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View Hidden Folders on Your Mac Using Terminal

Use Terminal to See the Invisible

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View Hidden Folders on your Mac

Terminal can be used to show or hide the Mac's special folders

Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Your Mac has a few secrets, hidden folders and files that are invisible to you. Apple hides these files and folders to prevent you from accidentally changing or deleting important data that your Mac needs.

Apple's reasoning is good, but there are times when you may need to view these out-of-the-way corners of your Mac's file system. Fortunately, Apple includes a way to access these hidden goodies in OS X, in the form of an application called Terminal. All it takes to get your Mac to spill its secrets is a little typing in Terminal.

Terminal Is Your Friend

  1. Launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities/.
     
  2. Type or copy/paste the following commands into the Terminal window. Press the return key after you enter each line of text. Note: There are only two lines of text below, each in its own gray box. Depending on the size of your browser’s window, the lines could be wrapping and appearing as more than two lines. Be sure to enter them as single lines.
     
     defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE 
     
     killall Finder 

Entering the two lines above into Terminal will allow you to use the Finder to display all of the hidden files on your Mac. The first line tells the Finder to display all files, regardless of how the hidden flag is set. The second line stops and restarts the Finder, so the changes can take effect. You may see your desktop disappear and reappear when you execute these commands; this is normal.

Now that you can see all the hidden folders and files in the Finder (say that three times fast), you will probably want to hide them again, if only because they tend to clutter up Finder windows with extraneous items.

Hide the Clutter

  1. Launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities/.
     
  2. Type or copy/paste the following commands into the Terminal window. Press the return key after you enter each line of text. Note: There are only two lines of text below, each in its own gray box. Depending on the size of your browser’s window, the lines could be wrapping and appearing as more than two lines. Be sure to enter them as single lines.
     
     defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles FALSE 
     
     killall Finder 

Poof! The hidden files are once again hidden. No harm was done to any hidden folder or file in the making of this Mac tip.

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