Apple has its reasons for hiding some files from the average Mac user – however, it’s hard to break something you can’t see. But sometimes you need to see those files—or access the hidden ~/Library folder—to fix something that isn’t working on your Mac.
Alternatively, you need to make some space on your Mac and consider that deleting some of these hidden files may be a good way to do so. In that case we have many tips on How to free up space on a Mac as well as how to delete Other storage on a Mac, How to delete system data on a Mac and How to delete cache on a Mac: our advice is not. to delete these hidden files unless you really know what you’re doing though!
If you’re not sure how to see how much disk space is available on your Mac: How to check how much disk space you have.
Files that you cannot see by default are usually preceded by a full stop, for example .htaccess file, .bash_profile or .svn directory. Folders like /usr, /bin, and /etc are also hidden. And the Library folder, which contains the files that support the application and some data, is also missing.
How to see hidden files in macOS
A quick and easy way to find secret files inside a folder is to open the Finder and press Command + Shift + . (full stop/period), but there are other options you may want to consider, as we explain below.
If you don’t want to see hidden folders anymore just click Command + Shift + . again.
Where is the Library folder?
Many of these hidden files are located in a Library folder, which itself is hidden from view.
Actually, just to confuse things, there is more than one Library folder and not all of them are hidden. We’ll explain the differences and how to find each Library folder – including ~/Library – on your Mac below.
What makes the confusion worse is the fact that Apple has made many changes to the Finder in recent years, so some tutorials may refer to things that are no longer there. For example, the Home folder has a home icon and maybe whatever name you’ve assigned to your Mac. You can find it in the Users folder. It won’t appear by default in macOS Big Sur or later, but don’t worry, we’ll explain where to find it below.
Similarly, Macintosh HD is usually whatever you name your Mac and isn’t visible by default either. Don’t worry, we’ll explain how to see it!
How to find ~/Library
The first Library folder we find is the one hidden in your Home folder. Sometimes it is called ~/Library.
The Home folder is one of those folders that is less easy to find than it used to be, nor is it called the Home folder – it probably has your name with it, but it has an icon like this. there is a house.
There are several ways to access this Home folder:
- Open Finder and press Command + Shift + H.
- Alternatively click Go on the menu and select Home.
- You can also add this Home/User folder to the Finder side bar by opening Finder > Settings (or Preferences) > Sidebar and then checking the box next to your name in the Favorites section.
Once you have reached the Home folder you can continue Command + Shift + . to view hidden files including the hidden Library folder.
Another way to get to this hidden Library (called ~/Library) is to use the Go option in the Finder’s menu to jump into it. Here’s how to do that:
- Open the Finder.
- Select Go from the menu bar.
- Select Go to Folder (or Shift + Command + G).
- Type ~/Library in the text box and click Go.
If you use this method the hidden folder will appear without having to press Command + Shift + . (full stop). But after you close the Finder window it is no longer visible.
There is actually a much easier way to find your hidden ~/Library/ folder. Simply do the following:
- Open Finder.
- Hold Alt (Option) and select Go from the dropdown menu bar at the top of the screen.
- You will see the ~/Library folder listed below the Home folder. Click on it to go directly to the folder.
How to find the Library on Macintosh HD
The second library folder isn’t hidden as such, but it’s still hard to find thanks to the changes Apple has made to the Finder over the years.
This Library folder is located inside what is often called the Macintosh HD folder – but yours may be named whatever you call your Mac. If you don’t see a Macintosh HD folder (or whatever you named your main disk) in the left column when you open Finder here’s what to do:
- Open the Finder.
- Click Finder > Settings/Preferences.
- Click on the Sidebar tab.
- You will see your Mac listed under Locations. Mark/check the box next to it.
Now you can see your disk in the Finder’s Locations section (or the Devices section in older macOSs). This folder includes Applications, Libraries, System and Users – but also includes many hidden folders and files.
Press Command + Shift + . to reveal them.
How to find the System Library
The third Library folder is located in System (one of the folders in the Macintosh HD folder we just discussed). It contains all the files required by macOS.
See the difference – compare these three Library folders:
How to keep the hidden ~/Library folder visible
If you use the Go method to find ~/Library that folder will remain visible until you close the Finder window. The next time you look at it it will be gone again.
If you want the folders to remain visible then you need to press Cmd + Shift + . to reveal hidden folders. If you don’t want to see them anymore click Command + Shift + . again.
Another way to keep the hidden ~/Library folder visible is to drag the hidden Library icon from the Finder window to the Finder sidebar. This will make it accessible even after you close the Finder.
How to view hidden folders using Terminal
Another way to see hidden files and folders is to use Terminal.
- Open Terminal
- Run the following script:
$ default write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles true
$ killall Finder
If you want to return it, just change true to false.
Best apps for creating space on a Mac
If your reason for finding these hidden files is to try and remove some space hogs from your system we recommend that you use an app like CleanMyMac X. This is what we use when we need to recover some space when we install macOS Big Sur back. in 2020. Read: Don’t bother trying to update Big Sur if you have a 128GB Mac.
CleanMyMac is £29.95/$29.95 (usually £34.95/$34.95) if you buy the plan for one Mac. There is also a free trial. Download from developer MacPaw here.
We have a round up of the Best Mac Cleaners where we look at the following alternatives to CleanMyMac: DaisyDisk, MacBooster, Parallels ToolBox, and MacCleaner Pro.