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How to Show and See Hidden Files/Folders on Mac

By Carrie Murray, Thursday, February 07, 2019

There can be hundreds of reasons why we need to hide certain files on the Mac computer, either for privacy or for security. Your Mac also has its secret files to hide, which are usually the system data like the application support files, other access and preferences information, for example, the ~/Library folder.

Those files or folders are hidden by default for Mac's smooth running, but in case you need to view them for examining or repairing, here we will offer you several methods to show the hidden files and folders on Mac, which can work on macOS Mojave, macOS High Sierra, Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite, and more.

Just a head-up: you should make sure that you know what you are doing when making changes to those system hidden files, or else changing important system files could cause trouble to your Mac.

Related Reading:

How to Hide Files and Folders on Mac

How to Encrypt Files and Folders on Mac

Method 1: See Hidden Files and Folders on Mac with Shortcut

One of the simplest ways to view the hidden files/folders on Mac is using the keyboard shortcut to reveal the hidden files. But this method requires you remember the saving path of them.

Access hidden ~/Library folder with shortcut

Step 1: Open Finder.

Step 2: Expand the Go menu.

Step 3: Press Option and the Library folder will be revealed.

Go to Library on Mac

See other hidden files/folders with shortcut

Step 1: On the Finder menu, click on Go > Go to Folder….

Step 2: Type in the saving path that you put the secret files/folders in, as well as the file name, for example, "~/Desktop/SecretFiles". And then hit the Go button or press Enter key.

Go to Folder

Step 3: Open Finder window, click on a different folder first.

Step 4: Click on the folder you saved the secret files, and then press Command + Shift + Period (".") key. Then the hidden files will appear. (Note: most of the default hidden files are named starting with a ".".)

Method 2: Show Hidden Files in Finder with Terminal

If you don't remember, or don't know the exact path where the secret files are, you can access them through Terminal:

Step 1: Launch Terminal by searching it in Spotlight, or from Finder > Utilities.

Step 2: Type in: defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE. Click Enter. Then type: killall Finder. Click Enter. 

Step 3: Right-click on the Finder icon in the Dock, and choose "Hide".

Step 4: Click on Finder icon again to launch it. All the hidden files/folders, no matter the system ones or those you hid them deliberately, are supposed to show up now. Locate the one you are looking for.

Show Hidden Files on Mac

TIP: After checking the secret files, if you want to hide them back again. In the Terminal window, execute these two commands and then the secret files/folders will vanish again as you wish.

  • defaults write AppleShowAllFiles FALSE

  • killall Finder

Method 3: Unhide Hidden Files with Terminal

If you once hid certain files in Terminal with the command containing "hidden", to unhide them is quite simple:

Step 1: Open Terminal window and type in "chflags nohidden ". Don't forget a space after the last word.

Step 2: Drag and drop the hidden files/folders to the Terminal window.

Step 3: Press Enter key to run the command. And then you'll find the previously hidden data is visible now.

Hide Files with Terminal

Another way is to go back to the earlier hidden command and revise it:

Step 1: In the Terminal window, press the up arrow key to scan all the previous commands.

Step 2: Locate the earlier hidden command. Press the left arrow key to move to the word "hidden" and change it to "nohidden ". Again, don't forget the last space.

Step 3: Hit Enter key to run it.

Method 4: Reveal Hidden Files/Folders Using Hidata (If you hid them on Hidata before)

If you used Hidata to hide secret files before, this smart Mac data management tool can also help you unhide them back easily:

Step 1: Click on Hidata icon to launch it.

Step 2: Enter the password and press Enter key to unlock.

Enter Password to Unlock Hidata

Step 3: All the hidden folders will show up in the left side-bar. Locate the secret file(s) you want to unhide.

Step 4: Click on the blue circle icon at the far-right side of the file name. Toggle it from blue to grey. When it is blue, the file will be hidden; while when it is toggled on grey, the hidden file will show up on your Mac normally.

Unhide Files with Hidata

There is also another more convenient way to show the hidden list in Hidata, as Hidata also has a shortcut in the menu bar:

  • Click on the Hidata shortcut.

  • In the pull-down dialog, enter your passcode and click the right arrow button to unlock it.

  • Here shows the list of all the hidden files on your Mac.

  • Click on the blue circle icon next to the file name. Toggle it from blue to grey in order to make the secret file(s) appear.

Unhide Files from Menu Bar Shortcut

Do the methods above help you successfully discover the secret files/folders on your Mac? Any feedback or better solution is welcome to comment. If you find the guide useful, please give us a thumb-up and share it with more people!

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