select (highlight) multiple files that are in a row, say on your Desktop for instance, by highlighting the first one then holding down the shift key while highlighting the last one. All of the files between the two will also be highlighted.

You can select (highlight) multiple files that are not in a row by highlighting one then holding down the Ctrl key while you highlight the others.

By default in both XP and Vista you select a file by clicking it and open it by double-clicking it. You can change this to where you can select (highlight) a file by mousing over it and open it with a single click. This is far superior to the default behavior. To change to this method in XP open Windows Explorer (Windows key + e) and click Tools and then click Folder Options in the drop-box and check the option that says, "single click to open an item (point to select)" and click apply and then OK.

While you're in the Folder Options area of Windows Explorer you might want to make some further improvements to the way Windows behaves. You might want to click the View tab and check "Show hidden files and folders" and uncheck "Hide extensions for known file types" and click apply and ok. You don't really want Windows hiding stuff from you, do ya?

You can follow the same steps to alter Vista's behavior with one additional step. When you open Explorer (Windows Explorer, not Internet Explorer) by holding down the Windows key and typing the letter e, Tools won't be there. To make it appear, press the Alt key.

Always make a note on paper of what you change so that you can go back and change it back to the way it was. If you're not a fairly experienced computer user, and don't know the difference between, say, a .txt file and a .doc file, don't make these changes.

I'll put up some more tips in another post someday soon. In the meantime, if you know of some neat computer tips you'd like to share, post them in the comments section of this post. If you have a question, post it here in the comments section of this post.