Avast Academy Performance Performance Tips How to Show Hidden Files on a Mac

How to Show Hidden Files on a Mac

Want to take a peek at your Mac’s hidden files? Just be careful, because those files are hidden for a reason. Below, you’ll learn how to safely view your Mac’s hidden files and how to hide important files, too. Then, install a dedicated Mac maintenance tool like Avast One that can secure your device and keep your Mac running smoothly.

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Written by Ben Gorman
Published on June 16, 2023

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Hidden files on your Mac contain the nuts and bolts necessary for running your Mac’s essential functions, such as its operating system and cache storage. These files are intentionally kept out of view, because accidentally deleting or modifying them can cause performance issues. However, there are times when you might want to access hidden files, such as when troubleshooting issues or cleaning your Mac.

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    3 ways to view hidden files on Mac

    Hidden Mac files include system files, configuration files, and cache files, and make up other storage and system data on your Mac’s hard drive. You can reveal hidden files on macOS via the ~/Library folder. But you shouldn’t modify your hidden Mac files unless you know what you’re doing, because deleting the wrong files might negatively affect the performance of your device or weaken its security.

    If you’re ready to take a peek behind the scenes of your computer, here are a few ways to show those hidden Mac files.

    Method 1: Use Finder

    Using Finder is the simplest way to find hidden files on your Mac. Here’s how to do it:

    1. Click the Finder icon in your dock to open Finder.

       Open Mac Finder to start revealing hidden files on your Mac.
    2. Navigate to the folder where you want to find hidden files.

    3. Press Command + Shift + . (the period key). This will show hidden files in the folder.

    4. To hide the files again, press Command + Shift + . again.

    You can also click your desktop and press Command + Shift + . to show hidden Mac files on your desktop.

    Method 2: Use Terminal

    You can also use the Terminal app to show the hidden files on your Mac. But this method is a bit more technical. Terminal allows you to manually input commands directly into your Mac’s OS, changing the way your Mac functions.

    Here’s how to use Terminal to show hidden files:

    1. Click Spotlight (the magnifying glass icon in the toolbar or in Finder) and search for Terminal. Click the Terminal app, which should be the first result. Or, open Finder and navigate to Applications > Utilities > Terminal.

      Open Terminal to start revealing hidden files on your Mac.
    2. In the Terminal text box, type the following script: $ defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles true. This instructs Finder to reveal all of the hidden files on your Mac.

    3. Press Enter to run the script, then type $ killall Finder in Terminal and press Enter again. This will restart Finder and apply the changes you made.

    4. Now, you should be able to see the hidden files on your Mac.

    To hide the hidden files again, repeat steps 2-4. But, in step 2, change the word "true" to "false" in the script. So, the script to hide files on Mac will look like this: $ defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles false.

    Method 3: Use third-party software

    Instead of having to follow step-by-step instructions, you can use third-party software to show hidden Mac files and hide them again with just a click. These apps are especially useful if you need to access hidden macOS files often.


    Funter is a free app that has one job: to show hidden files on Mac. You can easily reveal all the hidden files on your Mac, search for specific hidden files, then hide those files all over again. While the tool doesn’t have any additional file management features, it’s ideal for checking Mac storage quickly without risking any unintended changes to your Mac.


    Forklift is a robust file management app that allows you to transfer, sync, preview, and rename files across local and cloud storage. It can show hidden files with a click, but it can also do much more than that.

    If you’re a developer, work in the cloud, or have lots of files to manage, you’ll get your money’s worth from Forklift — it costs $20 for life. If you just want to show hidden files, get Funter for free instead.

    Why are some files hidden on a Mac?

    Apple hides certain files within your Mac because tampering with them or deleting them can have a negative impact on your device. If you start playing around with hidden Mac files and don’t know what you’re doing, you can render your computer non-functional or compromise your security.

    In your home, you probably store cleaning products somewhere out of the way. It’s not because these products aren’t useful. It’s because if they wind up in the wrong hands, they can do harm. Mac hides certain files for the same reason. Unless you know exactly what they do, it’s best to leave them alone.

    How to hide files on a Mac

    Whether you want to clear desktop clutter or conceal sensitive files on your Mac, it’s helpful to know how to hide files from view.

    Here’s how to hide any file on a Mac.

    1. Open the Terminal app.

    2. Enter the script chflags hidden into Terminal. Then, drop the file or folder into the terminal window. Now, you’ll see the location of the file next to the script you just entered.

      How to hide a file on Mac using Terminal.
    3. Press Enter. Now your file should be hidden.

    To reveal your hidden file, follow the same instructions, but change the script to chflags nohidden. Press Enter, and the file will reappear.

    Keep your Mac files private and secure

    If you’re not a computer expert, it can be risky to play around with or edit hidden files on your own. Instead, let Avast One automatically manage the performance of your Mac. Avast One tidies your hidden files to keep your Mac running smoothly. Plus, it includes a VPN and award-winning security features that help block malware, stop intruders, and keep your Mac safe and secure. Install Avast One for free today.

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    Performance Tips
    Ben Gorman