How to show hidden files on Mac

4 min read

So you're curious about how to show hidden files on Mac? You're not alone; lots of users wonder why there are so many hidden folders on their devices.

Well, Apple has good reasons to keep certain operating system items tucked away and out of sight. And the main rationale is so we, the users, can't accidentally break things.

But there are often times when you need to access or view your Mac's hidden files. To do so, you'll need to proceed with caution and ensure you know what you're looking at — that's where we come in. 

In this article, we'll show you how to locate and remove certain hidden files safely. But first, let's start with the basics.

What are Mac hidden folders?

Unbeknown to many, there are tons of files, folders, and directories hidden away intentionally. Most of these files are crucial for the smooth operation of our macOS so that users rarely need to access them or somehow interact with these files. 

However, not all files are vital, and many hidden files which contain app support data just eat up valuable storage space; these can usually be found in our main Library folder.

If you're running out of room on your Mac, you might want to remove these unnecessary files to save space. Or perhaps you're just curious and want to get familiar with what's hiding on your device. We'll show you how to do this safely in the sections below.

How to show hidden folders on Mac

Before we dive in, without sounding like a nagging parent, it's important to mention once again to take caution when deleting or editing Mac hidden folders. If you're unsure what the file or folder does, then the best thing to do is leave it alone.

But there's no harm in reviewing your Library folder and its hidden contents, so here's how to view hidden files and folders:

How to show hidden folders on Mac

  1. Open a Finder window.

  2. Hold down the Option key.

  3. From the top menu, select Go > Library.

View hidden files on Mac in Terminal 

There's always more than one way of doing things on a MacBook; if you're fluent and proficient in Terminal, this method is for you.

How to view hidden files on Mac in Terminal

  1. Open Terminal from Finder > Applications > Utilities.

  2. Insert the below and press enter:

    defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles true 

  3. Now, insert the below and press Return:

    killall Finder

        This script will reveal all your hidden files. When you're finished looking for, editing, or removing items, follow the steps below to conceal them once again:

        1. In Terminal, enter the following and press enter:

          defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles false

        2. Insert the below and press Return:

          killall Finder

              Running commands in Terminal isn't for everyone; there are easier ways on a Mac to show hidden folders, head to the step below.

              Mac: Show and delete hidden files in one click

              One of the biggest concerns for users when snooping around for hidden files is the fear of removing something that might damage their Macs.

              That's why using a dedicated tool, like the Large & Old Files module from CleanMyMac X, is a much safer bet.

              This smart tool performs a deep system scan and brings together all your files in one simple overview, organized by last viewed, size, and type. You can review and remove anything you do not need in one simple click; here's how:

              LAOF module of CleanMyMacX

              1. Open the app or first try the free version here.

              2. Select Large & Old Files and click Scan to get started.

              3. Once finished, review your files and folders and leisure, select what you want to delete, and click Remove.

              This method, compared to the others, not only saves a considerable amount of time but also ensures that you won't remove anything essential to your Mac's operating system.

              How to view hidden files in macOS with a keyboard shortcut

              It's often the case that you're busy working away on your Mac, and you encounter a folder or file that you suspect contains more.

              Knowing this handy keyboard shortcut will help you show hidden files on Mac that you suspect exist; here's how to do it:

              How to view hidden files in macOS with a keyboard shortcut

              • Press the "Command - Shift and ." keys together to reveal what's hiding within a folder you suspect contains hidden files or subfolders.
              • Just press those keys again to hide them.

              This is great for quickly assessing what's lurking behind the scenes.

              So, we've covered a few different methods for revealing hidden files on your Mac. Hopefully, one of these techniques suits your computing style.

              Let's finish up by looking at some FAQs.

              FAQs: Mac hidden folders

              Can you see hidden files on an external hard drive?

              Yes, you can; you can simply open its location from within Finder and use the keyboard shortcut command above to see any hidden items located on your external hard drive.

              Does revealing hidden files on my Mac damage its performance?

              Locating, showing, or reviewing hidden Mac files and folders won't impact your device's performance. It's only editing or removal of vital operating system files that will cause harm. 

              Can you permanently show hidden files on Mac? 

              Yes, you can, run the below command in Terminal:

              • defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles true 

              Until you run the below command, hidden files will stay visible:

              • com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles false

              If you do decide to permanently keep hidden files in view, take caution, this does make it easier for the wrong file to get removed, especially if you use a shared device.

              OK, so we've covered just about all there is to know about how to show hidden folders on Mac. 

              Don't forget; in general, files are hidden for a good reason — safeguarding — so be sure to only remove files you feel certain and confident won't cause damage or harm to your Mac's operating system.

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