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How To View Hidden Files on a Mac

Posted by Jessie Richardson on May 24, 2019
How to View Hidden Files on Mac

Security is the primary reason some files are hidden on your Mac. Moreover, the core data needs to stay intact for the system to run smoothly. By default, installed apps’ service files, system files, caches, logs, and preferences are hidden.

Needless to say, deleting the system files by accident can jeopardize the OS, so why would you want to reveal the hidden files? Accessing these files allows you to delete leftover data from the apps you’ve already removed. You can clear cache, backup browser bookmarks, and troubleshoot apps.

There are several ways to view hidden files on your Mac. This article provides you with a quick guide for each one, assuming you are using MacOS Mojave.

Use Finder

This is arguably the quickest and easiest method to view hidden files. Besides MacOS Mojave, it also works on Sierra and other OS iterations prior to Mojave.

Click or tap on Finder and navigate to your Macintosh HD. It is located in the Computer folder under the Go drop-down menu.

View Hidden Files on Mac

Once inside the correct folder, press Cmd + Shift + Dot on your keyboard to make the hidden files visible. If you want to hide the files again just press the keys again and they are gone.

The trick works for app folders and Documents as well. If you want to directly access the Library files, hold the Alt key before selecting the Go menu.

Things to Remember

After revealing the files your desktop might get cluttered with various system files and some auto-saved documents. The good news is you could stumble upon files you thought were lost for good if your Mac crashed.

Don’t forget to hide the files again after you’re done to avoid messing up the system by accident.

Use Terminal

You can utilize command prompts in Terminal to directly control the system and avoid navigating Finder menus and tabs. Some users feel a bit intimidated by Terminal, but you shouldn’t. Running the scripts is easy and you can quickly undo the actions. In addition, if you type in something wrong the command won’t execute.

Press Cmd + Space, type “ter”, and hit Enter to run Terminal. Once inside, enter the following script into the command line:

defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE

Hit Return and enter killall Finder into the next line.

view hidden files on mac

 

To hide the files after you’re done, just switch “TRUE” with “FALSE” in the script above and hit Enter.

A Neat Trick

Finder or Terminal, you’re basically doing the same thing. However, Terminal is somewhat superior because it allows you to hide specific folders and files.

Run Terminal and type chflags hidden in the command line, then hit Space. Grab the file or folder you want to hide and drop it into the Terminal window to reveal the paths. To hide them, just press Return.

view hidden files in mac

To reveal the files and folders you’ve hidden, use chflags nohidden command instead of chflags hidden. Nevertheless, these commands are no secret. There is a possibility someone else might reveal your files using the same trick. This is why some users prefer third-party apps.

File Management Software

If for some reason you don’t feel comfortable with using Terminal or Finder, there are third-party apps that make the entire process pretty straightforward. For the purposes of this article, we’ve selected Forklift and DCommander because they run similar to native apps.

DCommander

DCommander works on MacOS X 10.10 or higher and it is designed to be an all-encompassing file manager. It features a dual-panel interface which makes moving files easy and allows you to keep tabs on both the source and destination of the files.

The app has a Show System Files button in the toolbar, but you need to enable it manually. The app also offers a few advanced features for power users and it’s all neatly packed into intuitive tabs and pop-up windows.

Forklift

If you are just a regular user, Forkliftmight be a better option. This app looks and functions similar to the native Finder so it might be easier for you to manage and reveal the files and folders.

To view the hidden files, select View, then Viewing Options at the bottom of the menu. Tick the box in front of the “Show hidden files” option and you are good to go. Similar to DCommander, Forklift has a dual-pane interface and allows for advanced file management like transferring between servers and apps.

Hide and Seek

In reality, you don’t actually need any third-party software if you want to reveal files for quick fixes. Whether you opt for third-party apps or native software, you should be super careful and avoid tampering with the system files. Remember, there are other ways to clear the cache or do backups on your Mac without revealing the files.

And again should you choose to view the hidden files, it’s important to hide them back after you’re done.

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