Oryna Lienkova
Apple certified support professional
September 28, 2021
9 minutes to read

Like any operating system, macOS keeps important files hidden to prevent them from being accidentally deleted and, as a result, from system damage. However, in some cases, you may need to show hidden files on your Mac, for example, to explore the Library folder and clear old logs, caches or other junk files.

Important notes about hidden files on Mac and the methodology used to write this article

  • Hidden files on a computer are files that are kept invisible from the users. Applications and macOS create service files and hide them for security reasons.
  • You should be very careful when removing hidden service files. Deleting important system service files might cause damage to your Mac.
  • We’ve been working for more than 10 years in developing special disk utilities to find hidden files, clean up a Mac from unneeded hidden items. This article is based on our expertise in understanding the file system of macOS.
  • We regularly update our application Funter, designed to operate hidden files on Mac. Also, we regularly update this article according to the changes in the macOS system.
  • If you have any questions related to this guide, contact us by email.

Before diving into the ways on how to show hidden files on Mac, let me explain a little more about hidden files.

What are hidden files on Mac?

Hidden files on a computer are files that are kept invisible from the users. You can recognize hidden files by their name and icon type. Firstly, hidden file names begin with a dot (or period). Secondly, the file icon is translucent.

Hidden files are invisible

finder-mac

Hidden files are visible

show-hidden-files-in-finder-mac

MacOS creates hidden files that are needed for the system to operate. Applications also create hidden files, such as cache files, logs, preferences, etc. Most of them are located in the Library folder, which is also hidden. These files are not visible for security reasons and to keep them separate from files created and used by the user. However, not all hidden files are necessary.

Now. let’s see what is the easiest way to show and operate hidden files on Mac.


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How to show hidden files on Mac with Funter

The easiest way to manage this task is to use the free Funter application.
Funter allows you to find, hide, and search for hidden files on your Mac in just a few clicks.

For this follow the steps below:

  1. Launch Funter.
  2. Click Show Hidden Files in the menu bar. Done!
  3. Open Finder. There you will see your hidden items.
Funter window

Switching hidden files visibility with Funter

Video Guide


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How to view hidden files on Mac using a shortcut

You can use a special keyboard shortcut to see all invisible items on your Mac.
Here is how to view them:

  1. Activate the Finder application.
  2. Open a folder which may contain such files.
  3. Press the Command + Shift + Period (CMD+Shift+.) shortcut.
  4. Preview all the files you have in the active folder.
  5. Repeat the steps given above again if you want to hide the files again.

Finder window - enabling and disabling showing hidden files

Please note, that even if you see all kinds of files with this method, it`s not possible to find them using Spotlight search.
If you need to find hidden files by their names we recommend using Funter.
Funter can find any invisible file on Mac just by entering a file name and clicking Find.


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How to show hidden files with Terminal command

Terminal is a command-line application that allows you to manage your Mac using low-level commands. To operate the app correctly, you will need to be familiar with Terminal commands.

To show latent files on a Mac using the command line, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Terminal application from Launchpad.
  2. Copy and paste the following command into the Terminal window:
    defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -bool true
  3. Click the Enter button.
  4. Enter the next command to relaunch the Finder application.
    killall Finder
  5. Click Enter to finish.
Terminal app with a command to show hidden files on Mac

This command will restart the Finder and then you will see hidden files and folders on your Mac.
If you want to hide the files again, you simply repeat the operation but change the last word in the first command to “false”. So, you should perform these two commands to make the files invisible again:
defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -bool false
killall Finder

Terminal app with a command to show hidden files on Mac
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How to show invisible files using AppleScript

AppleScript is a language developed to help you automate repetitive or time-consuming Mac actions.
You can also make files visible using AppleScript. Generally, AppleScripts are created within the Script Editor tool.

Follow these steps to show invisible files with AppleScript command:

  1. Open the Script Editor application from LaunchPad.
  2. Copy and paste the following code into the editor’s window:

    display dialog “Would you like to show hidden files?” buttons {“Show Hidden Files”, “Hide Files”}
    set result to button returned of result
    if result is equal to “Show Hidden Files” then
    do shell script “defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -bool true”
    else
    do shell script “defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -bool false”
    end if
    do shell script “killall Finder”

  3. Click the Run button.
  4. Save this file to use it later.
Apple Script window - show hidden files script

Each time you need to hide or show latent files and folders, just open this script file and click the Run button.


How to find hidden files on Mac external hard drive

The Funter application, that we mentioned above, supports any disk volume. So with Funter, you can find and display hidden files on external storage.

Here is how to search and find hidden files and folders on external disk drives:

  1. Launch Funter.
  2. Click to Show Hidden Files. You can use one of two ways to make hidden files visible.

Use the Quick Access Window 

Switcher button in Funter to show hidden files

Use the Finder Toolbar

Finder with Funter option to show hidden files

As soon as you click the Show Hidden Files button, the Finder window will be relaunched and you will see all the hidden files stored on your drive. Finder with hidden folders on USB drive highlighted

Funter is a great tool for finding invisible files and folders. If you need to find a specific file on your disk, follow the steps below:

  1. In the Funter window, type the file’s name and click Enter on your keyboard. In our case, we used just a “dot” because all hidden files’ names begin with a dot. Go to Folder search field in Finder
  2. Funter will show you the results. Click the Custom Folder button and in the Finder window select your drive. Then click to Open. Funter app window showing hidden files results
  3. You will get a list of all files on the selected drive with the appropriate name/sign. Enable the option to view only hidden files and operate the files. Funter app window with hidden files option highlighted

Also, you can find any hidden file by its name. Use the search panel to find hidden files that Spotlight cannot do.


So what is the easiest way to show hidden files on Mac?

You can display them on your Mac using the Funter app, an AppleScript, a Terminal command or a keyboard shortcut.

If you are looking for the easiest solution to manage your hidden files you may want to use the free Funter tool. Funter will give you access to all invisible files and folders but also will help you to search them by names. More importantly, it can make essential data invisible to prevent its accidental removal.

As Funter integrates with Finder, you can change the visibility file right in a Finder window using a special icon menu. show hidden files in Finder

Also, you can hide and unhide files with Funter in Finder using the context menu. unhide files

The best thing about Funter is that the application is absolutely free.


Podcast: How to show hidden files on Mac

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