How to Show Hidden Files and Folders on a Mac
Tips • April 3, 2023
Hidden files and folders on a Mac are typically system folders that contain vital data that your macOS needs, and are hidden from view for security and tidiness reasons. Although you might not need access to these files regularly, you might need them to fix an issue, delete a preferences file for an application, or modify your system.
Locating hidden files and folders can be difficult, but we have you covered with several methods, including using Finder, Terminal, or third-party applications.
RELATED: How to Uninstall Apps on Mac (incl. M1 M2)
What are hidden files and folders?
Hidden files and folders are files and folders that are hidden by default on a Mac to prevent users from unintentionally deleting or modifying them. These files typically hold important system settings and preferences that are necessary for your operating system to operate properly.
The Library folder is the location that contains these important system files and settings for both the operating system and the downloaded apps. By first finding the Library folder in the user’s Home folder, you can find these files in the Library folder. To do this, follow these simple steps:
- Open Finder on your Mac
- Select “Go” from the Finder menu bar, and then “Go to Folder…”.
- Type “~/Library” (without quotes) in the dialog box, and click “Go”.
As a note of warning, accidentally deleting or changing these files in the Library folder can create issues with your computer’s software and Mac operating system. Since there may be risks involved, it is best to view these with caution and to avoid making any modifications inside the Library subdirectory unless you are familiar with the working of Mac operating systems.
What kind of files are hidden from being seen on Mac?
Many different types of files and folders are typically hidden in the Finder by default or blocked from being seen. Some examples include the following.
System Data: These files, which include kernel extensions, drivers, and system setup files, are necessary for your Mac operating system to operate correctly.
Preferences: These are files that contain the operating system and application system preferences. Typically, these include network settings, user interface settings, and application-specific settings.
Caches: Applications and the operating system generate caches, which are temporary files, to improve efficiency. They consist of items like system caches, font caches, and online browser caches.
Log files: These files store details about system actions and events, including performance statistics and error messages. They are frequently used by programmers and help staff to solve issues.
Hidden Directories: Hidden folders are used by the operating system and apps to keep files but are invisible to the user in the Finder. For instance, the “Library” directory, which by default is hidden, holds important system data and configurations.
Again, all these files are hidden by default to avoid accidental changes or deletions because any change to them can affect how well your Mac’s operating system performs and functions. Users still have access to these files and the ability to alter them if strictly required.
How to show hidden files with Finder
Using ‘Finder’ is the easiest way to uncover hidden files. To get started, simply follow these steps:
- Open Finder by clicking on the icon in the Dock or by pressing Command + Space. Type “Finder” into Spotlight, then press Enter.
- You can access User Folder by clicking on “Go” and choosing “Go to Folder” or pressing Command + Shift + G. Click on “Go to Folder” and type /Users/[username]/. Replace “[username]” and then press Enter with your Mac username.
- You can show hidden files by pressing Command + Shift + Period (.) or by clicking “View” in the Finder menu and selecting “Show Hidden Files”. The current directory will display all hidden files.
- If you want to hide hidden files again, press Command + Shift + Period (.) or click on “View” in the Finder menu and deselect “Show Hidden Files”.
As a pro tip, you can recognize hidden files and folders by looking for files and folders that have a dot (.) at the beginning of their name. Hidden files and folders are frequently titled with a dot (.) at the beginning of their name.
If you’d rather use Terminal, launch it, browse to the folder where you want to look for hidden files and folders, and then enter “ls -a” to see a list of all files and folders in the current directory, including hidden files and folders.
How to view hidden files on Mac with a shortcut
You can also use a keyboard shortcut, which is the quickest and simplest method to show hidden files on a Mac, to change the accessibility of those files.
- Launch the Finder.
- On your keyboard, press Command + Shift + Period (.).
- By doing this, all hidden files and directories in the present directory will be visible.
- To hide them again, just hit Command + Shift + Period (.) again.
Pro Tip: The files that appear after entering this command will have a lock icon next to them, indicating that they are hidden files. As previously mentioned, be careful when deleting these files because they can contain information needed by macOS for normal operations.
How to see hidden files on Mac with Terminal
You can also use a Terminal command to view hidden files and folders. Enter the following instruction into the Terminal program, which can be found in the Applications folder’s “Utilities” folder.
defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -boolean true; killall Finder
By using this command, you can have Finder show hidden files and folders.
Enter the following instruction to hide them again.
defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -boolean false; killall Finder
Press Enter on your keyboard after entering the command to run it. Your user password might be required to confirm the update.
How to show hidden files on Mac with 3rd-party apps
In addition to the methods that are already built-in, some third-party applications allow you to view hidden files and folders.
You can use Funter to toggle the visibility of your hidden files and folders. To do so:
- Download and install Funter from nektony.com.
- Access Funter Directly from the Menu Bar for Quick Hidden File Management.
- Easily Toggle Hidden File Visibility on a Mac.
- Make Hidden Files Persistently Visible on Your Mac, Even After a Finder Relaunch
You can avoid the hassle of trying to find your hidden files and folders using the Finder or the Terminal by using this third-party software Funter. Funter can also be used to transfer these files to another location.
This is another third-party Finder alternative application that offers advanced file control features for macOS. Here’s how to use Forklift to view hidden files and folders:
- Install Forklift on your Mac by downloading it from the Setapp site
- From the Applications folder, launch Forklift.
- Go to View > Show Invisible Files in the Forklift navigation bar, or press the computer shortcut Shift + Command + Period. (.).
- Forklift will now show hidden files and folders. Like regular files and folders, you can explore and control them.
- Use the same computer shortcut or return to the View menu and select the “Show Invisible Files” option to hide the hidden files and folders again.
How to hide files and folders on a Mac
It is best to keep these files hidden to safeguard the functionality and safety of your operating system and avoid their unintentional deletion or change. On a Mac, follow these steps to hide files and folders:
- Choose the folder or file you want to hide.
- Select “Get Info” from the drop-down option by performing a right-click on the file or subdirectory.
- Select the “Hidden” option under the “General” part in the Info window that pops up.
- Close the Info tab.
As a warning, once these files and directories have been hidden, neither the Finder nor any other browsing program will be able to view them anymore. The previously mentioned ways can still be used to view them, but if you want to guarantee complete security, you might want to consider encrypting these files.
How to clear hidden files on Mac
Although these files are hidden, they can still consume a significant amount of storage space on your Mac, which will slow down the operation of the operating system. You can easily delete these hidden files and free up the space that these files take by doing the following:
- Launch Finder and go to the folder you want to delete the hidden files from.
- To access the “Go to Folder” dialog window, press the shortcut “Shift-Command-G.”
- After typing “.DS_Store,” select “Go.”
- Drag the folders ending in “.DS_Store” to the Trash.
- Repeat the process to delete any additional hidden files, such as “.Trashes,” “.Spotlight-V100,” or “.fseventsd.”
Additionally, you can also safely remove hidden files by using CleanMyMac X. It’s what we used when we needed to regain some space by deleting useless files, add-ons, broken login items, caches, large and old files we didn’t know we had. Here’s a beginner’s guide on how to use CleanMyMac X.
Be cautious with hidden files
As the techniques we discussed above, you can customize and manage your files and folders on a Mac by displaying or hiding hidden files.
Just keep in mind that dealing with hidden files requires caution because deleting or changing them might have an impact on your system or apps. You can handle your hidden folders on your Mac securely and simply by following the instructions provided in this article.
And if all else fails, you can just turn your computer off and on again, as it’s the oldest trick in the book. Additionally, there are many data recovery tools available so you don’t have to worry too much about deleting the wrong files.