I've been searching for a lot of hidden/system files through the Finder recently and it's really annoying to activate the display of those system files manually each time (Tutorial for this here). So my question is: How can I permanently enable to see those files when searching through MacOS' Finder? (Using MacOS High Sierra)

  • Welcome to Ask Different! :) Just to clarify, are you wanting hidden files to always be visible in the Finder, or only to always be visible in search results?
    – Monomeeth
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 10:54
  • @Monomeeth Thanks :) I have them visible in the Finder (withcmd + shift + .) but when I search for files I have to enable to see them manually. Hope that clears it up a bit.
    – hlzl
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 11:06

3 Answers 3


Per the tutorial,

  • CMD-F to bring up the Finder search window.
  • Make sure "This Mac" is selected.
  • Click "Kind", choose "Other...", and double-click the "System Files" entry.
    Update: if you click the "In Menu" checkbox to the right of the "System Files" entry, "System Files" will also be added as an option in the "Kind" dropdown list.
  • Click the "aren't included" dropdown, and select "are included".

This time, though,

  • click the "Save" button at the right, just under the "Search" box.
  • Change the default name to something descriptive, but short, like SearchAll.savedSearch.
  • Make sure "Add to Sidebar" is checked.
  • Click "Save".

Now, when you want to search all the files:

  • Click on the "SearchAll" sidebar item.
  • Enter your desired search term (such as Helvetica, as in the tutorial).
  • Click "Name matches", if that's what you want, or press Enter.

Voilà! Now you can easily search even those hidden/system files!

  • It's still a work around, but better than enabling it manually each time. Thanks
    – hlzl
    Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 7:46
  • 1
    I like this answer, but the problem is that I still don't see system files when I hit command-space. If I know exactly what file I want (but don't want to need to drill down), it would be good to be able to just launch from there. Also, since there's no way to jump immediately to the "Searching this Mac" window, I need to search for something less restrictive, and then choose "Show all in Finder". So annoying!
    – tobylaroni
    Commented Oct 12, 2018 at 15:51
  • in Ventura 13.6.3 I don't see the referenced "System Files" entry or the "'In Menu' checkbox", though I am able to choose "Other".
    – Myer
    Commented Jan 24 at 16:48
  • @Myer: so when you click the dropdown where 'Kind' is, you do see the 'Other', yeah? When you click on the 'Other...', you get a window with a long list of items in alphabetical order. The list has columns for 'Attribute', 'Description', and 'In Menu'. You'll scroll down through the list until you find the 'S' items, and 'System Files' will be there. Then, under the 'In Menu' column, click the checkbox. Now, 'System Files' will be in your menu without having to do all those steps again. At least, I still see this in Sonoma, so I don't know why it wouldn't be in Ventura.
    – leanne
    Commented Jan 27 at 5:16

To see hidden files

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -boolean true; killall Finder;
  • This doesn't change what the Finder shows me when I search. To see system files in general in the Finder is not the problem.
    – hlzl
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 16:25
  • 1
    It changed it for me. I see hidden files by default in Finder now. Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 14:02

After the above command, relaunching "Finder" is easiest with the KillAll command. So:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles YES; killall Finder;

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