Show Hidden Files on macOS

By default, as you’d expect from any good operating system, certain system files are hidden from the view of the user. This is often for security or simply to stop the user breaking their system by moving/editing/deleting files that they don’t understand. In some cases, however, you may need to be able to view these files. In Mac OS X, we need to use the Terminal to edit some of the default properties of the Finder application to do this.


Mac OS X is a UNIX system and as such, the Terminal is a very powerful tool. Be very careful when using the Terminal as you may cause serious damage to your system if you don’t know what you are doing. Following this guide step-by-step should not cause you any damage, but you do this at your own risk.


This guide was written using Mac OS X El Capitan 10.11.6. I have also tested this on Mac OS X Tiger 10.4.11 (PPC) and it behaves exactly the same way, so this should work for any version of Mac OS X.

To start off with, you can see below, my desktop is pretty standard (and probably tidier than yours!) There are no hidden files showing.

The first thing we need to do is launch the Terminal application. This can be found under Applications > Utilities as highlighted below in red:

In the Terminal window that opens, type the following command (Note that this is case-sensitive):

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE; killall Finder

Once you have typed the command, hit enter and you should see Finder restart itself. Once Finder has restarted, you should now be able to view hidden files as shown on the desktop here:

To hide the hidden files when you are done, simply reverse the command by changing the TRUE to FALSE as below:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles FALSE; killall Finder


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