View Hidden Files and Folders on macOS

Critical system files are either shown or hidden, but you can change that

Filing documents
Filing documents. erhui1979/Getty Images

By default, macOS hides critical system files and folders. If the data were visible all the time, it'd be more likely that you might accidentally delete or change them, which could cause system-wide problems.

Most of the time, you want to keep these hidden files and folders out of view, but there are some circumstances where you need to see hidden files/folders. For example, a malware issue might alter system files or rename important folders, making them no longer work until you manually change them back.

Keep in mind that there are lots of hidden files and folders, so browsing through your files will look a bit different having all these "new" ones there. Most of them are operating system and configuration files and should not be deleted or modified unless you are certain of its role.

Tip: The instructions on this page only apply to Mac users. If you're on Windows, see how to show or hide hidden files and folders in Windows.

How to Show or Hide Hidden Files on macOS

There's a different step you have to take on a Mac when it comes to showing or hiding hidden files, and they're a bit different depending on your Mac version.

Show Hidden Files

  1. Open Terminal. You can do this by clicking Spotlight and then entering the word terminal
  2. Type the following command at the terminal prompt:

    defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -boolean true ; killall Finder

    If you're using OS X 10.8 and earlier, use this one instead:

    defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE ; killall Finder

    Hide Hidden Files

    1. Open Terminal and type the following command:

      defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -boolean false ; killall Finder

      Use this command for version 10.8 and older:

      defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles FALSE ; killall Finder
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