It's all very well Apple hiding away certain files from the Mac Finder - after all, it's difficult to break something you can't see. But sometimes you need to see those files in order to fix something else.

The files you won't be able to see by default are typically preceded by a full stop, for example .htaccess file, .bash_profile or .svn directory. Folders like /usr, /bin, and /etc are hidden away, too. And the Library folder, which contains application-support files and some data, is also tucked out of sight.

A quick and easy way to find secret files within a folder is to hold down Cmd + Shift + . (dot), but there are other options you might like to consider, as we explain below.

Where is my Mac's Library folder?

Prior to Mac OS X Lion's release back in 2011, if you wanted to access the Library folder you could just open your Home folder and view the Library folder there. That folder is still located in Home, but it's now hidden.

You may have just looked in your Macintosh HD folder and thought you saw the Library folder, but that's not the Library folder in question. There are actually three Library folders on the Mac.

The Library folder you can see contains files that are accessible to all users but only changeable by administrators. Then there is the ~/Library folder that's located in the Home folder. The third Library folder is located in System and contains all the files that MacOS needs to run.

Spot the difference - compare these three Library folders:

How to show hidden files on a Mac: Library folder

How to view a Mac's ~/Library folder

There are three ways to easily view your hidden ~/Library/ folder.

In macOS Sierra Apple added a Finder keyboard shortcut that makes it possible to quickly show all the hidden files and folders. You just need to do the following:

  1. Open the Finder
  2. Go to your Macintosh HD folder (access this from Devices in the left column)
  3. Hold down Cmd + Shift + . (dot)
  4. All the hidden files will become visible
  5. Hold down Cmd + Shift + . (dot) a second time to hide the files again

The easiest way to find your hidden ~/Library/ folder is to do the following:

  1. Open Finder
  2. Hold down Alt (Option) and choose Go from the dropdown menu bar at the top of the screen
  3. You will see the ~/Library folder listed below the Home folder

How to show hidden files on a Mac: Library folder

Alternatively, you could do the following:

  1. Open the Finder
  2. Choose Go from the menu bar
  3. Choose Go to Folder (or Shift + Cmd + G)
  4. Type ~/Library into the text box and click Go

You can now see and access the contents of the ~/Library which were previously hidden from sight.

How to show hidden files on a Mac: Library folder

How to keep the hidden ~/Library folder visible

If you follow the second and third methods above the ~/Library will remain visible until you shut that Finder window. Next time you look it will have vanished again. If you follow the first method in Sierra the hidden files and folders will remain in view until you press Cmd + Shift + . (dot) a second time.

If you're using a pre-Sierra version of macOS, there are ways to keep the hidden ~/Library folder visible. The easiest way is to drag the hidden Library icon from the Finder window to the Finder sidebar. This will make it accessible even after you've closed the Finder.

How to show hidden files on a Mac: Library folder

Alternatively, make an alias to the library folder that you can access from your desktop. To make an alias of your Library folder, do the following:

  1. Opened the ~/Library folder in the Finder
  2. Hold down Cmd + Alt and drag the Library folder icon from the Finder window to your desktop

How to view hidden folders using Terminal

Another way to make hidden files and folders visible requires you to use Terminal.

  1. Open Terminal
  2. Run the following script:
    $ defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles true
    $ killall Finder

If you want to switch it back, simply change the true to false.