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How to show hidden files on Mac

May 05, 2021

Your Mac has entire libraries and directories hidden away from view. But those files aren't made invisible just to keep your folders looking clean. They're secluded for a reason — deleting, modifying, or moving one could seriously impair your macOS performance. In other words, those hundreds of files are what helps your operating system run without a hitch.

However, if you need to access one of these files, don't worry. Apple offers quite a few ways to show the hidden files Mac has. So, let's take a look at all the ways Mac can show hidden files.

Showing hidden files via Mac Finder

The first and easiest method is using Mac Finder to show hidden files:

  1. Open the folder where you want to search hidden files.
  2. Press the Command + Shift + . (period) keys at the same time.
  3. The hidden files will show up as translucent in the folder.
  4. If you want to obscure the files again, press the same Command + Shift + . (period) combination.

Mac terminal: show hidden files

Another way is by using the Mac Terminal to show hidden files:

  1. Open Terminal by typing “Terminal” in Mac's search bar. Alternatively, you can find it by clicking on Go in the menu bar, selecting Applications, scrolling down to Utilities, expanding the folder, and clicking on Terminal.
  2. Type in defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles true and press Enter.
  3. Type in killall Finder and press Enter again.

Once you run the script, the hidden files should show up in Finder. When you're done, tuck away the files again by following these steps:

  1. Open Terminal.
  2. Type in defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles false and press Enter.
  3. Type in killall Finder and press Enter again.

You can also use Terminal to hide your specific files from prying eyes. To obscure something from view on your Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Open Terminal.
  2. Type in chflags hidden.
  3. Drag the files you want to hide into the Terminal window.
  4. Press Enter to hide the files.

Keep in mind that anyone can reveal the folders you just hid by using the same methods. If you want to secure your data from snoopers properly, consider NordLocker's Mac file encryption. This way, no one else but you will be able to see the contents of the files.

Viewing hidden files on a Mac using file managers

Another way to reveal hidden files is by using third-party file managers. File managers make the process relatively easy. Here's how to show hidden files on Mac with ForkLift:

  1. Open the ForkLift app.
  2. Click View in the top menu.
  3. Select Show hidden files.

That's it! Now you can tinker with the files as you see fit. But don't forget to be careful — accidentally moving or deleting one of these files can corrupt your computer's performance.

John Sears

John Sears

Verified author

John believes that the best things in life are simple. He uses the same approach when he’s writing about online security. John says that his #1 pet peeve is phishing scams. Ironically, his favorite non-work related activity is fishing.