Show Hidden Files On Your Mac – Works In Mountain Lion 10.8 33

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Show Hidden Files On Your Mac – Works In Mountain Lion 10.8

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Did you know that your hard drive is full of hidden files. All of them are hidden to keep your computer running smoothly. But every so often you may want to view those files to see if your computer is acting out of the ordinary or you have mistakenly named something starting with a dot (.) and want to find the file again. There are three ways you can do this. Through an application, through a preference pane, or good old command line. Each have there pros and cons. Each of these methods work in Snow Leopard and OS X Lion.

Application Method

The application method is probably the simplest. With a simple application such as Houdini, you can at the click of a button hide or show files or folders. As well as this it also enables you to quickly hide folders on your hard drive so they are hidden from view. This works very well if you want to hide your “important files” from people, and don’t want to use the password protect folder method.

Preference Pane Method

Another simple method of hiding files is using a special preference pane called Secrets. I posted about earlier. It enables you to show and hide folders using one of the many options, within the program. It also has a whole lot more, to enable you to access the deepest parts of your operating system.

Terminal Method

Probably the hardest to do but uses the least amount of work and has the most potential to go wrong, that is the Terminal Method. If you open up terminal (Applications > Utilities) and type the following:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
killall Finder

This will show you all of the hidden files and folders on your operating system. If you want to reverse the command replace TRUE with FALSE.

Personally my favourite method is to use the secrets pane, I find it is the quickest method of them all. To conclude if you want to use these commands I suggest you don’t change anything. Like my parents said, look with your eyes and not with your hands. I seriously don’t recommend you change anything at all, other wise there would be dire consequences for you system.

If you want to learn more about these sort of tricks I recommend, Mac OS X Snow Leopard: The Missing Manual or Mac OS X Unix Toolbox. Both develop this skills further and have lots of other types of tricks like this.


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33 Responses to “Show Hidden Files On Your Mac – Works In Mountain Lion 10.8”

  1. 1

    Thank you very much! This was very helpful especially to web developers working with .htaccess.

    Comment By Javier Onglao on October 30th, at 11:46 pm

  2. 2

    I prefer the method shown here…
    http://theappleblog.com/2007/04/30/quick-tip-showhide-hidden-files/

    Its not extra software and its not having to remember terminal syntax

    Comment By Nathan on November 6th, at 7:37 am

  3. 3

    Another way web developers can edit their .htaccess files is to use text wrangler’s open hidden file option. This also keeps your Finder clean looking.

    http://www.barebones.com/products/TextWrangler/

    Comment By Chris on March 19th, at 8:43 pm

  4. 4

    thanks a million this worked perfectly

    Comment By louanoloa on July 20th, at 3:47 pm

  5. 5

    Great. I liked the contrasting methods. Most people only talk about one way.

    Comment By Erik Stone on August 31st, at 7:24 pm

  6. 6

    here’s how to do it with a shell script — i find this the easiest, especially if you’re already in Terminal a lot:
    http://macmartine.com/blog/2009/11/shell-script-to-showhide-hidden-files-on-os-x.html

    Comment By James on November 19th, at 6:25 pm

  7. 7

    Good freeware application for http://code.google.com/p/hide-unhide

    Comment By Oris on November 24th, at 11:21 pm

  8. 8

    Hi there,

    I tried this out because I had a problem with installing software on my mac. Basically it was and is still saying that my installation disk is full although I have 98GB free space on my HD. I don’t know what to do? Next, I tried the terminal route, to see if there were any missing files or possible aliases which were determining that my HD was full but with no joy. I didn’t change anything, move anything or delete anything. So I am still stuck with that. However now I in terminal I have input FALSE as the command, but I can still see all my hidden files and it’s really disruptive. All my files are lightened the same as the hidden ones and I can see everything and I want to revert back to normal but the FALSE isn’t working. I get this error.

    Last login: Tue Dec 8 02:36:52 on ttyp1
    Welcome to Darwin!
    laurapidcock:~ jackoldham$ defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles FALSE killall Finder
    2009-12-08 02:42:06.265 defaults[284] Unexpected argument killall; leaving defaults unchanged.
    laurapidcock:~ jackoldham$

    Please help me?????? I just want it to go all back to normal like you said in your blog if you type FALSE…

    Comment By Jack on December 8th, at 3:43 am

  9. 9

    Problem solved, I had to relaunch finder. :)

    Comment By Jack on December 8th, at 3:57 am

  10. 10

    Hi i just used the
    defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE killall Finder in my terminal which worked,
    now i can’t get out of it-
    i typed in defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles FALSE
killall Finder

    and i get the message: Unexpected argument Finder; leaving defaults unchanged.
    what can i do? thanks!

    Comment By Sam on December 10th, at 2:26 am

  11. 11

    check the space between FALSE and killall

    Comment By Tristan on December 22nd, at 12:30 pm

  12. 12

    First, type

    defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles FALSE

    then, press enter. Now type

    killall Finder

    and you’re done :)

    Comment By Lydia on February 21st, at 2:52 am

  13. 13

    This comes in very useful… thanks a lot! :)

    Comment By terry bytheway on May 11th, at 7:16 pm

  14. 14

    OK I can’t find a file I accidentally downloaded that started with .wp.XXXXXXXXXXXXX.php

    It was a wordpress exploit from a blog install I finally figured, and I did so by renaming it in the ftp before taking it down.

    But I used the method above to discover I had quite a few .htaccess files on my desktop — and I deleted them. I did not touch any DSStore or other files that had things in them.

    I am worried about that file .wp and don’t want it on my system.

    Comment By J on May 26th, at 3:02 am

  15. 15

    terminal was the easiest

    Comment By tim on June 24th, at 1:21 am

  16. 16

    It worked wonderfully when I used the TERMINAL method to reveal hidden files. When I tried to hide the files again (“reversing the command”) writing FALSE instead of TRUE, it did not work. How do I now hide all of these exposed hidden files?

    Comment By Russell on August 12th, at 9:47 pm

  17. 17

    Ignore that last post. I tried it again and it worked! Thanks!!

    Comment By Russell on August 12th, at 9:57 pm

  18. 18

    that really really helped i don’t want to tell you my whole sob story, but terminal was the quickest and the easiest and i wish i found that first. this post was an answered prayer. i wasted my whole morning trying to find the stupid ipod control and then i found this site and it made it did it like *snap* that. all the other sites were for pc’s and i’m like “hello try putting it for pc AND MAC”

    in brief, THANK YOU SO MUCH :)

    Comment By kristen on August 23rd, at 7:09 pm

  19. 19

    Excellent post, the killall command is good for making sure all windows are closed and re-started to display the hidden files.

    Comment By Walter Yu on October 17th, at 9:32 am

  20. 20

    OK I can’t find a file I accidentally downloaded that started with .wp.XXXXXXXXXXXXX.php

    It was a wordpress exploit from a blog install I finally figured, and I did so by renaming it in the ftp before taking it down.

    But I used the method above to discover I had quite a few .htaccess files on my desktop — and I deleted them. I did not touch any DSStore or other files that had things in them.

    I am worried about that file .wp and don’t want it on my system.
    in terminal type
    find / .wp.xxxx.php | grep .wp.xxxx.php

    Do that all one one line, and it should give two lines back, one with the path of the file, and the other with an error message saying it wasn't found. You can ignore the last one.

    It will take a while, but if you know approximately where the file is then type find /path/close/to/where/you/think/it/is .wp....

    Comment By M on December 8th, at 4:22 am

  21. 21

    Try this:

    defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles YES

    and use NO to rehide

    Comment By T on December 27th, at 9:36 am

  22. 22

    If you want to hide some files on your Mac from curious eyes, then there is a solution available. It is called UberMask. It allows to hide/show files with a single keystroke. Available for test here: http://www.novamedia.de/en/mac-ubermask.html

    Comment By nova media on January 10th, at 12:29 pm

  23. 23

    Thanks for the tips, I added the following two lines to my ~/.bashrc

    alias showhiddenfiles=’defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE ; killall Finder’
    alias hidehiddenfiles=’defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles FALSE ; killall Finder’

    This will add two new aliases to my BASH, so I just type showhiddenfiles, and the 2 commands are run. Same thing when I’m done with the hidden files.

    Comment By Sergani on July 10th, at 7:31 pm

  24. 24

    Thanks for the tips, I added the following two lines to my ~/.bashrc


    alias showhiddenfiles=’defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE ; killall Finder’
    alias hidehiddenfiles=’defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles FALSE ; killall Finder’

    This will add two new aliases to my BASH, so I just type showhiddenfiles, and the 2 commands are run. Same thing when I’m done with the hidden files.

    Comment By Sergani on July 10th, at 7:32 pm

  25. 25

    Have been looking for a way to find hidden files for a while. Thanks for posting this…even though i wish i had used google a bit earlier to find your post. It would have saved me some time.

    Comment By Evan on July 21st, at 1:12 am

  26. 26

    Bifocals http://www.bifocalsapp.com/ offers a free menu bar app to do this as well.

    Comment By Guest on August 8th, at 3:55 pm

  27. 27

    Try Funter .
    Funter is a freeware Mac utility that can show and hide hidden and system files in Mac OS X, The app is simple to run, using a button on the menu bar.
    You can download it here:
    http://nektony.com/funter
    Video is also available there.

    Comment By Alex Cormak on September 25th, at 7:36 pm

  28. 28

    I was using the terminal method, got halfway through transferring songs, and then somehow it corrupted my ipod. I lost half my music. So, if I were you I’d do it another way…

    Comment By Alison on November 22nd, at 12:15 am

  29. 29

    “defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -bool false” is another way to hide those hidden files using terminal (which was the easiest)

    Comment By him on November 24th, at 2:07 am

  30. 30

    farby the best help received to reveal hidden folders. thanks a lot Houdini is one of the best app i have ever used

    Comment By john on November 27th, at 4:32 am

  31. 31

    It is highly helpful for me. Huge thumbs up for this site post!

    Comment By Hattie True on December 2nd, at 12:16 pm

  32. 32

    This was helpful – thanks.

    Comment By Tommy Herbert on December 8th, at 6:01 pm

  33. 33

    Thanks much, now I can find .hgrc file

    Comment By Vanisa on December 15th, at 1:48 pm