How To View Hidden Files on Mac Catalina, Mojave, & More

Security is the primary reason some files are hidden on your Mac. Moreover, the core data needs to stay intact for the system to run smoothly. Just like the compatible yet hidden external display resolutions in Mac, core OS files are also invisible by default. Naturally, installed apps’ service files, system files, caches, logs, and preferences are hidden.

Needless to say, deleting the system files by accident can jeopardize the OS, so why would you want to reveal the hidden files? Accessing these files allows you to delete leftover data from the apps you’ve already removed. You can clear cache, backup browser bookmarks, and troubleshoot apps.

There are several ways to view hidden files on your Mac. This article provides you with a quick guide for each one, assuming you are using macOS Mojave.

Option #1: Use Mac OS X Finder

Finder is arguably the quickest and easiest method to view hidden files. Besides macOS Catalina, it also works on Mojave and most other relatively recent OS iterations.

  1. Open “Finder” and navigate to your “Macintosh HD” folder. There are two ways to find it.
    Method 1: Click “Go” then “Computer.”

    Method 2: Click “[Your name here] [Your Mac Type here]” in the left column under “Locations,” such as “Steve’s Macbook Pro.
  2. Once inside the correct folder, press “command + shift + period” on your keyboard to make the hidden files visible. If you want to hide the files again, just press the keys once more, and they disappear.

The trick works for app folders and Documents as well. If you want to access the Library files directly, hold the Alt key before selecting the “Go” menu.

Things to Remember

After revealing the files, your desktop might get cluttered with various system files and some auto-saved documents. The good news is you could stumble upon files you thought were lost for good if your Mac crashed.

Don’t forget to hide the files again after you’re done to avoid messing up the system by accident.

Option #2: Use Terminal

You can utilize command prompts in the Mac Terminal to control the system directly. Some users feel a bit intimidated by Terminal, but it’s not as scary as it looks. Running scripts is easy, and you can quickly undo the actions. Also, if you type in something wrong, the command won’t execute.

  1. Press “command + space,” then type “ter” without quotes in Spotlight Search. Press “return” or select “Terminal” from the list.
  2. Once inside, enter the following scripts (in order, without quotes) into the command line:
    defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
    killall Finder
  3. To hide the files after you’re done, just follow the above scripts, except replace “TRUE” with “FALSE” and hit Enter.

A Neat Trick

With Finder or Terminal, you’re essentially doing the same thing. However, Terminal is somewhat superior because it allows you to hide specific folders and files.

Run Terminal and type chflags hidden in the command line, then hit Space. Grab the file or folder you want to hide and drop it into the Terminal window to reveal the paths. To hide them, just press Return.

view hidden files in mac

To reveal the files and folders you’ve hidden, use chflags nohidden command instead of chflags hidden. Nevertheless, these commands are no secret. There is a possibility someone else might reveal your files using the same trick, which is why some users prefer third-party apps.

Option #3: Use File Management Software

If for some reason, you don’t feel comfortable with using Terminal or Finder, there are third-party apps that make the entire process pretty straightforward. For this article, Forklift and DCommander were chosen because they run similar to native apps.

DCommander

DCommander works on MacOS X 10.10 or higher, and it is designed to be an all-encompassing file manager. It features a dual-pane interface, making moving files easy and allowing you to keep tabs on both the source and destination of the files.

The app has a Show System Files button in the toolbar, but you need to enable it manually. The app also offers a few advanced features for power users, and it’s all neatly packed into intuitive tabs and pop-up windows.

Forklift

If you are just a regular user, Forklift might be your best option. This app looks and functions similarly to Mac’s Finder, so it might be easier for you to manage and reveal the files and folders.

To view the hidden files, select View,” then “Viewing Options” at the bottom of the menu. Tick the box in front of the “Show hidden files” option, and you are good to go. Like DCommander, Forklift has a dual-pane interface and allows for advanced file management like transferring between servers and apps.

In reality, you don’t need any third-party software if you want to reveal files for quick fixes. Whether you opt for third-party apps or native software, you should be super careful and avoid tampering with the system files. Remember, there are other ways to clear the cache or do backups on your Mac without revealing essential files.

And again, should you choose to view the hidden files, it’s important to hide them back after you’re done.

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