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I am pretty sure that in Windows XP, if you go into the Folder Options and then select "Show hidden files, folders and drives" and also uncheck "Hide protected operating system files", then Windows Explorer will show you ALL files.

But that does not appear to be the case in Windows 7 (I am using Ultimate 64-bit). For example, according to this question, Windows 7 has the following 2 directories:

%AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\AutomaticDestinations 
%AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\CustomDestinations

But I cannot find them by just clicking around in Windows Explorer. I can navigate to %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows in Windows Explorer, but then I don't see a "Recent" directory. I only see a "Recent Items" directory and it does not have the "AutomaticDestinations" and "CustomDestinations" directories.

However, if I copy and paste "%AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\AutomaticDestinations" or "%AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\CustomDestinations" into the Windows Explorer address bar, then it shows me the contents of the directory. But then a couple of odd things happen:

1) Even though I am seeing the contents of %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\CustomDestinations, the Windows Explorer address bar shows "Computer > VOLUMENAME (C:) > Users > username > AppData > Roaming > Microsoft > Windows > Recent Items"

2) The left pane of Windows Explorer that shows the file system tree highlights an empty folder (just a folder icon with no name) underneath the "Recent Items" directory.

What is this bizarre behavior, and is there any way to get Windows Explorer to show ALL files/directories?

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This behaviour is caused by this folder being a special one. Special folders in Windows are definied by desktop.ini located in the folder, they are also invisible from Explorer.

You can enable showing of AutomaticDestinations and CustomDestinations by deleting contents of %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\desktop.ini in Notepad (back it up beforehand).

Take note that, if you're using a language version of Windows other than English the folder name will revert to Recent in Explorer as well - the name is localized on non-English versions.

This might also break the functionality of Recent items overall so you shouldn't keep it without it's desktop.ini.

There is one article on Microsoft's site regarding dekstop.ini, but it's mostly used internally by Explorer/other pieces of Windows.

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The Desktop.ini also prevents the complete context menu from being displayed inside that special directory. –  Karan Dec 28 '12 at 21:24
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