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How to show hidden files on Mac: Using Finder and Terminal

Did you know that your Mac has a secret? In fact, thousands of them. I'm talking about hidden files and folders hiding on your Mac's hard drive or SSD. Don’t worry, though. These files and folders are all supposed to be there. In fact, many of them are essential. In this article, I'm gonna be teaching you how to show hidden files on Mac. As a bonus, I'll also show you how to hide any file or folder using Terminal.


What are the hidden files?

Hidden files are a throwback to macOS 'Unix roots. Files themselves contain data such as access rights & privileges for files & folders, application support files, and preferences. Why are they hidden? Well, there are many reasons.

Mostly, it’s because they contain data critical to the smooth running of your Mac. Actually, there’s no real reason for most users to see or access them. Also, if they all show up, your Mac will look badly cluttered.


Where are hidden files stored?

Most of the hidden files are stored in two Library folders: your Mac’s main Library folder and the one (with a tilde), which belongs to your User folder. First, let’s see how to show the user Library folder and keep it visible. Then, I’ll explain how to view hidden files using Finder and Terminal.

Before kicking off, it's important to highlight that you should play it safe when digging through hidden files. Unless you know exactly what you are looking for. You can damage your operating system, so be careful. finally, these files are hidden for a reason!



How to show ~/Library folder

There are several methods for making your user ~/Library folder visible.


Here’s the simplest.

  • Click on the Finder in the Dock to open a new window.
  • Next, navigate to your user or Home folder. If your user folder isn’t there, go to the Finder menu.
  • Choose Preferences, click Sidebar and check the box next to it.

How to show hidden files on Mac: Using Finder and Terminal

  • Now, click on the Go menu and hold down the Option key.
  • See the Library appear just between Home and Computer?
Great! Click on it.

How to show hidden files on Mac: Using Finder and Terminal

  • Alternatively, you can click on the Go menu in the Finder and choose Go to Folder.
  • Type 'tilde, slash, Library' in the window that appears.
  • Finally, hit Go to open the folder.

How to show hidden files on Mac: Using Finder and Terminal


With both these methods, when you close the Finder window, your library folder will disappear again. But how to have it always visible? Super simple! Just drag it to the Finder's sidebar.



How to keep ~/Library folder visible

Want to keep the Library visible but don’t want it dragging up the sidebar?

How to show hidden files on Mac: Using Finder and Terminal

  • No problem! Open Finder once again.
  • Pull down the Go menu & > choose Home.
  • Now, go to the View menu and choose Show View Options.

How to show hidden files on Mac: Using Finder and Terminal

  • Check the box next to Show Library Folder.

How to show hidden files on Mac: Using Finder and Terminal


Note you can make this change only when the user's Home folder is open. Otherwise, the “Show Library Folder” option won’t show up. For some Mac users, the question of looking at hidden files is nothing more than curiosity. Others explore the Library folder to delete the remnants of uninstalled apps and free up some space as their hard drive rapidly fills up.


How to view and remove hidden files with CleanMyMac X

If you’re looking to clean up app leftovers, outdated cache, and more, then a dedicated Mac cleaner might be exactly what you need. Let me show you how to do that with CleanMyMac X. Notarized by Apple, it offers a bunch of useful tools to optimize Mac performance, remove malware, and clean up system junk. CleanMyMac X has a free demo version, so you can try it out at no cost at all.

  • So, to root out all junk clutters, open up the app.
  • Go to the System Junk tab. Hit the Scan button.

How to show hidden files on Mac: Using Finder and Terminal


See how much system junk you can safely delete? Press Clear to do that. As easy as pie!


How to show hidden files on Mac: Using Finder and Terminal


And you won't even need to look for hidden files, CleanMyMac will do all the job for you. Now, let’s move forward and see how to view hidden files using Finder.



How to view hidden files using Finder

It takes just three steps. In Finder, open up your Macintosh HD folder (or whatever you’ve called your startup drive if you’ve renamed it).

  • Press Command-Shift-Dot to make your hidden files visible.
  • Hold the same shortcut keys if you want to hide them again.

How to show hidden files on Mac: Using Finder and Terminal




How to see hidden files using Terminal

If you’re a savvy Mac user already familiar with Terminal, then you might prefer to run the following script to reveal your hidden files.

  • Open Terminal from the Utilities folder in Applications.

How to show hidden files on Mac: Using Finder and Terminal

  • Paste this command and press Return.
  • Then paste another one and hit Return once again.

How to show hidden files on Mac: Using Finder and Terminal

  • To hide the files again, repeat the above steps, but replace ‘true’ with ‘false’ at the first command line.
  • And enter ''killall Finder'' again to relaunch Finder.

Now that you know how to view hidden files on your Mac, you may be wondering how to hide some files or folders and keep them away from prying eyes. You can do it yourself in Terminal.



How to hide files and folders with Terminal


First, launch Terminal. Paste this command. chflags hidden

How to show hidden files on Mac: Using Finder and Terminal


  • Press the spacebar and drag the file or folder you want to hide from the Finder onto the Terminal window.
  • You will see the path to the file or folder displayed in Terminal after the command you typed.
  • Hit Return to execute the command. Now, the file or folder you dragged into the Terminal is hidden.
  • To make it visible again, follow the same steps but use another command instead, and don’t forget to put a space and paste a file’s path for the command to work.

How to show hidden files on Mac: Using Finder and Terminal


I’m really hoping that you found this article helpful. If it was helpful, make sure you give it a share and comment below.

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