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How to Make Mac Show Hidden Files (Comprehensive Tutorial in 2022)

Updated on Wednesday, May 11, 2022

iBoysoft author Anna Yuan

Written by

Anna Yuan
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Jessica Shee

How to Make Mac Show Hidden Files (Comprehensive Tutorial in 2022)

Summary: This post tells how to make Mac show hidden files quickly. If you can't locate certain disappeared files on your Mac computer, you can also use iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery to find them easily.

recover and show hidden files on Mac

It is reasonable and convenient that macOS keep some files hidden by default. However, what if you need to show hidden files for some reason? For example, you manually hide some files on your Mac with the "chflags hidden" command, keeping them from accidental deletion, but later you can't find these hidden files anymore.

Or you want to delete some leftover files after uninstalling apps on Mac, but you can't find them because Mac OS has hidden those files. What should you do to make Mac show hidden files or hidden folders?

Don't worry. This article will guide you on how to show hidden files on Mac as well as show hidden folders on Mac. Just keep reading.

Table of Contents:

Why does macOS hide files or folders?

A hidden file or folder is a file/folder which filesystem utilities do not display by default when showing a directory listing. Mac OS has always hidden some vital files on the startup disk.

You must be wondering, why Apple Inc. doesn't let you see hidden files on Mac? Generally speaking, there are two main reasons:

For security: The main reason is that the core system files need to be hidden so that your Mac can run correctly. It will protect these files from being damaged or deleted by the average Mac user. All the hidden files include preferences, caches, logs, and other service files of the installed apps and the Mac operating system.

For tidiness: Another reason why some files are hidden is that if files on Mac are all visible to you, your computer and the desktop would appear like a mess. Therefore, files that are not used frequently are put out of sight.

show hidden files/folders on Mac

However, in some cases, you probably want to find hidden files to troubleshoot apps' errors, to find some lost/disappeared files, or to clear cache on Mac by deleting hidden files for more available spaces. Don't know how to spotlight these invisible files? Don't worry, the following part will go into detail.

How to show hidden files through a keyboard shortcut?

Actually, a keyboard shortcut is the easiest and the most efficient way of viewing hidden files on Mac computers, because you only need to press some keys on your keyboard. Showing hidden files and folders on your Mac with the following steps:

  1. Click the Finder icon at the Mac Dock to open it.
  2. In the left sidebar, click the Macintosh HD folder under Locations.
  3. Press Command + Shift + Period (.) key combinations.  
    shortcut to show hidden files/folders on Mac

Then, you will see a dozen of Macintosh HD folders and files that appear as grayed out in the right column. That indicates all the hidden files are showing up. To access the files of a Macintosh HD folder, double-click on it.

show hidden files/folders in the Finder on Mac

Besides macOS volume, this method can also be used to show hidden files and folders on external hard drives and USB flash drives, and view hidden files on sd cards. If you can't see files on the external hard drive on Mac, maybe those files are hidden. Using this key shortcut should work, too.

How to reveal hidden files via the Mac Finder?

The Finder is the default file manager and graphical user interface shell used on macOS. It is responsible for all applications, files, disks, network volumes, etc. So, if you want to reveal hidden files and folders, you can do it via the Finder.

  1. Open the Finder on your Mac.
  2. Click Go on the menu bar and press the Option key (It would be the Alt key on some keyboards), you will see the hidden Library folder.
  3. Hold the Option key still, click on the Library folder and check if you can find the desired files.

Alternatively, you can also do the following to see and access the contents of the hidden Library folder.

  1. Open the Finder on your Mac.
  2. Click Go from the menu bar.
  3. Choose Go to Folder or press the Shift + Command + G keys.  
    go to the folder on Mac
  4. Type "~/Library" into the box and click Go.  
    open the Library folder on Mac Finder

Didn't locate the files that you want with the methods mentioned above? Well, let's move forward to the next method.

How to unhide the hidden files on Mac with Terminal?

Showing hidden files on Mac with the Terminal utility is another advanced way. Running Terminal requires familiarity with the command prompt. If you are familiar with the command line, do the following to make your Mac show hidden files and folders:

  1. Open Terminal from Launchpad > Other.
  2. Type in the following command in the Terminal window and press the Return key.defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
  3. Then type in this one and hit the Return key to refresh the Finder and the desktop.killall Finder   
    find the hidden files on Mac with Terminal

Take a look now in your Macintosh HD folder to see all the hidden folders/files revealed including any temporary files saved on the desktop.

How to recover and show hidden files on Mac with software?

It is possible that you still can't see hidden or disappeared files on your Mac after trying all the mentioned solutions. The last resort to let Mac show hidden files is to use an intuitive third-party app.

iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery is a professional and 100% safe app to help you quickly retrieve all the files on your Macintosh hard drive, including the hidden ones. No matter what the reason you lose data, such as accidental deletion, virus attack, or secret files hidden by the Mac operating system, this software can get those files back.

This app is fully compatible with macOS 12 Monterey, macOS 11 Big Sur, macOS 10.15 Catalina, macOS 10.14 Mojave, macOS 10.13 High Sierra, macOS 10.12 Sierra, and Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan, 10.10 Yosemite, and 10.9 Mavericks. Besides, it works fine on Mac models with T2/M1/M1 Pro/M1 Max chips.

Through only 4 steps, you can recover and show hidden files and folders on Mac:

  1. Free download, install and launch iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac on your computer.
  2. Select the startup disk that contains the hidden files and folders and click Scan. This will scan for massive files on this drive, including all the hidden files and lost/deleted data.  
    recover hidden files on Mac
  3. Once the scanning process is finished, you can spotlight the files that you want according to their file types.
  4. Select files that you want to recover and then click Recover to get them back.

With this tool, you can also recover disappeared files from external hard drives, SD cards, USB flash drives, Mac internal hard drives, etc. Moreover, you can use this app to recover lost files from formatted, corrupted, unreadable, and unmountable drives on Mac.

How to hide hidden files on Mac?

After seeing and editing these files, you may want to hide these hidden files again. After all, they're related to the security of your macOS.

Wondering how to do this? Just check the solutions below.

Solution 1: Hide hidden files on Mac with a shortcut

If you have shown the hidden files in Finder with a keyboard shortcut, and vice versa, you can also hide them using the same keyboard shortcut. To do this, just press Command + Shift + Period once more.

Solution 2: Hide hidden files with Terminal

Similarly, if you show them with a command line previously, you can also make these files invisible with Terminal still. Simply do the following.

  1. Open Terminal.
  2. Type the below command in the Terminal command prompt and hit Enter key. defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles FALSE
  3. Still type in this one to refresh the Finder as you did before. killall Finder

How to hide files and folders to make them private?

Probably, you have some private files or folders that you don't want other people to access. For instance, if you stay up to work on a document or design, you don't want others to plagiarize your work. Fortunately, there is a neat trick to hide files and folders on your Mac computer.

  1. Open Terminal on your Mac.
  2. Type in the following command and press the Space key. chflags hidden
  3. Drag files or folders you want to hide into the Terminal window. It will display the file path in Terminal windows, and you'd better record this path so that you can unhide this file when you need it.
  4. Press Enter to ensure this operation. You will see your files disappear from the Finder.

If you want to show the hidden files and folders on your Mac as usual again, you can use the same procedure. But this time, simply type "chflags nohidden" instead of "chflags hidden".

 Note: If you failed to hide files and find the Terminal shows "Zsh: permission denied" prompt, you need to fix the Zsh permission denied error in macOS Terminal first and then try the above commands again.

Wrap things up

It doesn't matter if you want to show the hidden files just out of curiosity or to troubleshoot some issues on your Mac. The aforementioned solutions should be helpful to locate these files. But compared with the complicated command lines, iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac is the easiest and risk-free method to find the missing files on Mac computers.

FAQs about showing hidden files on Mac

A

The easiest way to reveal hidden files and folders in an active Finder window is to press the Shift + Command + period symbol (.) key combinations. This action works everywhere except for the Desktop, and you can hide the affected files and folders again simply by repeating the key combo.

A

Recovering hidden files and folders is definitely possible. In fact, it's just as easy as recovering visible files.