How to View Information about Files and Folders in Windows 10

By Andy Rathbone

Whenever you create a file or folder, Windows 10 scrawls a bunch of secret hidden information on it, such as the date you created it, its size, and even more trivial stuff. Sometimes Windows even lets you add your own secret information, including reviews for your music files or thumbnail pictures for any of your folders.

You can safely ignore most of the information. Other times, tweaking that information is the only way to solve a problem.

To see what Windows is calling your files and folders behind your back, right-click the item and choose Properties from the pop-up menu. Choosing Properties on a song, for example, brings up bunches of details, as shown.

A file's Properties dialog box shows which program automatically opens it, the file's size, and oth
A file’s Properties dialog box shows which program automatically opens it, the file’s size, and other details.

Here’s what each tab means:

  • General: This first tab shows the file’s type (an MP3 file of the song “Getting Better”), its size (6.42MB), the program that opens it (in this case, the Music app), and the file’s location.

    Want a different program to open your file? Right-click the file, choose Properties, and click the Change button on the General tab. A list of your computer’s available music players appears, letting you choose your preferred program.

  • Security: On this tab, you control permissions, which are rules determining who can access the file and what they can do with it. System administrators earn high wages mostly for understanding this type of stuff.

  • Details: True to its name, this tab reveals arcane details about a file. On digital photos, for example, this tab lists EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format) data: the camera model, f-stop, aperture, focal length, and other items loved by photographers. On songs, this tab displays the song’s ID3 tag (IDentify MP3), which includes the artist, album title, year, track number, genre, length, and similar information.

  • Previous Versions: After you set up the Windows File History backup system, this tab lists all the previously saved versions of this file, ready for retrieval with a click.

Normally, these tidbits of information remain hidden unless you right-click a file or folder and choose Properties. But what if you want to see details about all the files in a folder, perhaps to find pictures taken on a certain day? For that, switch your folder’s view to Details by following these steps:

  1. Click the View tab on the Ribbon along the folder’s top edge.

    A menu appears, listing the umpteen ways a folder can display your files.

  2. In the Layout group, select Details, as shown here.

    The screen changes to show your files’ names, with details about them stretching to the right in orderly columns.

    To see details about files in a folder, click the View tab and select Details.
    To see details about files in a folder, click the View tab and select Details.

Try all the views to see which view you prefer. (Windows remembers which views you prefer for different folders.)

  • If you can’t remember what a folder’s toolbar buttons do, rest your mouse pointer over a button. Windows displays a helpful box summing up the button’s mission.

  • Switch among the different views until you find the one that fits what you’re trying to accomplish, be it to see a particular photo’s creation date or see thumbnails of every photo in a folder.

  • Folders usually display files sorted alphabetically. To sort them differently, right-click a blank spot inside the folder and choose Sort By. A pop-up menu lets you choose to sort items by size, name, type, and other details.

  • When the excitement of the Sort By menu wears off, try clicking the words at the top of each sorted column. Click Size, for example, to reverse the order, placing the largest files at the list’s top.

  • Feel free to add your own columns to Details view: Right-click a column header you don’t need, and a drop-down menu appears, letting you choose a different criteria.