How to Show Hidden Files on Mac?

6 Min Read

To prevent sloppy users from messing around with some crucial files in the macOS and causing unexpected consequences, Apple hides certain directories from users by default to guard their safety. However, if there are times when you do need to access the files and how to see the hidden files on Mac becomes a tricky question. This post introduces two simple ways, one using Finder, and the other using Terminal, to grant you access to the files that Apple hides.

How to Access Hidden Files on Mac via Finder

The easiest and quickest way to show hidden files on Mac is using Finder. Here’s how.

  • Open Finder and locate the folder Macintosh HD under Locations.
  • You shall see several directories. Press the key combinations Command + Shift+. (Period) simultaneously.
  • You can also use the shortcuts under each directory.

Alternatively, you can follow another way to show invisible files as below.

  • Open Finder and locate the folder Macintosh HD under Locations.
  • Click Go at the left upper corner from the menu bar at the top.
  • Press Option to see the hidden Library folder.

How to Access Hidden Files on Mac via Terminal

Another way of fulfilling this task is to run command lines in Mac Terminal. With it, you can access and modify macOS by text-based commands. Just to be clear, this method can be demanding for users and needs to be handled with caution.

  • Step 1: Press Command and space together, type in the terminal and launch the program.
  • Step 2: Input defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE and hit Enter.
  • Step 3: Input killall Finder and hit Enter, this command may look terrifying but it’s actually fine to do.

After running the above two lines, you’ll be able to see all hidden files in Finder. It’s also easy to hide the files in case you want to keep them private. Simply replace TRUE in the command line with False and others remain the same. Check it below.

  • Step 1: Input defaults write AppleShowAllFiles False and hit Enter.
  • Step 2: Input killall Finder and hit Enter, this command may look terrifying but it’s actually fine to do.

As you may notice, running command lines in Terminal looks more difficult than using Finder, however, one highlight Terminal owns is that it can hide one single file or folder. Here’s how the magic works.

  • Step 1: Open the Terminal as what’s explained above.
  • Step 2: Type in chflags hidden and hit Space
  • Step 3: Drag the files you want to keep private into the Terminal window, hit Enter

Files Not Showing Up on the External Hard Drive, What to Do?

Besides files not showing up on Mac start-up drive, users encounter the situation that files do not show up on external hard drives as well. If you’ve tried out the above methods but still failed to see the external hard drive on your Mac, check the following ones.

Solution 1: Mount the Drive in Disk Utility Manually

You won’t see an external hard drive or the files within the Mac desktop or Disk Utility if it’s unmounted. To verify and make sure of that, you can first check the drive status in Disk Utility.

  • Step 1: Press Command and Space together, type in Disk Utility and open it.
  • Step 2: See if the drive is listed in the left sidebar, if so, choose it and press the Mount button on the top of the window to manually mount the drive.

Fortunately, you’ll see and access the drive without difficulties. If this doesn’t work for you, it’s possible that your drive is damaged or corrupted. You can perform disk repair in Disk Utility as well.

Solution 2: Repair the Drive Using First Aid in Disk Utility

  • Step 1: Open Disk Utility and select your disk from the left.
  • Step 2: Click First Aid on the top of the Disk Utility window.
  • Step 3: Press Run in the pop-up windows to confirm the repair. Wait till the process is finished.

First Aid offers a limited feature for disk repair, so chances are it fails to repair the drive and you still can’t access the data within. What to do next? See the solution below.

Solution 3: Recover Data and Reformat the Drive

One situation is that the drive is too severely corrupted to be fixed by First Aid. In that case, saving your data with professional data recovery software such as iBoysoft Data Recovery is the top priority. Once the files are well taken care of, you can decide to reformat the drive and have a fresh new disk. But you should be careful since reformatting a drive wipes away all information stored within the disk.

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